PILLAR NUMBER FOUR: EMOTIONAL LIFE
The Fourth Pillar, Emotional Life, is the heart of the system. Like a heart, it is the most integral and elaborate of systems, requiring tremendous courage, stamina, and creativity from the actor. Emotional Life centers on training the imagination to open up the emotions by creating imaginary circumstances. The imaginative mind is a labyrinth, and it is certainly difficult to map a path to utilize it artistically. These steps, based in Meisner Technique, attempt to chart this path.
There are a few main purposes for Emotional Life:
1. To train the actor to open up and feel his own emotions
2. To repurpose the imagination as a tool for connecting to character
3. To utilize the imagination to experience the character’s circumstances
4. To transform the character's meanings into your own authentically.
5. To prepare emotionally for a scene, audition, or full performance.
There are several aspects to this Pillar but there are a few core truths, and the first one bares repeating:
1. Emotional work is for homework alone. The instant the actor hits the stage, the emotional life is either there or it isn’t. The actor’s full attention must be on the present moment and his scene partner. "Emotion comes as a bi-product of what you are doing," as Meisner said. We explore our emotions in our craft work so that when we are acting we never have to worry about them "being there" or not. We will have programmed them by emotionally investing in the circumstances of the character. The actor will have become one with the character's emotions and perspectives, a crucial step for fully embodying a role.
2. Emotional work is never meant to jeopardize the mental sanity of the actor. He must take good care to make sure he protects himself. We will cover some basic techniques of maintaining a healthy balance.
3. Breaking down emotional barriers and opening up the imagination take time and practice. The imagination is a muscle that unfortunately is quite latent in the adult mind, and so it requires a significant amount of practice to crack it open and grow stronger. Therefore, the actor must be patient and persistent.
4. Your ability to feel does not define you as an actor. Do not let it determine your worth or undermine your faith in your talent. Acting is much more than emoting. This tool is only in service of the other tools in the Pillar System, and the actor must prioritize it as such.
5. Most importantly, we will begin by choosing either of these paths: using Emotional Life to step into the character's circumstances and meanings, or using our own Emotional Life to draw the character towards us. This will become clearer as we proceed.
Daydreaming is the primary tool in this Pillar. It's familiar because we all did it as children at play, and we do a version of it every night! Daydreaming is the act of living out experiences through the imagination with great detail and absorption. At the beginning, the actor daydreams from his own life experiences, desires and aversions. Once a basic understanding of what it means to daydream is established, then branching into daydreaming as the character can be undertaken. When both modes of daydreaming are established, then we begin the process of wedding them into one, harmonizing the character with the actor. Therefore, there is no tool of greater importance, as it is the beginning, middle and ending of the Emotional Life work.
Daydreaming as Self...
Most likely, you've heard the expression "to truly love someone you must first love yourself." The same applies to how we come to understand a character. Before you can venture into character work, it is important to first venture into your own character and excavate it for its truths, desires and fears. What good is a painter if he doesn't have a wide variety of paints? Before going to the canvas, he must fill up his pallet so that when the object of his art calls out for blue, he not only has it but also he knows the exact hue.
Your Pallet of Colors...
Getting to know your pallet is a wonderful first step of self-exploration. Start by making a list of what are your greatest desires, what you love, what you fear, what you hate, what grieves you, what makes you laugh, what turns you on, what disgusts you, what enrages you. Examine your answers and begin to connect to those feelings. Whatever it is that stimulates your emotion is called your Stimulus. When you think about the stimulus, it should stir the intended emotion. For example, when you envision what you love, focus on it to the point of sensing that emotion. Once you feel a flicker of love, stoke the fire by setting that object of your affection into motion. Imagine the stimulus in live action…flesh out the image and watch how your emotions acquiesce to the imagery you are viewing in your mind. Work through your list and connect to each emotion by using your imagination to animate the stimulus, whether it be an object, person, event, or an idea. This is the beginning of Daydreaming.
The Magic If...
The question may come up, should I daydream past experiences? And if not, how else do I experience emotions through my imagination if I do not draw upon what I know? Lee Strasberg infamously taught actors to use their personal memories, which can a very useful tool for actors. On the other hand, Meisner believed that digging up life's past experiences was not only limited but also unhealthy, since it bared too close to home and was potentially too dangerous to relive. Another problem with using past experience is that it is oftentimes marred with other strands of personal history; it is hard to isolate the experience without relating it to other events, and thusly other emotions. Altogether, past experience is faulty in Meisner’s estimation, and so instead he advocated for utilizing Stanislavsky's "Magic If," which emphasizes what could be as the main entry point in exploring imagination and feeling. Meisner poses the question: "What could happen to the actor that would elicit a specific feeling?" The plausible is just as evocative as real experiences because they are rooted in real life and would have real life implications. They can also have higher stakes than what life has offered, because they are not limited by historical fact. Since the circumstance lives in the domain of the possible, any circumstance can be created and heightened in order to help the actor believe with more conviction and ultimately feel with depth and a sense of truth. And, although past experiences are not particularly encouraged, they can be the jumping off point for a plausible circumstance. The most important principle is that it must be plausible. The circumstances must be realistic so that the body's sensory system can trust it. You must construct a plausibility that stands up to the test of reality, otherwise it's a house made of straw.
Trial and Error / Trial by Fire
Daydreams oftentimes must fail first before they can really work. When a stimulus fails to launch, the actor can feel hopeless or shallow, but he must avoid these negative thoughts. Failure is extremely useful because it reveals to the actor what does not affect him. Trial by Error is truly the only way to test the acting instrument; good planning will never suffice. The good news is that through his exploration, the actor will land at an imagined circumstance that does indeed bring him to life. What results is the groundwork on what stimulates and stirs certain emotions and what doesn't. Do not be surprised or dismayed if a stimulus does not have the intended impact. It can be distressing to realize that imagining your mother getting killed doesn’t upset you, but there are many reasons for this. Sometimes, the nervous system will not allow the actor to imagine certain scenarios or to experience difficult emotions. There are healthy and unhealthy barriers to Emotional Life. It is the actor’s job to decipher what is resistance and what are healthy boundaries.
Let’s begin to unpack how to daydream, and in order to do so, we are going to begin from your self. Look at your pallet list and choose one of the emotions to begin with. Authentically connecting to and experiencing that emotion is the goal of this first daydreaming exercise.
Daydream as Self
1. Create a safe space, turn off phones, make sure you are not in earshot of anyone, and close all computers.
2. Set a timer so that you know you will stay within the daydream for however long. I recommend starting at 15 minute sessions and expanding it to a half hour or even an hour depending on what it is you need to daydream. If you don't do this, you will likely end early out of resistance or fear.
3. State the emotional goal of your daydream. This could be to experience anger, grief, happiness, fear or any other intriguing emotion. Keep it succinct.
4. Set your focus now on the stimulus of that emotion. Flesh out the stimulus by enacting it out in your imagination. If you haven’t yet identified a stimulus, ask yourself “What would make me feel this emotion?”
5. Invite your imagination to open up and take you on a journey. Imagine circumstances that would allow your stimulus to come to life in your imagination. Hand over the reigns of your intellect and logic and allow yourself to connect to the physical sensations within the Daydream. See, feel, touch, taste and hear the finer details. The specifics of the daydream will enhance the genuine experience of it, which allows for you the actor to believe that it is actually happening.
6. Begin to move and vocalize as you desire to help deepen the visceral experience of the Daydream. Physical movement frequently helps to activate the imagination, voice encourages a deepened and more committed experience, and writing often is a helpful medium for channeling the imaginary images. All in all, avoid curling up in bed and attempting to "daydream;" you will likely end up dreaming, but not consciously.
7. Envision the events unfolding sequentially: this happens, and then this happens, and then this happens…A sequence of events makes logical sense and is very useful for daydreaming. It lends some credence to the daydream as well. Ultimately though, you should feel unhinged by time. Allow yourself to freeze a moment and linger in there for as long as you like. You can then jump to another moment, and then to another, completely ignoring sequential order. If necessary, break the rules of past, present, and future to detail your daydream.
8. You may find that the stimulus you chose is failing to connect you to the emotion. It is okay to abort ship and imagine another stimulus that would elicit the emotion.
9. When you feel your emotion, it is not time to give up and claim your victory. Instead, linger in it and deepen into it. Continue the daydream of circumstances and sensations so that you extend your stay in the Daydream. Dipping one toe in will not suffice, the experience should be one of absorption. Giving Over is the act of being submerged in the imaginary circumstances, which allows emotions to come to the surface. It must feel like it is really happening. Your real and present circumstances should disappear---the room, the time, the next task to accomplish...the attempt should not be given up until Giving Over takes place.
10. You know you have reached the goal of the Daydream when you fully experience the intended emotion for the amount of time you set, or longer. Ideally, in that time, you have "lived out" or given over to the experience you planned for, resulting in the emotion. Ideally, you stay in the experience for at least fifteen minutes.
11. Wrap up the daydream by taking a couple deep breaths, shaking out your body, high fiving a fellow actor if they are there, anything you need to do to return to reality and celebrate your Daydream, no matter if the attempt succeeded or not.
Here are some additional pointers for the Daydream process…
A wonderful tool for committing more deeply to a Daydream is termed Faucet Breath, which means a constant stream of speaking on voice or just under the breath. When “Faucet-ing,” the actor launches into speaking and does not allow himself to stop until the Daydream is complete. This forces him to stay connected and committed, even when creativity has dried up or the emotions become to scary. To Faucet, the actor speaks in first person, either from himself or from the character.
When you notice that one nuance or detail in your Daydream illuminates the emotion for you, focus on that nuance and enlarge it. Make it more visceral, more immediate. This is where you gain imaginative control; you want to be able to zoom in and out of your daydream in order to connect more deeply to the emotion.
When the emotion has not taken root, heighten the stakes. This encourages more engagement, so long as the stakes are those that you can believe. You can heighten the stakes by adding details that make your situation more acute and particular. It must be an exceptional moment to bring yourself to a strong emotion, so make exceptional choices.
When a stimulus fails to launch your emotional life, it may be too far outside of your realm of believability or it may be too painful for your body/mind to accept. You can do one or two things at this point: Journal or meditate on why that is. Ask yourself what could it be that is blocking you from experiencing the plausible circumstances, and later on return to it afresh. Or, without judgment, let the stimulus go and choose something else that elicits that desire, aversion, what have you...
Cultivating a Sense of Truth
Through daydreaming, the actor cultivates a Sense of Truth, or, in other words, his own awareness of his emotional authenticity. However, it will feel very compelling to force an emotion or indicate it to one’s fellow actors, directors, and instructors, so while practicing the daydream you must insist on authenticity of experience. The trick of Daydreaming is how to surrender to it and allow oneself to believe it is happening. Only from belief can our emotional and physiological senses respond genuinely. The mind simply cannot tell truth from false, so long as it seems true. Reality and fantasy alike bring us to emotional life; if not, movies or any work of fiction would be totally ineffective. What betrays the audience's ability to connect to the story is if the rules of the world do not add up, like an action thriller where there is one too many stunts or a romantic comedy in which the chemistry is nonexistent and phony. The same applies for the daydreaming process: the rules must add up. An actor's Sense of Truth, akin to the Truth Barometer, is invaluable; it is the part of him that does not settle for circumstances assembled sloppily, for he knows that it would only result in shallow or false emotions. The actor who knows how to genuinely believe and feel based on fabricated circumstances now has a touchstone, and, henceforth, he is aware of how far he strays from his sense of truth and knows when he is inauthentic.
The Healthy Actor
More often than not, daydreaming conjures genuine feelings. You may experience physiological reactions, such as sweat, reddening of the skin, a racing heart, or tears. However, sometimes the daydream can be too physically and psychologically intense. In which case, it is extremely important to protect yourself.
Some people can access their emotions without difficulty, but for a great majority emotions are fortified with a lifetime of blocks. Based on life experiences and myths told to us as children, they continue to subconsciously suggest that expressing feeling is not good, useful, masculine, strong, appropriate, or attractive. Inevitably at this frontier, the actor must confront these blocks and be ruthless in dismantling them. It may take years of application, but on the other side of it is wide accessibility to feeling.
“The only gift is a portion of thyself.” ---Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is a precious time in your training, because very rarely does the actor have the time, space, or mere allowance to get to know his own emotional pallet. Plus, humans do everything within their power not to experience painful feelings, so it is understandable that this process can incur some distress. Know that you are on a journey to get to know your own acting instrument, and it will knock you off of your center to some degree. However, the pay off is great. The more you know your own heart, the better you will be able to connect to the hearts of others, particularly that of your character. Our greatest offering as actors is the vulnerable underbelly of feeling that we so often protect and hide. Getting comfortable with opening it up and sharing it is as crucial as it gets in acting.
Daydreaming as Character…
Once the actor has experimented with Daydreaming as Self, the next step is to begin Daydreaming as Character. In order to do this, the actor steps into the circumstances of the character and imagines himself in his shoes. This process is very organic, and without a doubt actors through the ages have done this exact process intuitively. And yet, here are the precise steps to either inspire or affirm this process within you, the actor. Very likely in previous Pillars you may have drafted up a list of circumstances for your character; refer to this list in order to begin Daydreaming as Character…
Create a safe space, much like the first Daydreaming exercise
State the circumstance that you, the actor, would like to explore and connect to. Usually this is one that is outside of your own life experiences.
Using the given circumstances in the script, begin to imagine yourself in those circumstances. Flesh them out with your own details. The imagination is quicker than the intellect; allow it to fill in the gaps for you and take you on a journey.
Just as you did in the Daydreaming as Self Exercise, utilize your senses. How can you activate your sense of touch, sound, smell, taste and sight to make the character’s circumstance more visceral and real to you? What do you smell in this scenario? What do you taste, what is it like? How does the touch of something in the object affect you? What do you hear?
Use your body: if the circumstance has you walking down a street or riding on a horse, assimilate your body in such a way to give yourself that feeling. Use your voice! You do not have to say out loud what other people say to you in your daydream, but if you are speaking, let yourself really speak! This deepens the experience as well.
Through this process, we start to build first-hand experience in regards to the characters we play. Because you have first experimented with Daydreaming as Self, you have a sense of what it feels like to authentically experience. Therefore, as you begin to daydream the circumstances of the character, you have a standard of what authentic experiencing is.
Daydreaming is not the end all and be all; an actor gains a lot by gathering as much information about his character’s circumstances as possible. Research on the role and story, no matter how you gather it, ultimately deepens and enriches Daydreaming. One of the most enjoyable processes of being an actor is the research stage in which you probe into the world of the character by reading books, going online, interviewing people, and watching movies or viewing images. Researching circumstances that are beyond your knowledge or comprehension ultimately helps your daydreaming. It lends more detail and therefore more credibility to how you imagine the circumstances in your daydream. Better to know than assume, and better to remain curious than to skim the surface of what pertains to a circumstance. For example, the actress playing Laura in The Glass Menagerie would be smart to research her character’s physical impediment. Any actor playing in another era and region, such as the show Downtown Abbey, would benefit much from reading up on the political, social, and cultural history, just to name a few. The facts one learns in research stoke the fire of the imagination, making the actor’s ability to believe the daydream effortless. One pointer is to take note of moments in your daydream that lacked clarity, then delve into some research before your next Daydream.
Daydreaming Previous Circumstances...
Before hitting the stage, the character has lived an entire life, one that has and will inform his behavior and choices in the story to come. Upon entering a scene, a character is always coming from something. He experienced a different location and set of events, with a steady stream of past moments trailing behind. Of course, these prior moments are not seen by the audience, so it is up to the actor to isolate the pertinent ones and envision them in order to comprehend the character’s particular perspective and launch into the scene at hand. In order to do this, the actor can daydream the events.
Daydreaming the events that lead up to the action gives you a context for your present circumstances. It is not enough to merely know past circumstances; to play a character we must have experienced them. We take it for granted, but, as we learned in the Circumstances Pillar, it's extremely important and useful to be situated in a where and when. For example, can you imagine not knowing how you got into the room you are presently in? How strange would it be to not have an awareness of what rooms or halls were on the other side of the one you are in? Your context matters. If the character isn’t rooted in his life experiences, then how can he know himself and take action in the present? By firmly acquainting yourself in your character’s life trajectory, you have your character’s back; you are in his corner, and you will see through his eyes.
Quite frequently, a character enters a scene in a heightened emotional state of some sort and degree. Stanley Kowalski enters the rape scene of A Streetcar Named Desire drunk and elated that his wife is in labor. Amanda in The Glass Menagerie enters the second scene utterly betrayed by her daughter's "deception." Monologues often begin in a heightened emotional state. The next tool, then, Emotional Preparation, which was originally coined and codified by Meisner, is intended to connect the actor to the character's emotional state upon entering a scene, or in the case of an audition, a monologue. Commonly and conveniently abbreviated to EmoPrep, this tool goes a step further to help generate the emotional state in which the character enters. As a learning tool, Emotional Preparation helps the actor deepen in emotional truth.
It is important to note that EmoPrep is just for the very first moment, which may seem like much ado about nothing. Indeed, the first moment is incredibly fleeting; you may be thinking, “Why even bother with a tool that barely lasts at all?” Because, the Emotional Preparation lifts you to the stratosphere your character is in. Imagine a spaceship with a rocket booster attached on the side. Almost the same size as the rocket itself, the booster is the power source that gets the rocket up into space. Generating a tremendous amount of energy, it hoists the rocket into a new atmosphere. Once this mission is accomplished, it drops off into the Atlantic Ocean. If it ventures any further into space, it would only inhibit the rocket. The exact same is true for the role of Emotional Preparation for the actor. It gets you up into space and then falls away; it has no place in space, in front of the camera or on the stage.
Doing EmoPrep is similar to daydreaming but the set-up differs. Here are some guidelines for Emotionally Preparing. Start by specifying what the emotional state your character is in upon entering a scene. This should definitely be supported by the text and previous circumstances. It's best to keep the emotion as succinct and as specific as possible. One to two words is best; if it stretches into sentences, it is likely too long and therefore too complicated to strive for in the exercise. State it as “angry,” “distressed,” “elated,” “rapturous,” “devastated,” etc. You can add adverbs that describe the emotion more explicitly, such as: vehemently angry, morally outraged, It's also a good idea to avoid lukewarm emotions, like "pissed off" or "okay." Avoid abstract emotions, too. Such emotional states, like "pensive" or "macabre," can be just that, abstract and intangible. You want to pick an emotion that is direct, strong, and truthful to the character.
The process is quite similar to the Daydreaming as Self exercise. Only now, the intention is to use the Emotional Preparation to launch into the scene. Follow these steps:
Create a safe place, one that is quiet and distraction-free. Always begin a new daydreaming exercise with a few deep breaths, a relaxed body and a centered mind.
State the emotion that you are seeking to connect to.
Create for yourself a set of imaginary circumstances that would create that emotion within you. Basically, what could happen to you that would create that emotion within you?
Allow yourself to take on those imagined circumstances. Linger in the experience, express it physically: thrash, dance, scream, sing, color, paint, punch pillows, rip up paper...ultimately go deeper into it through expression. Express out loud how you are feeling frequently. Say, "and this makes me feel..." or "I feel..." to encourage yourself to tap into your emotions. Adapt the circumstances to deepen the emotion, make it as strong as possible and once the feeling has connected to you, stay in the daydream.
Make sure that you are not just forcing or faking the emotion. The feeling must derive from circumstance. Does your Sense of Truth indicate that you are really living it through and giving over? Is your Truth Barometer screaming at you that the circumstances are too unbelievable for you to conceive? Honesty here is key.
Once it has come time for you to enter the scene, return to the circumstances of the scene. See if you can apply this emotion to the circumstances. Once you are aware of your circumstances, you are ready to enter the scene.
State what it is you are entering the scene to do. What do you want in this first moment? What are you going to do to get it?
Begin the scene by connecting with your partner and going after the objective you have in mind. Don't indicate how you are feeling; you do not need to play the emotion or goose it. Remember, the rocket booster has lifted you into the atmosphere, and the moment you are in the scene, it is useless. The only thing left to do is to engage with your partner and the developing circumstances.
After the scene is done, take note of how it worked. How did the EmoPrep influence the scene? Did it change your perspective of the world around you? Did you feel more connected to the character? Did it shift how you interacted with other characters? Share or write down your experiences.
Not all characters are in a heightened state upon entering a scene or moment. So, if your character is not in such a position, do not feel pressured to insist upon an emotion. As long as you are connected to the circumstances upon entering a scene, then you are good to go. The Emotional Preparation tool is intended only for moments that are heightened.
Very often, an actor will find that they are full of emotion in the beginning of a scene or monologue, having just used the Emotional Preparation tool. However, the feeling subsides, since the daydream has come to an end, and now the actor is in a completely different set of circumstances that he is not as connected to. At this point, you, the actor, are now ready to begin one of the most crucial Emotional Life tools, which will allow you to continue to be emotionally connected throughout the piece.
In the Meaning Pillar, you wrote down what the circumstances meant to the character. Your clarity on how he or she perceives, feels or experiences the circumstances will be put to good use here, as now it is time to daydream those meanings in order to connect authentically to them. The circumstances of the character should bring you to full and authentic life, but they must be particularized to match the meanings. The Meaning List is there for this reason. The circumstances that you do not connect to are the ones you need to daydream in order to authentically make real for yourself. In short, you use the Meanings you answered “No” to as a “To Do” list of things to connect with and daydream. For those items that you do not relate to, we will now begin a daydreaming process entitled Particularization.
Developed and codified by Sanford Meisner, Particularization is the process of emotionally connecting to the meanings of the character. In order to do this, the actor programs authentic feeling into a particular circumstance of the character. This process, although quite difficult, has many perks. It makes it possible for the actor to relate to his character, to side with him, and to feel and respond in precisely the same way the character does. It is a tool of total emotional transformation, because ultimately the actor will be emotionally responding to a circumstance for which he previously had no feeling.
In order to do this, we draw from Pavlov’s Dogs, which was an experiment on programmed responses. In this famous study, dogs were trained to salivate upon seeing a light stimulus, indicating that dinner was on the way. The dogs remembered that what proceeded the light would be some food, and so their hunger would kick in. The experiment proved that a physiological or emotional response could be stimulated by two different sources; moreover, they could be wedded to represent one thing. We need to condition the actor’s emotions to respond to the character’s stimulus in much the similar way. As actors, we then will use two different sources, an impactful and imaginary circumstance in the actor’s own life and the particular circumstance of the character in the story. By using the two, we will compel the actor to experience the emotional response of the character, and then to transfer and program that feeling into the circumstances of the character. Therefore, our process requires a welding and melding of Daydreaming as Self and Daydreaming as Character.
1. Begin by stating the character’s circumstance and meaning that you seek to connect to. We will continue to use the example of Lenny from Crimes of the Heart and the news of the sudden death of her horse.
“My horse has been struck by lightening and has died à This devastates me.
2. Imagine what circumstances would make YOU, the actor, feel this emotion. We stick with what could be instead on what has been.
It would devastate me if I received news that my mother was in a car accident and died.
3. Begin to daydream the circumstance above. Use Faucet Breath and/or your body to encourage and deepen the experience.
I am on the road, in my car, and I get a call, I reach for the phone, it’s my dad. He sounds frantic, I have never heard his voice like this, it is cracking and emotional. He asks me if I am driving, I tell him yes, my stomach lurches into my throat; this can’t be good. What is going on? He asks me to pull over, I am on the highway, but I make my way there, so anxious to hear what it is that has my dad so upset, he says…
4. Once you feel connected to the emotion within your own life’s plausible circumstance. Begin to take on the circumstances of the character; speak from the character’s point of view as the events unfold that bring him or her to the meaning.
Doc walks in the door and his face is so somber. I cannot believe that he is here, it has been so long since I’ve seen him. He tells me to sit down, and my stomach lurches into my throat. What could he possibly have to tell me that I need to sit down?
5. See what it feels like to take on the circumstances of the character, but when you start to feel disconnected to them, return to the personal daydream, so as to emotionally fill up.
Dad tells me that my mom was coming home from work and was struck by a car…
6. Continue to bounce back and forth between the two, drawing the two more and more into one circumstance. Use threads from your personal daydream and apply them to the character’s circumstance. Find similarities and entry points that allow you to continue the emotional feeling as you return to the character’s circumstances.
Doc tells me that my horse was out in the open field when the storm broke out, and he was struck by a bolt of lightening…Dad tells me that mom was coming home from work and was struck by a car, she was totally in the right of way, completely innocent, but the car came like a bolt of lightening through the intersection, my horse was just grazing in the field, completely free and innocent, and the bolt of lightening came out of nowhere.
7. When you start to feel the emotion bleed into the character’s circumstance, deepen it. Encourage it more by feeding it fuel from your personal daydream.
I cannot believe this happened to my mother, I cannot believe this happened to my horse. My mother was my closest friend, I was so close with my horse, nothing and no one can replace her.
8. More and more, you will want to spend long stretches of time in the character’s circumstance. It’s as if the Particularization process is like stepping onto a beach and into a deep ocean. You step your toes in at first, and with time and diligence you allow yourself to swim further and further away from shore.
I cannot believe this happened to my horse, it makes me sick to think that I have lost her, and she was so innocent! I cannot imagine the world without her. I have to start thinking about what to do to retrieve the body, and that thought, too, devastates me.
9. You are done with the Particularization Exercise when you are Daydreaming as Character within the stated circumstance and fully experiencing the emotional meaning you ascribed for an extended period of time. Often, the longer the time spent in the Daydream, the more concrete the connection.
Once done with the exercise, it is best to do one of two things: either rest and reflect on the exercise, or follow it up by practicing the monologue or scene in which the Meaning has relevance. The first option is important because it brings the daydreaming to a full stop. All daydreams (except for Emotional Preparation) are exclusively for homework, and, like homework, the exercise is done outside of the practice, rehearsal or performance.
If the actor chooses to begin the monologue or scene, it must be stressed that never should an actor display his homework while he acts. Also called “indicating,” showing emotion is an acting “no-no,” because it is completely unnatural and devoid of artistry. It’s easy and satisfying to show how you deeply you feel, but the actor must avoid this temptation. In fact, the step toward rehearsal and performance is more difficult, in that an actor must simply play the scene, trusting that if his homework is good that it will be there to support him. In rehearsal, the actor then tests out how potent the homework was. If he was genuinely experiencing the circumstances and filling up with life, then the homework was successful, the Particularization exercise sufficiently led to authentic emotion within the story. If the actor has the opposite experience and feels himself pushing to feel something (especially since he did all that homework!) then this indicates that he needs to return to the exercise in his homework and re-Particularize.
The brilliant thing about daydreaming is it is stored in your mind-body. After daydreaming, you may never have to return to it again. When you rehearse, you will find the daydream impacting your connection and reactions without any coersion of your own. However, you may have to return to the same daydream in order to root it in you. Likely, you will notice with practice that every time you daydream, the more easily and deeply you will enter into it. The imagination is merely a muscle, but one that can stretch without limits. If we truly are connected to the Collective Unconscious, there are no bounds to what we can experience.
Emotional work, although vital, cannot sustain the actor onstage, and like what was previously said, emotions must never be played, pushed or broadcast to the audience. Emotional work, no matter how deep or genuinely felt, lies solely in the domain of homework. Actors will find that when they do an Emotional Preparation, it peters out quickly from the first moment. This is natural and not something to get frustrated about. The following two Pillars deal particularly with what generates the actor once he hits the stage. Usually in plays or film, comedy and drama alike, characters are dealing with less than enjoyable feelings, yet for some reason actors playing the characters hold on to their feelings in ways that are entirely unnatural. In life, we never seek to maintain a negative emotion; to the contrary, we do everything in our power to eradicate it or transform it into something else. Our characters are no different. They do everything they can to change their circumstances. This is where Objectives come into an actor's process. Whereas Emotional Life was an inner exploration of the imagination, Objectives, the Fifth Pillar, focus the actor externally on what he wants and needs from other characters in the play and from the circumstances.
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