Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Study Status

The Words of Wisdom this week are Study Status. We all know what status is, it comes from power, attractiveness, being admired or having social standing. And it also comes as a personal quality, an inner feeling of being important or unimportant. People of high personal status appear to be effortlessly superior; those with low status put themselves down and defer to others. Certain areas of work - selling, teaching - demand skill in adjusting status; it must be high enough to be respected but not so high as to be overbearing. Also it's important to be able to raise the status of others which is a function of praise (or flattery.) In drama, status is always an important factor and shifts in the status of characters are particularly important.

Here are some characteristics of high status behaviour. Being upright and still. Spreading the body. Not fidgeting or touching the face. Employing strong gaze. Blanking people, or not checking their reaction to something you've said. Speaking slowly, confidently and in complete sentences. In each case, low status behaviour is the opposite. Shouting is generally low status behaviour. It implies struggling to be in charge of a situation and not controlling oneself, but a sudden, fierce shout, commanding attention, might be high status. There are certain behaviours that might be described as 'status gambles', for example dressing or behaving inappropriately in a situation. This is as if to say "I'm so important that I don't have to keep the rules." If one's personal status is high enough to carry this off, then that status is confirmed, but if it fails then one's status is diminished.

This is a rich field of study and a knowedge of it can be very valuable in many areas of life, so Study Status.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Study your emotions

The Words of Wisdom this week are Study Your Emotions. Be aware of the inner feelings which you experience at different times in your life and which lead you to action. When acting or preparing for a part revive emotional memories of things that have happened to you. How did they feel, physically? What happened to your face? What happened, in particular, to your eyes? Observe how the interaction between the emotional and the physical runs both ways: if you are happy you smile, if you smile it makes you feel happy.

What are the emotions?
Fear. Surely the most basic of the emotions, because it is the survival emotion, protecting us from danger, and must go far back in our evolution. It has many relatives from worry, nervousness and anxiety to terror and panic.
Happiness. Something we all pursue and are fortunate if we find.
Disgust. Hatred if it applies to a person.
Anger. The whole gamut from irritation to fury and rage.
Sadness From regret to inconsolable grief.

Those are the five primary emotions. One on its own is surprise. Something which, by definition, cannot be planned for. A difficult one for actors to portray, though a sudden movement often helps.

Here are some less obvious emotions.
Confusion, or doubt,
Pride. Proper pride, as in believing that your team is the best, and arrogant pride, believing that others are inferior.
Gratitude. Being thankful.
Curiosity. This is a valuable one for actors to explore. We are curious creatures and are interested in any new thing. In any scene, ask yourself what is your character focussing on and where is their attention directed, particularly if it changes.
Inspiration. Feeling uplifted or transformed.

A word of warning. There are some drama teachers who seem to regard acting training as a form of psychotherapy. They have no compunction in breaking their students down and invading their private feelings. This is an abuse of authority and should be avoided at all costs.

Meanwhile: Study Your Emotions.