- Sonya Cooke
THE PATH OF MOST RESISTANCE
When crafting a role, take The Path of Most Resistance. Yes. The more imposing the obstacle, the more provocative the circumstance, the more meaningful the experience, the greater your creative engagement with the moment at hand. This applies to many aspects of your craft-work.
Contact: For every relationship within the story, there is a desired homeostasis, a level at which you, the character, would like the relationship to function, whether that be a loving relationship with a parent, a business partnership with a friend, or a romance with a compelling individual. Likely, within the story, your character is working to achieve that desired state; therefore you, as the actor, have the opportunity to craft The Path of Most Resistance…Ask yourself, how can you increase the stakes and make it not only more difficult to achieve but also more meaningful? Maybe craft a deeper bond to the other person, a greater need from them, some urgency in the timing. Make it personal within your own life in order to authentically experience the tug of desire. By setting these stakes higher you will be compelled to engage with the fight on a more profound level.
Circumstances: Whether they are given in the script or fabricated in your imagination, design them along The Path of Most Resistance. How can you make the circumstances more dire, more crucial to change or overcome. In general, characters fight to improve their circumstances, and each individual has a reason for doing so. As the actor, your task is to identify what your character’s past and present circumstances are and what he or she would prefer them to be moving forward. The more suffocating and challenging the past and present circumstances, the more your character will work to transform them. It is within the actor’s crafting power to realize these circumstances and up the ante.
Meaning: What do these circumstances mean to your character? How do they impact him or her emotionally? Does your character’s poverty simply piss him off or does it enrage him? Does the news of a lost job or opportunity make her feel despondent or does it make her feel utter despair? Depending on what is appropriate for the scene, you have the option to increase or decrease the severity/urgency/profundity of how these circumstances impact your character. Low grade feelings hardly ignite meaningful action; instead, take The Path of Most Resistance. Decide that the circumstances mean more to your character and he or she will be compelled to fruitful action that will create change. Or, at least, your character will believe so…
Emotional Life: When bringing these circumstances close to your heart, you may find yourself evading them. Signing onto The Path of Most Resistance brings up quite a lot of personal resistance within the actor. It’s painful to put yourself in the shoes of your character; you wouldn’t wish those circumstances on your worst enemy! However, it is your role and it must be done. Face The Path of Most Resistance. Every actor feels it and must trudge on. Relay the experience of your character into your personal life: how would you live in those circumstances? How can you make them real to you? Until you do this, the role will always be at arm’s length, resulting in a performance devoid of truth.
Objective: Do not fight for the easy, attainable goal, reach for the highest shelf! Now, this doesn’t mean step outside the logic and plot of the scene or story. The difference lies all in the wording of your objective. For instance, your character may be flirting with another character, and, therefore, your objective may be to merely get her number. But, when you gear into most-resistance-mode, it could be to take her home or to build a committed, loving relationship! Each goal has a different weight to it. Of course, it may not be appropriate to the character, and this is, of course, up to you to decide. I am merely encouraging you to push the envelope.
You can up the stakes by also recognizing what your character stands to lose. Declan Donnellan in The Actor and the Target suggests that characters live between what they want and what they don’t want. Identifying what you are running from creates tremendous need within the character. When your objective is to “get the job,” why not set the opposite intention to save your house from foreclosure? When your character wants to find out whether his spouse is faithful, he is simultaneously avoiding the paralysis of doubt. These antithetical needs create a taut tension of need, fueling the character to achieve resolution.
Action: When it comes to crafting tactics, never merely try; blaze ahead with boldness. However, you must also recognize the ramifications of your actions. All too easily, actors ignore the consequences. For example, I find actors yell and express tremendous rage at their fellow characters, as if it costs them nothing, that there is nothing at stake. I often wonder if they are considering the reality of what they are doing. Once you yell or express anger to another, it changes the chemistry of the relationship, at which point there are no easy U-turns. When you take certain action, there are consequences, or, in other words, something is lost. For instance, when your character confronts another, the silent peace between the two is forever broken. When a character reveals a secret, some of his dignity has been sacrificed. Acknowledge the consequences of your actions; know that every step causes reverberations, negative and positive. Reckon with these actions first in order to make certain you are committing them fully.
Of course, the Path of Most Resistance is contradictory to how one lives one’s life, but it is an actor’s asset, because it sets the character up for the greatest confrontation, incurring thrilling tragedy or delectable comedy within his singular performance. By crafting along the Path of Most Resistance in homework, the actor makes it possible to act with ease. Why? When the stakes are high and the terms demanding, action is necessary, text is inevitable. The actor need only connect with these challenging needs in order ignite a domino effect of action, setting the stage for un-self-conscious, fully present acting.
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