Acting Spontaneous



Why should actors strive for spontaneity? In theatre, Spontaneity is the act of making things on stage seem as if they are happening for the first time. Spontanerity helps to suspend the audience's disbelief. Most audiences have seen plays that feature an actor stumbling through his lines which puts the audience in a heightened state of anxiety. At othert times, the actor might know his lines well, but the audience sees a performances so dull that the script cannot be lifted off the page. The act of spontaneity seduces the audience into thinking that what is happening on stage is happening in real time. Once an audience accepts the stage, the lights, the necessary conventions of acting, they are willing to go along for the ride. A dull and lifeless performance by one actor will throw the audience out of believing in the show. A minefield of missed lines by another actor, while exciting, will have the audience feeling anxious and embarrassed for the poor actor.

Often times with young actors, they want to keep things fresh so they under-rehearse. This means the actor hasn't planned out the trajectory of their piece very well, and as a consequence, it sounds fuzzy and unclear. Other actors will see the value of rehearsal and reptition and they just run the lines over and over again so that it becomes by rote without a scrap of spontaneity. The performance appears dull and lifeless.

Under rehearsing. When an actor under rehearses, there can be a certain excitement for an audience as they watch the train veer uncontrollably down the tracks, as they wait for the crash. Usually an audience will feel some sympathy for the poor actor caught like a deer in the headlights. An audience might think the actor is very brave or courageous. The audience might feel compassion or they might just feel I am glad its not me up there making an idiot of myself. An all too typical comment from under-rehearsed actors is; 'don't worry, I will know it by opening night.' The uncertainty of the performance wrecks all spontaneity because the audience is only too well aware that this poor sap is only an actor and obviously not one that cares about his or her craft too much. It is painful to an audience to watch an actor fumble their lines. The spontaneity of the character is replaced by the uncertainty of the actor.

What about over rehearsing? When you are a studious actor and practice your lines again and again, you run the risk of having your character appear to know what's coming next, to know what he or she is going to say next. It is easy to bore an audience when it seems only like acting, when it seems as if the character is not experiencing everything on stage for the first time.


How to appear spontaneous. Plot out your part so that you know where the discovery bits are, where something new is about to occur to the character. You need to rehearse it enough until it is second nature while plotting the character's course through the play. Whatever you do, don't play the emotional end of the play at the beginning. Even though the actor knows what is going to happen, what he or she is going to say next, the character can't. Map out the changes in the characters emotions and thoughts. You want to take the audience on this journey with you, and so many times that just doesn't happen. The audience has paid their money to be taken on a journey out of their daily lives. It is your responsibility as an actor to take them on that journey. Dull acting happens when you; the actor, let the character you are playing know what is going to happen next. Your character must be as innocent about what is going to happen next as the audience or even more so. Mapping out moments of spontaneity and rehearsing them until you have them just right, will make you a more exciting actor.





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