Every actor that I have trained in the last 21 years has had the opportunity to learn what does or does not work for him or her. Actors have four basic resources at their disposal. In this four part series, I plan to give examples of each of the four resources available to you. I will begin by listing those four resources, and then I will explore how to access each of them.
The four resources are:
- Memory – Personal Experience
- The Moment or the “here and now”
The first lesson will focus on resource # 1 – “Memory”.
We all have memories and several of our memories or personal experiences stand out as pivotal moments in our lives. Other memories hold less impact, yet are critical to our work as actors. When an actor uses a memory in his or her work or a personal experience for a scene, that memory should be the emotional equivalent to the characters emotion in that particular scene. For example: if your character needs to cry, laugh hysterically, feel sad or be depressed or melancholy, the actor would search his or her memory bank for a time when they felt that particular emotion. I generally encourage actors to choose a memory within the last 7 years. The fresher the memory, the more effective it will be. Once I have taught you to access that memory yourself using “sense memory”, which means going back to one specific memory using the five senses, sight, sound, touch, taste and smell, I will ask you to “remember” what you felt. This is a much more dynamic technique than just asking an actor to remember an incident. We never actually expect the actor to completely re live that experience, simply to refer to it or hang on to the “memory” of it throughout the scene or until the Actor reaches the arc of the scene. Generally, once they have reached the “arc”, a transition occurs, everything changes and they feel differently or the conflicts are resolved. Not always, but often. At that point one’s objective will change and so will the choices on how to proceed.
Therefore, the sensory memory keeps the actor in an organic or truthful place to support his work in the scene and deliver an honest performance. I tell actors not to expect to relive that chose moment as fully as they felt it when it happened. Being in an organic emotional place is enough. The memory or the experience will provide the actor with the climate needed to deliver an honest and believable performance.
If that process doesn’t work for you, we have three other resources to draw from. The second resource is the “Imagination”. Make sure you come back for Part ll of this four part series to learn to use “imagination” in your work.