Larry Silverberg’s True Acting Tips has become a favorite amongst acting teachers, being used in their classrooms to generate a true conversation about the craft of acting. Larry, known worldwide as a master teacher of the Meisner Approach to acting, has written a book that instigates an exploration of the fundamental roots of human creation and the demands of entering the path towards acting with humanity and soul. Larry, Director of the True Acting Institute (www.trueactinginstitute.com) has trained tousands of actors and acting teachers around the globe and he is the Master Teacher of Acting at renowned Shenandoah University Conservatory of the Arts. Here now, a new “True Acting Tip of the Day” just for you!
Larry’s True Acting Tip of the Day
This morning, I read a lesson from the wonderful teacher, Pema Chodron and I thought of you dear readers and your interest in this thing I am calling “True Acting.” It has become clear to me over the years of working and teaching that the most resistant barrier to great acting is not an acting issue at all, it is a human one. Pema says it in this way, “…to remain open to the present groundless moment, to a direct, unarmored participation with our experience. We are certainly not being asked to trust that everything is going to be all right. Moving in the direction of nothing to hold on to is daring. We will not initially experience it as a thrilling, alive, wonderful way to be. How many of us feel ready to interrupt our habitual patterns, our almost instinctual ways of getting comfortable?”
How simple and profound these words, “Moving in the direction of nothing left to hold on to.” This reminds me of something I heard Rudolf Nureyev say many years ago. He told our group that right before every performance, he would work himself out to the point of exhaustion and then, in the performance of the dance, he would have nothing left to hang on to and he would SOAR!” Yes! And that is exactly the point, to soar in your acting! This is the thing… to move beyond your old, habitual ways of being, to shift the frozen, stuck, protective armor of the mind to the side so that your creative self can function. My friends, this is no small matter and will demand a complete commitment and a relentless pursuit. The DESIRE to enter this particular domain, the land of “nothing left to hang on to” is something no one can give to you – not your mother, not your teacher, not your guru – and only you know if it is of true interest to you. But I can tell you clearly, until an actor walks that ground, his work will remain pedestrian and uninspired.
Larry Silverberg is the author of True Acting Tips. We have compiled a list of five of his acting tips for your enjoyment.
1. One of the biggest obstacles on your path towards True Acting will be old habits. Very often, these will be “actor habits” meaning, they are things you do only when you are acting and they are usually related to not trusting that what you are doing is “big” enough and if that you do not make it “bigger” the audience will not get it. They may be subtle, but these old habits always use up vital energy that you need to act with and they produce results exactly opposite to what you are intending – they have the result of pushing the audience, and their true interest, away! Hopefully, you will be guided by a teacher that first, has the ability to recognize these habits and then, is willing to tell you. Of course, once you are made aware of your old habits, you will have to work relentlessly to shed them, as they will resist your efforts with all their might. The good news is, when you have released yourself from their grip, your work will not only become simpler (the mark of all great artists) and more direct, you will also have much more fun!”
2. “When you work on a scene for class, you will only get a true sense of the material when you find your “way in” to the first moment. Of course you must answer the question, “Where is the character coming from?” This is related to both the literal story of the script and, more importantly, the emotional space the character is in due to the circumstances of what has “just happened” or what he has “just found out”.
As you start to climb your way in to this emotional space personally, intimately, you will begin to sink below the intellectual explanations of why the character is doing the things he is doing and you will make the first connections to where this need resides in you. Here you will discover what may have seemed casual is actually urgent, vital and the stakes are high! As the pressure of these emotional realities begin to intensify in your insides, they will ultimately erupt into a surprising and unexpected wave of life itself.”
“When we look into our own hearts and begin to discover what is confused and what is brilliant, what is bitter and what is sweet, it isn’t just ourselves that we’re discovering. We’re discovering the universe.”
When you understand the unquenchable and specific need which leads you to say “yes” to “this” and “no” to “that”, then you will gain insights on how to grapple with the intimate and personal needs of the characters you play. Do it first in your life, then bring the wisdom gained to your acting. The payoff will be huge.”
“The fixed idea that we have about ourselves as solid and separate from each other is painfully limiting. It is possible to move through the drama of our lives without believing so earnestly in the character that we play. That we take ourselves so seriously, that we are so absurdly important in our own minds, is a problem for us. We feel justified in being annoyed with everything. We feel justified in denigrating ourselves or in feeling that we are more clever than other people. Self-importance hurts us, limiting us to the narrow world of our likes and dislikes. We end up bored to death with ourselves and our world. We end up never satisfied. We have two alternatives: either we question our beliefs—or we don’t. Either we accept our fixed versions of reality, or we begin to challenge them.”
Reading this book, actors will find the joy of true communion with their acting partners and, through this encounter, give the audience an uplifting experience by reminding them that we are all, in fact, human beings.
How can teachers use True Acting Tips: A Path to Aliveness, Freedom, Passion, and Vitality in their classroom?
True Acting Tips is an invigorating exploration of the deeper values of all artistic creation, which is rooted in our shared humanity. Often, under the pressures and challenges of navigating their way through the complexities of social life and figuring out where they fit into the scheme of things, students lose touch with their creative spirit and the intrinsic power they possess to be fully expressive human beings. True Acting Tips offers 203 dynamic reflections on the basic values of authentic living which can re-ignite the students’ desire to be more who they actually are and to make greater connections with the world around them.
What types of inspiration does the book give to the teachers?
I have a summer program where I train drama teachers and professors in how to teach the Sanford Meisner technique, so I have worked with hundreds of teachers. One thing I know is that if a teacher can help the students re-claim their availability to the people in their lives, they start to awaken to the fact that this is the route towards greater satisfaction in life. I call this “listening with the ear of one’s heart” and this suggests that the path is about becoming very sensitive to what is actually going on with other people. This also happens to be a requirement in the craft of True Acting. Of course, this requires that the students begin to take their attention off of themselves which, especially in the high school students, is quite a struggle as their whole life is about, “How do I look, what do other people think of me, do they like me?” Yet, the struggle is certainly worth it and True Acting Tips offers a doorway to this path with many examples and exercises for the teacher to do with their students in the classroom.
Did the quotes in True Acting Tips inspire the tips or did you search for quotes to match the tips?
I happen to work in an organic way. As I was writing the book, I would channel things that had an impact on my life into new tips. The book developed from daily tips that I was uploading to my website and to my Facebook page.
Keep reading this interview at StageNotes.
True Acting Tips leads stage and screen actors on a journey of passion, intimacy, and personal investment. This isn’t to say that there will not be heavy demands and a high cost, but ultimately, this book is designed to offer the clarity and encouragement to become an actor who makes a difference in the lives of the audience members.