I had an acting discovery the other day and I dare say that it solves a number of common acting problems when you can wholeheartedly embrace it. So embrace yourself for this breathtaking acting gem: Be completely in the moment.
Now I’m sure that many of you have been given this advice before, I certainly have, but I didn’t truly understand it until now. In the past, whenever I was told to be more ‘in the moment’, I would go into a scene or monologue chanting to myself, “come on Andrew, be more in the moment! Don’t you dare leave this moment!!!” And I’m sure that you can imagine how bad those scenes turned out to be with that constant inner monologue running through my head; mechanical, pallid and not energised.
Being in the moment is about focus. It’s about paying attention to what is happening right now. If you can truly focus on the scene you are in, moment to moment, everything else will fall away. How can you be nervous, or worried about what you look like, sound like, smell like, if you are absolutely focused on what you are saying or what you are listening to? How can you be worried about posture, breathing or your accent, if your entire focus is on the moment right before you. All of those thoughts about your character arc, about what scene’s next, erode and you are left in the exciting, palpable and unpredictable living moment, which is what an audience wants to see.
We’ve all had those moments when we are acting in a scene and we become aware of the fact that we are acting. Perhaps we have just said a line in a forced, mechanical way or perhaps we did something fresh and exciting, and it started a whole inner dialogue discussing what just happened, then, before we know it, we’ve lost all of our focus and are back on autopilot. It can then be very hard to get back into the scene and this frustration can lead to an onslaught of negative thoughts.
So, what I suggest you try is to practice staying completely focussed on the ‘now’! You can practice this in your day-to-day life, as well as in your scenes or monologues. It is hard, but, from my experience, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Try focussing on the details of what is happening right now. If distracting thoughts arise, acknowledge them and then come back to the ‘now’.
When you see yourself drifting away from the moment, don’t get angry, just simply refocus on your lines or on listening to the other actor and go from there. When we are caught up in thoughts that don’t help the scene, we are losing energy and focus. So be completely ‘in the moment’!