Sanford Meisner defined acting as, “Living truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” It seems obvious that being in the moment is an imperative to living that truthful existence. However, I’m here to tell you that self-awareness is not only good, but actually NEEDED in our work.
Most actors think that they have to be as in the moment as possible throughout the entire audition process even during rehearsal. But if you think about the process of practice and rehearsal, self-awareness and self-monitoring is incredibly important. No one learns and masters a skill without first having to work it out step by step. No one jumps out of a plane, or drives, or learns how to ride a bike for crying out loud without carefully and thoughtfully working step by step through the process. So how can an actor improve without that same care, thought and consideration?
Self –awareness is an integral part of my rehearsal process. As a matter of fact, the first thing that I do when I get an audition or workshop scene is to get in front of a mirror or camera and begin working it out, and I invite the students in my classes to do the same. Not because I want them to be in their heads while they are performing, but because I want them to know how that performance is going to come across to the CD BEFORE they get into the room.
The divide between what “feels right” and what actually works in film and TV can be wide. Many of us have been cast after auditions that felt terrible, or have felt dissatisfied only to have the director say, “That was great!” What did they see? Just because you felt doesn’t mean it translated to the audience, and the audience might see something there that you never felt. How do you insure that they get the performance that you intended? You work it out and review your performance.
It’s important that when watching yourself (either in play back or in the moment) that you remain objective. It’s not about how you look. Yes, you have those wrinkles, or a funny earlobe or whatever. You can’t change those things, so look past them. It’s about the work. Are your thoughts clear? It’s about your characterization. It’s about that moment of discovery halfway down page two. Is it too big, maybe not big enough? It’s about making your audition as clear, simple and smooth as possible.
Once you get into the audition room however, let it fly. Now is the time where you stay out of your head. All that technical work you did in rehearsal will be there for you. Trust yourself. You know what you want to do, you know how to do it. All that’s left is the fun of getting to perform.
So don’t shy away from being in your head. It’s only by monitoring and objectively judging your work in the rehearsal process can you know whether you are crafting the performance that you’re intending. Knowing that the audience will get exactly the audition that you have crafted gives you the freedom and confidence to relax and truly be in the moment when the time comes.