Tag: Letting go of character

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An Actors Approach to Letting go of a Character to Avoid Personal Psychological Concussions

As an actress I devoted myself to years of intensive training that taught me how to embody any type of character I wanted to portray. The training was based around the concept of tapping in to a thought or belief within my personal life experience that I could then manipulate and repurpose to say and do things that would be convincingly portrayed via a character to the audience. This style of training is successful, yet I also find it capable of causing psychological concussions. Concussions caused by stitching your own personal experiences into the material of a character so seamlessly that you struggle to remember where you end, and your character begins. In my intensive training I was never taught how to tear apart the seams, to separate, to let go, to get out of the character and back in to myself and only myself. I find the omission of this additional training to “fall out of character” fascinating since the ability to let go of a character is part of being able to get another job. So, why wasn’t I taught that? I have my theories!

These physiological concussions are creating repercussions on actors and the society they help mold. The ability to go in and out of a belief system or physical world of one character and into the belief system of another is powerful, playful and at times dangerous. It can be noted in Jim Carey’s documentary, Health Ledger’s experience playing the Joker and Denzel Washington’s journey in Fences to name a few. We should suspect there are countless others if we all dared to look, or they dared to tell. With such a negative social stigma on mental illness it is not safe in the world of acting to admit such a thing, a mental weakness of losing the ability to identify self from character. Perhaps we would train our actors to be better equipped for the life of an actor if we can accept the risks of the business and the management of rewards from success. Leaving yourself open and vulnerable to people in the business, as well as the embodied characters, is dangerous and steps should be made to be more honest with this truth. Perhaps at the very least offer early counsel to parents and talented young souls of where a career in acting can lead.
Much like football we all watch the entertainment with little or no concern for the players. If we cared too much the game lose its luster. As a culture we would have look for another option of entertainment which may not be hard to do however, it would still require a shift in culture. We are starting to hear the desperate concerns from players and their families regarding the long-term ailments from early and repeated concussions. It was only recently that the football world mentioned this and yet it was a known issue, but they would just put the players back on the field until it was publicly addressed.
I love acting and have decided to teach it even though I feel my career as an actor was demonstrative and toxic to my life. I was greatly affected by the psychological concussions caused by acting and they were a heavy burden. They not only impacted many aspects of my life but those of my husband and children as well. The burden was so much to bare and the continual negative outcomes from the concussions created an environment so toxic that I couldn’t maintain a healthy and fulfilling work-life balance. I decided to leave the profession and focus all my love and compassion to raising my children. As my children have grown and their independence has matured I found myself with an opportunity to return to acting which lead to teaching acting.
To part surprise and part dismay I returned only to be haunted by the ghost of the characters I had embodied. Sometimes they are helpful by giving me skills I had yet to learn and other times, because I was a method actor, they put my whole family and everything we had built on the chopping block. How could this be happening even after taking a ten-year long hiatus from the profession? I have pondered this for quite some time and believe it is because of the way I was trained to set up a story for the character and how to format the character. The format demands the character be present in my own life. It parallels a bad habit, an addiction, that now becomes something you must contend with in your own life.
I found myself captivated with the practice of acting and the aspect of movement. I began to create my own concept of training that keeps the acting skills at the forefront of character development but also provides guidance on returning the actor back to neutral- home again, to fully self-identify and unstitch the seam they created to embody their character of choice. My concept is successful and yet my concept creates a dilemma. It is contradictory to the training that many other teachers in my department implement. They rely on the same techniques I was subjected to in my formative years to get the actors to tap in to a very personal place to format a character, yet they do not intend or advise them on the absolute necessity to peel that character away when they are through with the act.
Another challenge I am currently facing is where, do we as teachers, draw the line of acceptable behavior from an actor who has failed to disembody a character? A male student acted out a scene where he portrayed an abusive lover. This actor himself is believed to have attacked a fellow actress at the school. The actress had to leave because of the trauma from the alleged attack. The faculty is aware of the attack and has opted to allow such behavior to happen in the name of artistic expression. Failing to distinguish a realistic attack versus one that was allegedly performed under guise of acting. They can’t seem to distinguish the actor from the character because their belief in the formation of a character doesn’t require such separation.
Parents should question the use of their money being spent on such practices? Are we as teachers at any point obligated to nurture character formation yet also teach the limit of the actions of a character? I have brought my concerns to the school faculty, but the consensus is that no action is required on behalf of the school. I hypothesize that the concepts they rely on to train actors use pain as talent and they refuse to try and find another way to format characters. The issue is that the actors must KNOW THYSELF-know home, self-identify and even more so be taught to know themselves as to create a more defined boundary between them and the character.
Many actors enjoy acting for the opposite reason, it keeps them away from self. If they wear a mask, then there is somewhere to hide physically and emotionally all the while never creating the environment to mature in to their own personal selves. My concept of training teaches the actors to be whole people who have healed their own anger by learning how to get out of character. Know who they are and recognize the natural paths of their own personal maturity. Understand that they are powerful and must respect their abilities or they will become part of the problem. An open and willing actor can find themselves being used and manipulated emotionally without any concern for what they are enduring. Thus, subjecting themselves and those around them to the emotional and psychological concussions from acting. They return to other players in the profession such as agents and managers who don’t delve in to the intentions or practices of the director nor care to, if the actor is getting roles and providing a profit regardless of what those roles represent and the concussions that they are likely to cause.

Kitchen

EMOTIONAL TRAUMA

Having an injury- be it physical or emotional requires rehab and rest. It may even require switching movements or thought processes so as not to reinjure a sensitive JOINT or Sense Memory.

Sense Memory is what actors can use to recall a feeling in order to conjure up an emotion. It was introduced through several American teachers in the early 19th century.

But much like exercises that have been shown to agrivate more than heal or strengthen I believe the same is true with this approach.

The actors who use this method of tapping in to their own personal story open themselves up to becoming the TOOL themselves. Rather than the Classical approach which it to IMAGINE yourself in that world.

This internal approach of using YOURSELF as the PAINT the CANVAS the everything lines one up to tend to NOT heal their own pain.

They are softly guided in the acting world to USE IT. THus is something happens one may BANK IT…burry it…and in a way smile at another tool they have but

The follow through it that the person themselves become the victim. THey become NOT the artist they become more the material…as well and eventually this I believe is why many actors find themselves with unsealed trauma which lead to mental illness.

IT is unsaid but in my class in 7th grade we all stood up to tell a story. The one with the worst story won. See.

WHen I returned to London to see a fellow actress I trained it Star off the WEst End I realized that they too have converted to the AMERICAN approach to acting but in the end
It is brutal and emotionally damaging and I feel by watching and paying for this trip of ENTERTAINMENT we have to understand that there is no REHAB going on…
NO one is rushing to these actors backstage and walking them OUT of the role… They have to figure it out themselves and that is a hard task bring that many of them aren’t even aware they got stuck in the Matrix to begin with…

I believe the clapping it what wakes us up—end of the play – it severs like a SLAP that is meant to shock…but truly——the actors need to be aware that like foot ball playing they are undergoing emotional concussions and the more they use their OWN pain the more severe the injury is and over time it will and could cut their lives off-

Being empathetic is an amazing skill actors have…being too willing to bleed for real is going too far..

I tried to adjust this during my time at New York Film Academy but in the end the whol industry that is currently teaching is based on PAIN as ART…so I decided to step away and speak from this mountain top.

IT is an issue. No one is talking about it. No one is warning a person with severe emotional pain NOT to play like minded roles…no one is teaching actors how to GET OUT OF CHARATER…and the only one really addressing this MASSIVE issue with Becoming the role…regardless of whose well you tap….yours or a spirits is Jim Carrey…He saw it…we are who we believe we are…and that my dear ones is why your mind is so important to know and love and respect and treat kindly.

PEacE and LOVE

Kitchen

Letting go of…Your Story

I was the lead in a play a few years ago and during one final run before we opened I made an internal independent decision to make the character more forgiving.

After the run we sat for our notes and our director just stood there. All the hard work we had rehearsed the past three week was gone. Nothing. He was not even mad it seemed he was just helpless.

Before he began to give the notes I raised my hand. I said, “ That was my bad.” He looked at me and said “Thank you for being able to own that and never do that again.”

See-

None of the other actors could play their part because I wasn’t playing mine. The DRAMA we were trying to play out became a light hearted story. Not what the director was going for-

Change your ROle Change the Genre of your story.
We can’t remove stories in our lives. That would be more of a denial situation and can get really dangerous but we can decide to change our role in the story as soon as possible.

Try playing the Character that doesn’t allow the other actors to play against you.

The STORIES stay the same but your part in them shifts and if you are willing to let go of

How can you do this in your own DRAMAs?

CAn YOU make an independent internal decision to be a more forgiving character in one of your Stories?

Would that be so bad? What would you gain? What would your loose?
What Role would you be and would that be OK? Woul should still exist if you chose a different motivation?

LOVE SUSIE