When someone watches you, you change.
Research conducted in the personal training industry has discovered that when someone is simply watched while they work out, they greatly increase their efforts.
This is bad news for actors.
How to Avoid ‘Overacting’
I say ‘bad news’ because an unjustified increase in effort leads an actor to FORCE their performance.
This is also called overacting. It doesn’t have to be real ham acting to be considered ‘overacting’. It can simply mean giving too much energy to the task in hand.
In The Method, we have a special exercise to combat this.
It’s called ‘A Private Moment’. In this exercise the actor carries out an activity he/she normally does in private but would stop doing if someone walked into the room.
This activity can vary depending on your personality and interests. It could be writing a letter, dancing to music, reading a book or even…playing an instrument.
The idea is that the actor does something they do in private in exactly the same way – but this time they will be watched.
Recently, my one-year Ultimate Acting Students were doing this exercise and one of my student’s (Victoria) private moment was playing the piano.
Now, you may think, ‘No big deal.’
Well, as you have to bring in the objects that you use in the private moment, this was a big deal.
She actually brought a piano into the studio.
Victoria carrying out her piano private moment.
Now, that is dedication for you!
I’m not entirely surprised as I handpick and audition heavily to find the right students for my method acting course and they are all dedicated and committed individuals.
The reason we use this exercise is to develop stage presence. Stage presence is not something that you are born with; it’s something you develop. Sure, some actors have a natural inclination towards it, but most have to work on it. Many actors are not even aware that you can develop stage presence through such exercises.
Part of developing stage presence is allowing the actor to let go of the outcome; they need to stop worrying what the audience may be thinking about them during their performance. If the actor starts to concentrate on how their performance is coming across, he/she will start to overdo it. If they push and force they will deliver a distorted performance. This happens a lot in professional sport. Athletes are trained to relax, to reduce anxiety in order to achieve peak performance.
Another aspect of achieving stage presence is relaxation. When an actor is tense, he/she can’t think or feel properly and will often overcompensate by forcing the performance.
In order to avoid this, you need to carry out basic relaxation, which allows you to mentally and physically relax in order to carry out the tasks in hand.
Here is a short impromptu video we shot at the studio after completing a Private Moment session.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can’t develop stage presence. Work hard at these exercises and you will improve.