Declan Donnellan: The Actor and the Target
Declan Donnellan’s acting bible The Actor and the Target is an incredible resource for actors looking for a strict and specific method of acting. Donnellan’s technique is a collection of rules that relate to defining what the actor is thinking about, looking at, and feeling in every single moment on stage.
To experience the full value of the technique (Targeting) the actor must prepare and rehearse within the confines of the technique. Once fully rehearsed, the technique is expected to fall away in performance and become “first nature”.
Declan refers to the rehearsals as being invisible work, preparation for the visible work of performing on stage for an audience. His technique is heavily focussed on removing fear and self consciousness from an actor’s performance and to keep the performance outside of the actor.
There are several rules from The Actor and The Target that I fall back on when my natural instincts lead me towards a self indulgent performance; They are: The target exists outside, at a measurable distance and The target is always active.
I also like the way this technique offers a very clear way of approaching stakes.
At every living moment there is something to be lost and something to be won.
The thing to be won is precisely the same size as the thing to be lost.
If you haven’t already noticed I find this technique slightly overbearing. It can be incredibly freeing for some performers when they stop feeling like the have to generate everything from within and instead begin to focus on what is outside of themselves. Alternatively, I have seen this technique cripple some actors that find the structure too restricting and get caught up with trying to “do it right”.
The one simple lesson that I gained from The Actor and The Target is that whenever your are on stage you must be thinking of something specific that changes in every moment.
I think every actor should read this book to better understand themselves and the technique of some actors they will be working with.
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