Chapter 09: Surrounded By Acting

When you look around you, do you see acting? And when I say ‘see’ I mean see, and when I say ‘acting’ I mean it. Every day, actors and non-actors alike act, though many of them do not realize that it is acting that they are executing.

For example, when a barista cheerfully takes your order at coffee shop, do not believe that anything less than total acting is taking place before your very eyes. When a judge sternly administers a sentence, know that the face of justice is the masks of comedy and tragedy. When a homeless man asks you for change and urinates on your shoes, it is likely you are witnessing method acting at its most refined. Do not be fooled by those who would have you believe acting is confined only to the theatre, television, and film. As Shakespeare said, “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players upon this stage, it which resembles the world,” he was speaking of you and I, everyday and extraordinary folk who unknowingly act out our lives for an audience full of spectators who also happen to be actors themselves.

Some are more experienced than others. Children, therefore, can be considered amateurs of the craft, still un-memorized and unprofessional. But the rest of us are seasoned in our respective forms of theatre.

This is very important to acknowledge, since we can learn a great deal from our unwitting cast mates. When you are out and about, simply observe your fellow actors. Notice how they speak, how they move, what they wear, whether their dog resembles them, and if they’re attractive. Let them be your teachers, for many roles will require you to adopt the characteristics of normal people, and if you’re not ready, they will come off as better actors than you, and at that point you can just forget everything you learned in Chapter 6.

When you open yourself to the experience of others, you are internalizing the Chorus, the pack of game hens, the mass mentality, but on an individual scale. Walk through the crowd as a killer, a stalker of personal attributes, a thief of characteristics, a meddler of people’s stuff that they won’t miss. If you watch Atonement, a film in which I was mistakenly not cast as the lead but in a supporting role, you will notice that in one particular scene I make a gesture when speaking. That was a gesture I blatantly stole from some poor sod who just happened to be walking near me in downtown London one fine day. Now watch the closing credits…you’ll notice he’s not acknowledged anywhere. Actors get away with murder! It is because we are killers. As well as actors.