Acting: three things you need to learn

13 November, 2007 by 1 Comment

Konstantin Stanislavski a portrait by Valentin...

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I’ve been re-reading Robert Hornby’s book ‘The End of Acting: a radical view’ I first met this nicely provocative work in 1993 during grad school at UH. Hornby’s spray on the US actor-training establishment, especially of the Method variety, resonated for me. I liked his writing style and opinion, born out of long experience as an actor and teacher in the Stanislavski tradition. Hornby knew what he was talking about, and wasn’t afraid to say so. I guess we clicked.

One aspect of the book which I recall often with students is what I call the ‘3 learnings.’ The theory of acting may appear complex, and indeed much of it can be, especially if students get hung up on the jargon coming at them from all directions. Clear hand-holds like these 3 learnings remind us teachers and our fledgling actors of the basics. This is where you need to concentrate the work. And the 3 learnings based on Stanislavski’s enabling approach are:

how to relax
how to relate to your scene partner, given circumstances, and imaginary circumstances
how to pursue objectives

That’s it. As Hornby notes, these are means to an end, ‘skills rather than art itself, and like all artistic skills must be learned to the point of becoming second nature. Only then does acting begin.’

Hornby, Robert. The End of Acting: a radical view. NY: Applause, 1992.

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