“It’s your own self-serving stuff that gets in the way. You get out of the way of yourself to be able to express what it really is. It’s all about getting back to being free of yourself.”
Where a painter has a paintbrush, a violinist has a violin, you, as an actor, have yourself – your instrument.
Do you remember how free you were as a child? You would let your body, mind and mouth run free without concern for how you were perceived, without reserve or inhibition. Your body, your instrument, was free.
Locking It Up
Children have no problem expressing themselves. They have no trouble letting you know how they feel or using their imagination, and they do both with enviable gusto.
At some point in our lives, as we make the transition from child to teenager, teenager to adult, we lose this precious ability. First, our parents start to tell us not to be ‘silly’, school-friends and peers mock us for believing in Santa Claus, and self-consciousness sets in with a vengeance.
Unwittingly, we start to impose shackles on our acting instrument. Freeing that instrument when you reach adulthood and embark on an acting career is one of the greatest challenges for any aspiring actor. An actor must go through a reconditioning process, to rekindle their imagination and learn how to express a full spectrum of emotions all over again.
It may seem like a contradiction, but before you can master your instrument, you must first set it free. Method acting techniques are your best tools.
Freeing Your Instrument
“You must allow yourself to feel free and express ALL the time. If you don’t, your bad habits will run riot and destroy your performance when you go on stage or set.”
To start the reconditioning process, you must ask yourself 3 questions on a daily basis:
- How do I feel right now?
- How am I expressing myself?
- Could I express myself more?
Just as few of us use the full breathing capacity of our lungs, most of us use only a fraction of our expressive ability. Asking yourself these questions, and adopting a more conscious approach to self expression will help your reach the outer edges of your expressive spectrum. It’s all about learning to express yourself to the full in a variety of situations.
Scream, shout, cry, laugh, punch, kick – Let it out!
As you begin to express yourself to the full, you will begin to realise how much you have suppressed, and you’ll probably feel happier, too.
There are a series of method acting exercises that can help you free your instrument even further. Some of these have been covered in my blog, but if you would like to read more about freeing your instrument, or any other aspect of training in method acting, pick up a copy of my new book, the first ultimate guide to method acting.