Acting: how to break an emotional block
You have an audition for the role of a drug addict or someone who is suicidal. Or maybe the character is struggling with the loss of a parent or child. Either they are trying to escape from an abusive home or they are dealing with PTSD. Perhaps they are waging a war in Afghanistan or within their own community. Either they are going through a divorce or dying of cancer.
Emotionally deep roles can be intimidating and scary, so much so that some actors shut down. They collided with a block; something in them refuses to “go there” in an effort to avoid uncomfortable feelings like fear, pain, sadness, and pain. And yet that is our job. If you are going to represent humanity, you must be willing to experience the full spectrum.
So when you encounter an emotional block, how can you overcome it?
We must remember why we do what we do. As actors pursue their careers, chasing credits for resume building and insurance maintenance checks, we often forget why we started acting in the first place.
I started acting because it was fun. I discovered how liberating it can be to transform into someone else, speak their words, and live your life. I discovered liberation in the craft of acting and making people laugh or cry or think it was the icing on the cake.
But where is the fun in suffering a divorce, illness or harassment? The joy of true connection. This is what we must remember as artists:
Our job is to honor the lives of these people. Someone is grieving, abused, divorced, struggling with addiction, being bullied, or struggling with their own self-esteem. Our work reaches out to those who think they are different, weird, lost or misunderstood and tells them: “I understand you.”
You have had this experience yourself as a member of the audience. Do you remember being deeply moved by a story and characters you were closely associated with? You probably felt less lonely because of that play, show, or movie. Perhaps you even discovered other people who felt the same way.
That’s why Jill Soloway created the award-winning Amazon Prime program, Transparent:
“My father came out as trans at the tender age of 74 … when people come out of the closet, they do it literally to save their lives. They are coming out to break authenticity … that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do the show … Somehow it makes people understand … After my father came out of the closet, I really wanted to do something that would make the world a safer place for my father to come out of his apartment building, take a taxi or stand in an elevator with strangers. Trans people have told me that the show has made the world a little different for them. ”
That is why we do it. To connect. Empathize. To honestly tell someone else’s story and change the world. It is extremely gratifying when a stranger says, “This is exactly how I feel. You captured my experience perfectly. Thanks.“
Do not misunderstand; It’s hard. It takes vulnerability, courage and risk. When we do our job well, honestly, without defense, freely, we connect with the character, the other actors, and our audience. It may feel uncomfortable while you’re in it, but the real connection is the gold at the end of that difficult journey.
Michael J. Fox says, “An actor’s palette is the totality of human experience.” Our job is to represent humanity; The glorious, savagely fucked up mess that we are. So the next time you hit that blockage, remember to breathe, gather your courage, and know that someone will feel less lonely because of you.