There are so many brilliant inventions to make us look our best. Instagram filters. Make-up. Erasers. Control Z. Unfortunately, none of these contraptions stop you, yourself, the real MVP, from knowing you made the mistake in the first place. And besides, since when is a pimple, or under-eye shadows, a mistake? If we can start to look at these occurrences neutrally, then maybe we can start to see other mistakes in our lives, and most importantly of course, in our acting, as less disastrous and more educational.
Mistakes are just a way that we negatively frame something unintentional. There’s that lovely clarification, ‘happy accident’, because accident also has negative connotations. Slip ups, oopsies, errors – I can’t think of many positive words for mistakes, but mark my words, mistakes can be a good thing. Mistakes can be awesome.
Mistakes are the only time when you can surprise yourself. If every action you carefully prepare aways comes out exactly as planned, there’s no opportunity for spontaneity, and that is the spice of life. Method acting is so prized because it puts you in a starting position where the ‘mistakes’ that you make in performance are in tune with your character.
It is Clark Kent who we are rooting for when we cheer on Superman.
Mistakes are what make a character believable, because flaws are a label for the identifying features in humans. Flaws are simply deviations from the ‘perfect’ structure, and the perfect structure is just an idealised average of everyone in existence. Nothing about the Exact Average Human is what we want when we are trying to define a character in performance. In fact, we want to highlight those flaws and deviations to really push the intention, therefore we actually want to create an atmosphere that is conducive and encouraging to making mistakes.
When watching a particularly talented actor, it’s the private moments when they are most vulnerable that are the most captivating. We can relate to them in these moments. It is Clark Kent who we are rooting for when we cheer on Superman. The only way to organically find these moments in performance is to accept that your character makes Mistakes with a capital M. There’s things they are ashamed of, that they are hurt by, that they feel guilty about. Find these things and bring them to the surface. Let them affect your reactions and wear them on your sleeve.
We want to watch drama, not perfection, and the only path to drama is through mistakes.
Outside of your character, be brave in performance, especially in rehearsals! Experiment, and make all of the mistakes you possibly can. Literally make yourself a challenge, that you won’t settle for an action until you’ve tried every single possible wrong choice. See how much variety this gives your final choice. It will be more nuanced and informed, and also it will be more decisive. This choice is now, unarguably, the right choice with the peak dramatic potential.
We want to watch drama, not perfection, and the only path to drama is through mistakes. Get cozy with them because Mistakes are the bricks with which we build beautiful, affecting performances. Let us see your fear, your doubt, and most importantly, your bravery to be vulnerable and make your mistakes with pride.