All Acting and No Play Makes You a Dull Actor

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  • All Acting and No Play Makes You a Dull Actor

    Ironically, spending too much time on all things “acting” can actually make an actor worse at acting.

    (By Carmichael Phillips)

    (Photo by Julien Pier Belanger on Unsplash)

    You know what they say: “All acting and no play makes you…a dull actor!”

    Acting is one of the only professions where working excessively hard at it and focusing exclusively on it can actually make you worse at the profession. Yes, there is such a thing as doing too much acting, or acting related activities.

    Pianists can spend nearly all day, each day, pounding away at piano keys. The same is true for all professional musicians. Professional athletes can spend many hours each day working out, to improve their bodies. And then they go on to spend nearly all day, each day, working on their game. In professions like these, it’s a must. The only way they can be great at their professions and compete with others in the field is to put in an exhaustive amount of time improving their skills.

    The same cannot be said of acting. Sure, it’s important to work hard, train and improve. But, ironically, spending too much time on all things “acting” can actually make an actor worse at acting. That’s because acting is a very unique profession. It is impossible to be a great actor if all an actor does is act. An actor must also strive to live a rich, full life.

    (Photo by Ashley Knedler on Unsplash)

    Just as a novelist draws from their life experiences to tell vivid stories, actors must also draw from their life experiences to create vivid characters. Actors must be able to draw from personality traits of the people they’ve known to have a deep understanding of how a character should act in a particular given circumstance. They must be able to draw from the positive and negative consequences of their past actions to gain a thorough understanding of the impact of their character’s actions. And, whether an actor uses “Meisner” or “Method” or any other acting technique, an actor must be able to use their past experiences as a compass to guide their character’s actions and reactions.

    These types of life lessons cannot be taught in an acting class, no matter how prestigious the school is, no matter how respected the teacher is, no matter how famous the alumni. Life cannot be taught. It must be lived. Which is why too much “acting” and not enough living makes for a very well-trained actor in the craft itself, but one who will inevitably struggle to bring to life an authentic character, in all its fascinating complexity.

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