Have you ever given one of those performances where you thought you knew the lines, you thought you had the character nailed but something just wasn’t clicking? One of those performances where you tried desperately to connect to your scene partner but it felt clunky, you tried to connect to the lines – some came from the heart but the others sounded forced, fake or even wooden and you just couldn’t get going with the emotional journey the character was on. To top it off the self doubt crept in and before you knew it you’re in your own head criticising yourself rather than authentically living through the role.
Firstly, don’t worry. This is a common acting problem. Many actors find that at some point their performances don’t flow, but luckily there are 3 acting tricks you can use to get them back on track and flowing effortlessly.
Once you can master them you’ll find yourself in a heightened state of creativity, completely immersed in the moment and delivering much richer performances.
3 ACTING TRICKS TO MAKE YOUR PERFORMANCES FLOW EFFORTLESSLY
#1 RELAX – When you’re giving an effortless performance – one that flows, one that you don’t have to think about, one where things happen spontaneously you are relaxed. One that is clunky or messy tends to be a result of tension, which legendary method acting coach Lee Strasberg described as the occupational disease of actors.
Nerves block your creative impulses, stop you being aware of the gifts you’re being offered all around you and hold you back from being effortlessly authentic within a scene. When nervous, our body naturally goes into fight or flight mode, which is why you may feel like you’re battling your way through a scene or wanting to run off stage/set.
Before any performance make sure you’re sufficiently relaxed, both mentally and physically. A quick yet effective way to do this is to place your left thumb over your left nostril and breathe in slowly through your right nostril to the count of 5, then breathe back out slowly to the count of 8. Swap thumbs and nostrils and repeat the process. Keep repeating until you feel focused, grounded and present.
#2 FOCUS ON YOUR SCENE PARTNER – notice the tone of their voice, their behaviour and what’s going on behind their eyes. Once you get into your groove with this you’ll find you naturally start to respond to them, and before you know it there is a natural flow between the two of you.
#3 MAKE CHOICES AND COMMIT TO THEM – there are many different ways a scene can be played. What’s important is that you make clear choices about why you’re there (your character’s purpose in the scene) and what they’re going to do to achieve their objective (known as the tactics). We usually decide this in the preparation stage by analysing the script and uncovering all the clues the writer has left for us by reading the it over and over again. This doesn’t mean we become attached to the choices we make in the preparation stage and lock out other ways of playing the scene, but it’s a good starting point for giving us something to work with.
To get your performance to flow effortlessly you have to be open to receiving what your scene partner is giving you, which may knock the tactics you’d originally decided upon out of the game. They may do something completely unexpected, which is why #2 is so important. When you’re in the scene be brave with your choice of tactics – go with what your impulses give you, but don’t sit on the fence because this leads to wishy washy acting.
Once you can lock these three acting tricks down you’ll have a performance under your belt that flows effortlessly and it just becomes a process of practising these steps over and over again until they become second nature.
I’d love to hear from you, have you ever experienced a performance that didn’t flow? How did it feel? If not, which of these tips have you found the most useful? Let me know in the comments and let’s have a conversation.
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