Authentic Emotion in Acting

Actors are always asking me, “When I am playing an extreme emotion, how do I make it look authentic?”

My answer:  Don’t play the emotion.  Play the fight in expressing that emotion.

As humans, we don’t like to openly express emotions. We work to protect and hide our true feelings. We are always in conflict with ourselves in not letting our emotions take a hold of us.  We try to be in control.  So when playing emotions as actors, if we freely express ourselves, such as openly displaying the sadness or fears of a character -  THEN WE ARE NOT BEING REAL.  

Instead of playing the emotion, you need to play the conflict the character is having to NOT express that emotion outwardly.  There is an internal struggle going on between that character’s need for control over that emotion and it coming out anyway.   As an actor you are always playing your objective and then the inevitable obstacle to obtaining that objective.  True emotional resonance lives on the razor’s edge of those two things coming together.   

For an example, imagine this scene:  You have worked long and hard for your company, slaving hour after hour to impress the-higher ups, staying late on many of nights, and have sacrificed your social life for your job.  You have decided it’s finally time to ask for a raise.  You schedule a meeting with your boss, script and practice your arguments and the day finally arrives for a face-to-face pitch. You lay out your rationale to your boss, who agrees that you have a strong work ethic, are a valued employee and has great potential.  Then she says no.  In that moment you are immediately faced with anger, frustration, disappointment, etc.  But you have to maintain your composure.  You don’t want to cry or scream or embarrass yourself.  You are having an internal struggle with what you want to say and having your feelings come exploding out and what you should say in a controlled manner.  So for the actor playing that scene - don’t play the anger, frustration, disappointment, etc.  Play that struggle in NOT expressing those feelings.  That’s where the authenticity lies.  

Happy acting!

Theatre is one of the best arenas for civil discourse

Theatre continues to be a place to represent the stories of our time, the past, and our hopes for the future. In theatre there is an understanding and agreement that the relationship is to be done respectfully.  Therefore the theatre is one of the more important places to challenge norms, review past transgressions, fight for the oppressed, challenge unfair ideologies and push boundaries.  All the while by doing it compassionately.  

Live theatre is one of the most civil functions in our society because of the agreement that exists between creative team, the performers, and the audience.  The creative team agrees to tell the story to the best of their abilities. The performers agree to tell the story as honestly and authentically as possible.  And the audience agrees to respect all of that effort and work by listening respectfully and absorbing as much of the story as possible.  Even if you disagree with the content, you agree to the sharing of the experience and commitment to the story.  

In this arena we can disagree with the material but respect the process.   By listening quietly and attentively the audience can hear a new perspective or experience someone else's life in an intimate way.  It is also a place to share a greater understanding of the different human experiences that we each have while also being reminded of the humanity that connects us all.

In these times of discourse, polarity and judgement, I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and see a play or musical that you would not have experienced otherwise. Sit quietly in the dark and agree to listen, learn and love your fellow man.   


Doing Something: Life Lessons From a Month of Improv | HuffPost

I teach Improv in a variety of settings and it is truly one of my favorite things to teach.  What I think appeals the most about it me, is how truly life applicable the skills are.  The enhance every area of your life.  And Improv is for everyone, anyone can do by learning the basic strategies and rules.    Join us anytime at The Complete Actor Studio,, to learn this amazing skill. Oh, and have a ton of laughs, too!