Daring to be real on stage – bodywork for actors

A good actor is good at being real. I love the theatre, because I love watching the actors. A good play in my opinion is not depending on the text or the aesthetical components, but most of all on the physicality and the liveliness of the actors. I love listening to complicated thoughts on stage, if I can feel, that the actor is actually thinking them in that moment. And I love watching movements, if I can feel that they are filled with meaning. I love detecting the emotional relations between the characters on stage, if the actors are daring to allow those emotions to be there in that moment. Being real is what makes a good actor.

I love teaching people to be real, that is, how to be themselves without fighting against it. Physical therapy is in general a wonderful learning tool for actors, because their bodies are their instruments. They are very aware of being a body. It is very easy to find a common language during the sessions. 

Though the private situation of being an artist is also an interesting field to look at when working with actors (for ex. How to manage the demanding situations of rehearsing… How to use your fear in a very competitive surrounding like a casting… How to stay creative under pressure…) I would like to write about how I use somatic coaching with the aim of approaching a role – in addition to a rehearsing process or as a preparation for a casting.

At acting school in Germany most actors will get familiar with the term “Durchlässigkeit” – “permeability”. It means being able to feel your partner, to react to the surroundings and to impulses from the outside adequately and to allow your emotions to be visible. It is an ability that is demanded of the students, but not taught. In my eyes, most people see it as a given talent, but from experience I can say, that it can be learned!

How can you learn this? It’s simple. You have to learn to be afraid and vulnerable. This is the most important ingredient for making a performance intense. 

In a session I can teach you what you are doing in order NOT to be afraid. What posture have you learned to take when pretending to be strong? What expression does your face have? What happens to your voice, when you pretend to be independent from the other peoples’ judgments? If you discover all the physical efforts in your body and the automatic thoughts and feelings that accompany them, you can get control over this state of being. And when you have gained control over it, you can let it go – let go of the extra efforts and just trust that you are good enough! If there is no extra effort, there is no pretense. This state then is a state of being permeable and intense, so that your emotions can be seen, your thoughts can be heard and your movements can be felt!

If an actor is able to create this state of permeability, he has easy access to all the parts of himself that he needs for creating a role. And that doesn’t mean that he can only play a role if he has a set of similar experiences as the character has! You can approach a character, which feels completely strange to you, scene by scene, act by act. Which emotion within yourself do you need to get in touch with and then express without restrains?

Acting doesn’t mean faking. It means being intensely real and putting your FOCUS of expression onto a certain part of yourself. Acting means daring to stand out by standing on a stage and acting FOR us. That is the historical origin of the theatre: a ritual, where one person takes an outstanding place on the part of all the individuals of the community and expresses something FOR them. It means to be very connected and very alone at the same time. Conditio humana, Everybody! If an actor manages to perform in this state of being, it creates a similar experience for the audience, too! A good actor can create a shared reality with his audience. That’s the experience, I love!