17 Sep Use the Difficulty!
We’ve all had those moments when things don’t go to plan G in acting class, in an audition, on set, on stage… in life! In training we like to call these ‘complications’ and wherever possible utilize them constructively to deepen the character, the scene and the learning.
Complications come in many shapes and forms. Most of the time they arise in the form of challenges or difficulties that intrude upon the flow of the scene. They can be introduced purposely by a trainer or director to charge the energy of the scene. They can also arise from the people we are acting with, their actions or errors, lack of experience or difference in interpretation. They may be unexpected events due to a prop, animal, environment or accident, or they could occur from a mistake we make ourselves. Whatever the cause of the complication there is one way an actor can respond that will always open the door to creativity, expand the experience and sustain emotional truth in the scene – ‘Use the difficulty’.
‘Use the difficulty’ is the mantra of Sir Michael Caine both in acting and in life (see his comments in this short excerpt here). As he suggests, rather than a difficulty presenting a block to getting the most out of a character or scene or class, a difficulty presents an opportunity.
We talk a lot about ‘making offers’ and ‘accepting offers’ in acting; the introduction of a complication or difficulty is essentially an offer. Rather than shut it down we can expand from accepting the offer and using it. It may not always work but that is not the point. The point is to use it in a constructive way that creates choices, connects with character and can sometimes generate gold!
At its height remaining open and creative in the face of a complication can produce something wonderfully unexpected, surprising and exhilarating for both actor and audience. At the very least it can help us learn more about the craft and about ourselves as actors. Are we able to stay present in a scene and respond in the moment in character? Are we ready to take responsibility for everything we bring into a scene no matter what happens, how things change, who we are put with, what script we have? Or do we discover that we need to further develop some of these aspects of our relationship with the craft?
Next time you find yourself in an acting situation where a complication has been introduced take the challenge, see what you can create from it. Whether it’s a complex task added for your character to complete in a scene, a prop that falls or spills, an actor who is less experienced or making an unexpected offer, an on set technicality or any other of the myriad of things that can go awry – stay present, remain open to the moment and use it. The worst that can happen is you learn something.
Please feel welcome to share any experiences with ‘using the difficulty’ that you may have had or heard about or observed in class, on set, in the industry. Even better, if you have experienced your own situation where you could have ‘used the difficulty’ but you didn’t at the time – think about your experience, how would you use the experience differently to the advantage of the scene, your character or your learning if it happened again? Feel welcome to share your thoughts.
Those of you who do watch his comments will I’m sure also enjoy the final words Sir Michael has to offer!
Enjoy the ongoing journey into the craft!
Written by Shanta Surendran, (NASA Teacher)