Playing with Emotions: The Changing Responsibilities and Realities of Actor training in Australia

Research output: Other contribution to conferencePresentation only

Abstract

Despite numerous research proving the dangers of emotional recall exercises in actor training, many actor training institutions in Australia still favour techniques, which ask the actor to manipulate their emotional memories in order to access an “authentic performance”. An example of this is Constantin Stanislavski’s popular application of “Emotional Recall” (or Emotional Memory). At its most basic, this exercise asks the act or to use an emotional memory from their past that is analogous to how the character is feeling at the time. The idea being that, once the actor thinks back to that emotional state, then they are able to connect that “real”emotion to the character within the scene and portray the emotional stakes of that moment truthfully.Nonetheless, while Emotional Recall can be effective if it is done in a controlled and safe environment often,actors still lose themselves so far into that past emotional memory, that then they are left vulnerable and distressed once the “acting” is over. Furthermore, there is an argument that this method of acting can be indulgent and forces the actor to feel self-conscious to the point where they are taken right out of the play –defeating the goal of an authentic performance in the first place. The questions therein lies, how can we train contemporary actors to (re)produce authentic emotional performances on stage, while still allowing them to remain safe and psychologically detached from their ‘real-life’ emotions? I believe that the answer lies in the scientific study of the “Effector Patterns of Emoting” first proposed by neuroscientist Dr Susana Bloch in the early 1970’s. At its core, the Effector Patterns of Emoting asks that individuals manipulate their breath,posture, and facial expressions to safely produce ‘real’ emotions on stage via the systematic effector patterns of emoting that already exist within their physiological make-up. Therefore, removing all past emotional memory exercises that may be comparable to that of the actor-character relationship and ensuring that the actor can remain detached from her/his character once their ‘job’ is over. Numerous research states that, while Emotional Recall can be effective it needs to be done in a controlled and safe environment and even then, actors may lose themselves so far into their past emotional state(s), that then they are left vulnerable and distressed once the “acting” is over. Furthermore, there is an argument that this method of acting can be indulgent and forces the actor feel self-conscious to the point where they are taken right out of the play – defeating the goal of an authentic performance in the first place. As an acting teacher and director, while I agree with both assertions, my interest predominantly lies in the former. How can I train actors to (re)produce authentic emotional performances on stage, while still allowing them to remain safe and psychologically detached from their ‘real-life’ emotions? My paper will look at our responsibilities as theatre practitioners and offer new techniques that support the ever changing realities of actor training in this country. By offering new alternatives to the current methods practiced in major actor training institutions across Australia I will address how with globalisation and multiculturalism, as our cultural landscape continues to shift around us, what used to be deemed as ‘acceptable’ just doesn’t work anymore.
Original languageEnglish
Pages33-33
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2018
EventAustralasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies (ADSA) Conference - Victorian College of Arts, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 26 Jun 201829 Jun 2018
https://www.adsa.edu.au/db_uploads/ADSA2018_Program_15308470989549.pdf

Conference

ConferenceAustralasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies (ADSA) Conference
Abbreviated titleActors and Acting in the Twenty-First Century
CountryAustralia
CityMelbourne
Period26/06/1829/06/18
Internet address

Grant Number

  • A541.3101.xxxx.30604

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