The end of every semester always puts in me this weird, excited, jittery state. Semester 1 has been nothing short of a journey for both my students and I. I am always thrilled to see them grow in their unique, individual ways.
In February, I staged The Savage/Love of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea with The Stage Club. To me, this play was everything like an Apache Dance – pushing, pulling, tugging, nudging – it illustrated love in all its frantic, blistering ways. The challenge then, was to have my actors (who had never met before) fall utterly and hopelessly in love with each other on stage. In just six weeks, we had to make two complete strangers walk out on stage and convince every single audience member that they were soulmates, destined to be together.
The problem is, love doesn’t just happen like that. We had to create that chemistry and desire between lovers from scratch, and so the actors spent a lot of time in rehearsals just getting used to each other’s presence. Throughout the six weeks, they worked tirelessly together – physical work in rehearsals, hanging out outside rehearsals. I’m so proud of them for pulling it off.
Perhaps the best testimony to their chemistry is shown in how they managed to remain completely in the moment and in character despite the technical errors during our second last run. The film Savage/Love failed to play because the projector overheated, but they kept it going – performing instinctively and responsively. It wouldn’t have been possible if they were anywhere lesser than where they were. I’d like to also use this opportunity to thank my cast, crew, audience and The Stage Club for their dedication, commitment and willingness to try. This experience was fruitful in every way imaginable.
Besides that, I’m so happy to say that our last edition of Metaphors Be With You: Love/Hate has been entirely sold out. The entries this time were also very competitive, and I’m grateful to my seven brave storytellers for sharing their adventures with our lovely crowd. The next theme will be “Wanderlust” and you can submit your entries here.
Next semester, we’re going to try something new. I’m going to be conducting the Scene Study workshop at HCAC. There is an afternoon session (here) and an evening session (here), and I hope many of you will sign up. Learning to analyze, prepare for and rehearse a scene is one of the most fundamental tools needed in actor training. That said, I still receive many questions about why actor training is necessary and beneficial to the growth of the actor. While it is possible to learn “on the job”, a training space is a safe space. It is in this safe space where the actor is free to create without fear or taboo, to take risks and try again, to experiment without the burden of commercializing the final product. In such a space, all that matters is the craft – the actor receives all the creative resources and the environment he/she needs to explore the work.
While we are on this topic, I’d like to share a little something with you. I wrote this a few months ago. You may recognize some lines in there – they were taken from Lee Strasberg, Marlon Brando, and many other actors and teachers who I have nothing but respect for:
Of late, I have come to realise that acting is the one art form where your technique, although it must be developed, sustainable, efficient and accessible, must always, always be invisible. With painting, music, dance, singing, the audience applauds technique the more visible it is. The masterful brushstroke, the skilful strumming of a guitar, the poised pirouette, the vibratto on the high note. All clear examples of technique that the audience thrives for. With acting, the only instrument we have is our own. This means our body, our senses, our voice. We assume that the closer these tools are to us, the easier it is to access. The opposite is true. Because it is closer, it takes far more effort to extract and therefore be in control of. What does this mean? If we have not put in the required effort to be in control of our technique or talent, what happens is the there is an unconscious desire to ‘act’ as opposed to live or be or do. Your technique (poor or overly rich) becomes visible. Instead of the audience having a suspension of disbelief that you are the character, it becomes a suspension of belief in the world and the character the actor lives in. The audience (even an untrained one) is now conscious of an actor and their tricks, an actor ‘chewing scenery’, an actor and their techniques and training or lack thereof. This is more apparent in an untrained actor who has cobbled what they think is technique without a self-awareness of what is really needed or what works for them.
On the flip side and I have found bad acting to also be rampant with overly-trained actors or actors who only rely on technique and training. Their externals are perfectly serviceable. They look good, they sound good, they project to the back of the house, they know how to find their light, they know how to pause for dramatic effect, play with words etc. but the one key ingredient their work lacks is a rich inner life. Both the actor and the character. Actors who rely solely and mainly on technique and training produce work that is predictable, mechanical in delivery, “right” but not real, primarily devoid of risk taking and impulses. Their work is safe, but stuck in a limbo between trained actor and living character. They are over-reliant on language, over-reliant on a trained voice and body. How to combat this? While there is no one clear answer, a recommended move would be for the actor to develop an interest in the world, in history, in current affairs, in future affairs. Grasp the full significance of life, learn how to interpret and express it. Develop a point of view on what you witness both as an actor and for the characters you play. Understand that your role on stage is to tell a story be it your own or using yourself as a conduit to tell someone else’s story. Either of which requires you to know what you saying, how you are saying it and why you are saying it. Personalization will prevent bad acting. Over-personalization results in emotional self-pleasuring. Strike a balance. Be aware of how much technique and life you need to create what you are trying to create.
See you around soon!
With Hope Towards The Future,
Actor’s Calling is a series of articles written personally by Kamil Haque, founder of the Haque Centre for Acting & Creativity. In this series, Kamil hopes to share his personal journey. He explores his vision for the school, growth as an actor and experiences as a teacher. The series also seeks to dispel some of the common misunderstandings about Actors and Method Acting.