‘LIFE PROCESS’ TWO – for actors



When ‘Life Imitates Art’ we experience one of those remarkable moments of coincidence that affirms the value of creative thought and practice.


When ‘Art Imitates Life’ ALL we see is FAKE acting.


During a coaching session the other day I commented that an actor was pausing to create a space for me to say my line.  My point was, in life, people in conversation only create space if they are in need of an answer at that point.  Otherwise they move to their next thought and begin to take the action required to implement it.

“I wasn’t giving you space,” was the reply, “I was doing a BEAT – to show that he was nervous.”

This well-educated and intelligent actor was executing a technique acquired as part of a three-year degree course at a highly respected nationally recognised acting institution.  WOW!!!!

MY QUESTION IS … Why would you use a technique like that?

Scene from 'Rhyme and Reason'

In a charming scene from 'Rhyme and Reason' these two actors are listening actively not working to a plan of specific 'beats'.

IN LIFE it is rare that we would pause to let the person we are talking to know that we are nervous.  IN LIFE the more likely occurrence is that we DON’T WANT the person we are talking to know that we are nervous.  That was certainly the case in this scene!!!

Logically, in the world and the life of the character such a choice didn’t make any sense.

Why do acting teachers train actors to play BEATS.  I don’t understand the reason of it.

And, if ART WASN’T IMITATING LIFE what WAS it doing?

The answer is simple …

The actor was CUNNINGLYcommunicating information to the audience.  The foolishness of teachers perpetuating the myth that this is one of the ‘actors responsibilities’ contributes to an extensive web of ‘myth-understandings’ that permeates the actors’ world.

Andrea McCannon in a scene from 'Rhyme and Reason'

Andrea McCannon is listening actively and playfully to discover what choice she should implement next.

People don’t behave like that in life so what are the chances of an actor looking REAL while they do it.  The chances simply are NOT very high.

The solution to this problem … ?   DON’T DIVIDE A SCENE INTO BEATS.

The process of actors thinking about BEATS is …
# anti-conversation structure;
# anti-listening;
# anti-interacting;
# and anti-story.

It is an inefficient contrived device.

It has so little value it is not worth considering as a technique.  There are many other preparation process that are a hundred times more effective than BEATS.

Ante Kreso in a scene from 'Rhyme and Reason'

Ante is also listening to the conversation to discover his next response NOT waiting to illustrate how he feels so the audience can see it.

Understand the CONVERSATION – listen to what’s there and then respond in whatever way you need to achieve your conversation goal.  If the decision to respond is a really difficult one you won’t be able to make it quickly.  That’s perhaps what other people might call a BEAT.  But those moments can’t be manufactured or predetermined – they emerge from the listening.

DON’T IMITATE the ‘Art’ of others.  YOU MUST find your own path to truthfully explore the difficulties and interactions that arise from your listening.  Just like you do IN LIFE.


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2 Responses to ‘LIFE PROCESS’ TWO – for actors

  1. Sally McLean says:

    Excellent point Richard! As actors we can become so focused on using the “right” technique as we have been taught we sometimes don’t stop to check if it truly serves us or the story. I think your take on what a “beat” is, is the best description I’ve heard in a long time. My favourite mantra for acting is “don’t act – re-act!” Be in the moment and the story and let the “beats” take care of themselves!

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