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Sunday, May 1, 2011

To Cry or Not to Cry....- Emotional Connectivity

'So can you cry on cue? Or... oh you're an actor, so can cry on the spot, right?
Uh...NEGATIVE! I'm not a switch. I am human. LOL. But we get that a lot as actors. Crying, building up emotion, instant anger, all that is a challenge in itself. Tears are a result housing up emotions and finally releasing them. Yes, there are many actors that can turn on the "water works" with the snap of a finger and I say "more power to you!" :) But for those we are like me who cannot, hopefully this blog can assist you.

So how do you connect emotionally to something you have never dealt with before? Well, there are two methods that I choose to explore: Emotional Recall & Substitution.

Scenario: You are on stage/on a movie set and you have a scene that deals with a murder tat has taken place. The murder was of a little girl around the age of 2 or 3. 

Now hopefully you've never committed a murder or had to witness one, yet we have all seen plenty of news stories about it. Or know someone who has a tragedic story they've told you, and one way or another they have effected you. It may make you angry or bring you to tears; whatever it may be it caused you to be effected 'emotionally'.

Emotional Recall

Courtesy of Old Dominion Theatre from "Persephone Wept"
I've been using this for years to access the emotional region of my characters. Other words for it is 'sense memory' or 'affective memory'. Basically, internally you are trying to recall the sensation from a traumatic, emotional event rather than the emotions themselves. It's a lot safer if you ask me. As for in our scenario, I would use a news story that I seen in the past and the feeling I got from watching the families be so hurt over losing their child. On a more personal note, I remember teaching a class and we took a field trip to the mall and one of the kids that was in my group went missing. DON'T WORRY...only for like 3 secs but it felt like hours! My body was in shock and was panicked. So for the scenario above I "recall" that emotion of feeling fear and substitute that into the scene.

Courtesy of Old Dominion University from "Fragments"

This is a new one for me and I found that it works best for film actors. Basically, it's similar to the concept of Emotional Recall except instead of actually trying to recall a particular or specific moment to gave an emotional reaction, you simply substitution something else in. For example, remember the student I lost at the mall? Well, I would use him as my emotional stimulus RATHER than the feelings I felt. Got it? Like I said the two are VERY similar.

I was first introduced to this technique last summer while I was taking Tasha Smith's Actor's Workshop in DC. Check out the link to see more about it.

Facts about Emotional Recall and Substitution

·      Emotional Recall was a term coined by Lee Strasberg for his "Method" Acting. However, Stanislavski was the first to develop such a technique. He called it "Affective Memory". 

·      Affective Memory was first used at the Moscow Art Theatre

·      One of the first plays to showcase this technique was Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov

·      Substitution is based off Stella Adler's technique of Substitution.

·      Substitution also stems of from the roots of Method Acting 

·      Her version of the Method is based on the idea that actors should conjure up emotions not by using their personal memories, but by using the scene's given circumstances. 

For more information about Emotional Recall and Subsitution, reseach the follwing: Stanislavski, Lee Strasberg, or Stella Alder.

Works Cited

Adler, Stella, and Howard Kissel. The Art of Acting. Applause Theatre & Cinema  Books,  2000. Print.
Osnes, Beth. Acting: an International Encyclopedia. Abc-Clio Inc, 2001. Print
Rotté, Joanna. Acting with Adler. Amadeus Press, 2000. Print.
Strasberg, Lee, and Evangeline Morphos. A Dream of Passion: the Development of  the Method. Plume,       
       1988. Print.

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