The Importance of Creativity
If an actor doesn’t believe their scene is real, there’s a good chance the audience won’t either. This means that to be a good actor, you need to be convinced of the truth of your scene – to have a truly creative mindset.
The good news is that your imagination doesn’t have to be as powerful as you’d think! Truly believing that you are in a castle or have turned into a donkey is ridiculous, but a good creative mind can find the “truth” of the scene – you’re not in some random castle, you’re in your bedroom; you’ve not just magicked into a donkey, you’ve been betrayed and humiliated.
A creative performance finds the symbolic truth of set. Marlon Brando confined himself to bed for a month to better perform as a paraplegic, and Daniel Day-Lewis has (among many other things) lived alone in the woods as a survivalist for his role in The Last of the Mohicans.
These actors didn’t literally become paraplegics or members of a dying Native American tribe – they did what they felt was reasonable and relied on their creativity to draw the rest of the truth into the role.
So, you can draw emotional memory from experiences; but where can you get creativity? While everyone is different, there are some basics we think any actor can master.
Your emotional state will affect not just the quality of your performance, but also your ability to create. A terrible mood can make your mind blank and your actions lacklustre; and in a brilliant mood you might feel like the world is your proverbial oyster.
On the other hand, actors sometimes find that their bad moods actually help a performance. If your character is just as angry or miserable as you are, you can channel it for a very natural performance. A word of warning, though – extending a bad mood longer than necessary might not be worth it.
Using emotion to enter a creative mindset means finding out which “mood” is your creative fuel; though people don’t always like to say it, sometimes anger is a good source of creativity (and conversely, creativity is a good therapy for anger!).
However, it’s hard to force emotion. Emotional memory can be a good tool to get the details of a headspace, but to begin your journey to creative happiness some music might help.
To enter a creative mindset, you might need some ambient guitar, whale music, or even white noise. To get into your character’s headspace, it might be better to listen to a “break ups” playlist. Websites like 8tracks and apps like Spotify have playlists to match nearly any feeling you need to feel.
Creativity relies on the physical as well as the emotional, in both conception and performance. Your body is usually guided by your mind, often subconsciously. It acts out things you didn’t even know you were thinking. Do you ever catch yourself copying the yawning motions of someone across from you on the Tube? Do you sometimes check your phone for phantom texts without thinking?
There is a way to reverse this process – you can encourage your brain to behave creatively through exercise. Moving your body improves blood flow to the brain, giving it a power boost. It can also induce a meditative state, perfect for finding inspiration. When you’re out for a long walk, sans mobile phone, your brain must occupy itself with only its own contents.
So – don’t put those music playlists away just yet! A long walk in the morning or a little yoga in the afternoon between rehearsals is brilliant, but if you hit a creative block mid-session don’t worry – just break out the speakers and lose yourself in your favourite song for three minutes.
There’s a reason “creative duos” are so successful. The best minds in creative industries are ones that know when to ask for help. Talking to others about your goals, problems, or just a few ideas for a scene you’re performing can help in several ways.
Firstly, by verbalising that which is blocking your creativity, will make the problem/s easier to solve. Writer’s/actor’s block can strike at any time, and mulling over it on your own isn’t likely to help. By finding a sympathetic ear and explaining where you feel you’re going wrong, one of you could figure out a way around the problem.
Secondly, a second opinion never hurt – someone else’s opinions and ideas could begin a chain of creative thought that gives you the next big idea in the theatre. By listening to them in turn, you’re not only adding to your knowledge base; you’re also giving your brain a little light exercise in its memory and response times.
Find someone whose work you admire, or who you know is a good sounding board for ideas, and spend an afternoon just chatting. You could go for a walk at the same time, for a double-boost to your creativity!
An Exercise in Creativity
I want you to act out a small scene, no words. Using a combination of mood music, exercise, emotional memory, and imagination, conceive each moment of the scene and then perform it – to yourself, to a friend, anything. Here it is:
You’re walking into a hotel lobby, late at night. It’s empty, and the lights are harsh – you’ve been crying. You’ve just been dumped, and you’re going back to the room booked for the two of you – alone. Walk from the lobby entrance to the elevator.
Most actors will probably do this walk differently – and that’s good! Everyone walks and behaves sadly in a different way. Which music did you use to enter the right headspace? Was there a particular lobby or elevator that came to your mind?
Creativity is a vital part of acting. Only through our imaginations are we able to bring to life a character’s truth. That’s why our Ultimate Acting Programme has a holistic method acting approach; and why a creative audition is more likely to land you a spot on it. Applications for October’s intake are nearly over – so make sure you apply soon!