Copyright 2006 Mike Pniewski
In addition to being an actor for the past 20+ years, I taught acting for at least 10 of those years. One of my favorite questions students would ask is, “What do they want when you go and audition?”
I would usually answer, “They want you to be brilliant!”
The student would press on. “Right, but how can you do that unless they tell you exactly what they want?”
“What they want”, I would say, “is for you to bring the character to life by giving it your truth and unique point of view.”
Different teachers and acting techniques have often lead young performers to focus on serving the master or serving the system instead of using those tools to best express what’s magical or unique about them. No training was ever meant to create a series of cookie-cutter actors who all perform the same. Yet insecurity has lead many to hide behind the technique instead of using it as a launching pad of creativity. Like the discussion above, I would always push my students away from too much concern about the technique and have them get in the habit of breathing their own life into the work.
The first book I ever read about acting was “Audition” by Michael Shurtleff. One of his basic tips for success in the audition process is “use yourself.” Begin by capitalizing on your innate uniqueness and use that to create the character and bring it to life. Don’t intellectualize but personalize. Find what’s interesting and exciting to you about this character and build on that as you do your work.
What you have to offer to any “character” you play is your most valuable asset. You may be an architect, and there are lots of architect’s around, but there is only one you. There is only one architect that has your combination of training, imagination and passion. And all that comes from the most unique point of view in the business—yours.
We live in a world that asks us to take constant stock of whether or not we are pleasing others. If we adjust our behavior and methods to satisfy every situation or person we meet, the real person inside us gets lost. And so does the unique truth and perspective that each of us brings to the world. Sometimes, in our rush to please others, we quickly forget what is most pleasing about ourselves.
Just as I told my students, speak your truth, with your own voice. Give all of your inimitable passion and joy to everything you do. Find those ideas and topics that inspire you and go inspire others. You can rattle off lots of impressive statistics and even quote famous people, but in the end people want to hear from your soul, not just your head. Your dreams, your techniques, your success, your failures–all of it. Presented in a way that will inspire others to succeed, offering them effective solutions for their life and work.
Our job, as I see it, is to become the best “we” we can be, then go out and show lots of other people how to do the same.
Trust in yourself and share your extraordinary magic with the world!