Training Is Not Acting

Training is not acting. The actor’s primary instrument is his body. Lectures do not train the body. Good training provides preparation for the event. Boxers jog, not because they’ll jog in a fight, but because it trains them for the fight. Dancers stretch not because they stretch in a dance, but so they are able to dance. No matter how hard an athlete trains, there are essential differences between the training and the event. No matter how closely training replicates the actors’ job, there are essential differences.   In my classes we train the whole instrument, so that when it comes time to act, the instrument is so conditioned that the acting feels effortless.

Sociologist Neva Boyd said “Because of its dynamic character, the playing of a game is never twice alike, regardless of the number of repetitions or the stability of the membership of the playing group.” Games provide the best training for actors. Too many actors grow stale attempting to repeat performances take after take, negating the primary demand of their art form, spontaneity.  Using games to train actors evokes spontaneity (and joy) no matter how similar or frequent the previous attempt.

Of course, the art of acting is complex, maybe the most complicated art form. Boyd continued “The discipline of making judgments, often instantaneously and of acting upon them within a static frame of reference i.e. verbalized rules, is unique to playing a game. While a game is an imaginatively set up structure into which the players project themselves psychologically, they act with the demands of the situation…” Games provide the best training for actors because they require people to behave spontaneously within the limitations of imaginary circumstances, the very definition of acting! No lecture can train this ability, playing does.  Maybe this why Viola Spolin asked “Were they acting?  Get them to play!”

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