Apparently 93% of communication is behavioural and 7% is verbal.
This is hugely freeing for us actors. The text is only a small part of the audience experience, which means that we have way more responsibility as well as opportunity than we sometimes think.
I don’t know about you but I always felt slightly subservient to the play text. I felt inadequately equipped to deal with it. Like I had to stretch and strain in order to give it everything it required. Maybe it was something to do with my upbringing, my own feelings about my poor intellectual capacities or educational failures/lack of academic success… I don’t know. Whatever it was, I felt unequipped to honor the work of the great playwrights. Like I wasn’t enough.
Working with Mike Alfreds, I learned that the play (and/or screenplay of course) is best seen as a roadmap, a blueprint or a musical score.
Musicians practice daily because they know that without this, they are unable to take what’s on the page and breathe life into it. They know that a page of music is just that, a page of music. It is nothing without the soul and craft of the musician, the artist.
Equally, we would be well served to think the same way about the play. When you attend that audition, have confidence. Know that the missing ingredient is you. You bring the life.
Without you, it is just a collection of words with (some, but…) little power to move or change anybody.
You carry the key to the piece and inside you is every single possibility that the play requires. You are a human being with the full range and gamut of emotional expression. You CAN play Hamlet, you CAN play Juliet, Queen Margaret, Hedda Gabler, Willy Loman, whoever!
There is nothing they do that is not available to you if you give yourself permission to access it in the safety of the scene.
How do we begin to achieve this?
Well, first, we need to know the play. Do your 4 lists.
Read the play four times and each time, create a list with quotes from the play under 4 headings:
- What my character says about themself.
- What my character says about other people.
- What other people say about my character.
- Facts about my character.
Ensure that none of these are made up but taken directly from the text.
When these lists are complete, you will have a much deeper understanding of the story you are telling as well as your place in it. You will also have every bit of information that pertains to your character, immediately accessible, quote by direct quote.
Next, establish your objectives. What does your character want in the story, the scene, the unit?
Knowing and holding onto an objective is the only thing that will hook you into the scene and keep you fighting for what you want. The fight is what brings the life.
A solid understanding of the play and a desire in your heart injects life. It brings the 93%. It brings you.
To you, the artist.