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  • Sonya Cooke


My first acting coach, Jo Spiller, who began training me when I was sixteen, taught me many incredible lessons. I owe a large part of my acting, teaching, and life philosophies to her wise guidance. I would like to highlight one thing I learned from her…Where is the Love?

Yes, it is a Gorillaz song from a couple years back and has largely disappeared from the general acting conversation for some time, but I just wanted to dust it off and re-present it as an absolutely awesome question to ask yourself as you craft.

“Where is the love?” asks the actor to stay committed to what is driving him in the scene. In spite of the fight or conflict that may be going on, there is love running concurrently with it. By tuning into the love in the scene, the actor keeps himself emotionally available and fighting for a positive outcome.

Love does not diffuse conflict; it ignites it. Love is like electricity. It’s running whether you flip the switch or not; therefore, it is a resource of energy that you can choose to tap into. As an acting tool, there is nothing lost in gaining love; it is additive and illuminating.

Love is inexhaustible; just when you think it has run dry, there is more where it came from. In other words, like energy, it can never be extinguished, only transformed. Therefore, love is never static; it flows and changes hats as it evolves. How is the love in the scene moving? What circumstances are directing the flow? Is it consummated, does it mature? Is it separated, leading to heartbreak and pain? Is it suppressed and turned into creative energy? And, then what happens?

Inevitably, love has many faces. Love or the absence of it is the cause of a great deal of violence. It can compel someone to kill, and, when subverted, it can turn into rage and malice. In this way, love is volatile; it can burn you and consume you.

Love is not exclusively romantic. You can love your children, your family, your best friend, yourself, or your dog. It could be religious love, patriotic love, love of nature, arts, music, or sports.

Also, love is not all Shakespearean tragedy. Love is relative and can be anti-climactic! You can be in love with your soul mate, I won’t stop you, but you can also really love that frozen yogurt after a long day. I am personally infatuated with goat cheese and fig butter right now. You can love your job, your new shoes, seeing a colleague trip and fall, that new band you just discovered, Leonardo DiCaprio… It can be life or death, but it doesn’t have to be. The degree to which you love is often illogical, and in this way, love is absurd.

Love is what makes you long for something or someone deeply; what better energy to access in your acting than that? The force of attraction pulls you toward the object of your desire; meanwhile, the circumstances of the play will likely be your negative charge, repelling the two objects from meeting, seeing eye to eye, forgiving each other, kissing and making up, whatever is at hand.

Science Break: On an atomic level, no two objects can ever touch. Because of the negatively charged electrons surrounding the nucleus, actual contact is physically impossible. Even the chair you are likely sitting in isn’t actually making contact with you. In reality, you are levitating above it to an infinitesimal degree. Therefore, fundamentally, in our physical world, separation is inherent. Nature repels the union of two beings. No wonder love in life can be so difficult! If true contact is futile, why even try? This attitude comes up in acting very frequently, warranting a lot of giving up, abandoning of the objective and playing the problem in scenes.

“Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.” ---Albert Einstein

But as poets and Albert Einstein tell us, love is not bound by physical laws. And so, it is important in your craft work to keep seeking out the love which compels you to positive action and consummation of that love, whatever shape it takes. Love, if we allow it, drives our personal lives; let it drive your character in all the many ways it can.

Although we wish it were free, love will cost you. It will require a ton of energy and investment and thought and commitment. And, since there are no guarantees with love, it may backfire on you. The greatest thing at stake is a broken heart. To the actor, this is acting GOLD. Whatever choice generates the most life within you is the choice to make. Therefore, love is your best friend, fueling and feeding you with spontaneous and emotional impulses.

If only as practice for the usage of this tool, I encourage actors to examine love in their personal lives. Recently, I have instructed some of my students to stop doing their homework and go on some dates. Life experience is important! So many actors do not make room for it, because they are too in love with or absorbed in their craft and career pursuits. Or, there are personal blocks to love, and work, among many other things, shields one from it. However, without personal experience and some familiarity with being vulnerable, what do you have to offer your character? Cultivating an open heart is dangerous, but it’s a risk worth taking. So, actor, where is your love? How does it manifest? Where is it leading you? I hope you will follow it.

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