Everything is Immediate

In a webin­ar recently, one of the par­ti­cipants was being led through an exer­cise on object­ives. Having applied an object­ive to a piece of text suc­cess­fully and re ener­gised her piece, she stopped and said ‘wow, it makes everything immediate!’.

What a great state­ment, and what a pro­found truth. EVERYTHING is imme­di­ate. That is, everything we exper­i­ence hap­pens to us in real time and we must deal with it in real time.

I think what this actor was realising/raising, was the tend­ency for us to dimin­ish the potency of a beat of text because we, the actor, have become famil­i­ar with it and desens­it­ised to the events that befall our character.

Living ‘in the moment’ on stage (or camera of course) depends on a beat by beat assess­ment of what state we are in, held against what state we would like to be in.

Let me explain that a little better (for me rather than you prob­ably!). You will have heard it said that ‘it’s not what hap­pens to us that affects us but how we think about what hap­pens to us’…or words to that effect.

You may say that ‘per­spect­ive is everything’. Per­spect­ive depends on our world­view and desires. If we don’t know what we want (out of the moment, the day, the week, life!) then we won’t know what to do with what has just happened to us.

A crude example. If I were to get food pois­on­ing and be laid up in bed all day, that could be abso­lutely hor­rible and a real inter­rup­tion to my week. If, how­ever, I was due to do a 50 mile hike that day with a friend that I ABSOLUTELY didn’t want to do in the first place, the food pois­on­ing may be a wel­come problem.

I am sure you get where I am going with this. So, moment by moment hap­pen­ings only carry mean­ing as far as they sit in a larger context.

I think it is pos­sible for the actor to almost com­pletely neg­lect the larger pic­ture out of a mis­dir­ec­tion of effort. When we read the text at home or in rehears­al, our ima­gin­a­tion wrestles with the moment by moment exchanges doesn’t it? If the script is good we get excited by the skill of the writer, the oppor­tun­it­ies they afford us as play­ers who will breathe life into this mater­i­al. What a joy it will be to make that state­ment, play that line, receive that news etc.

In a sense we are con­cerned with the imme­di­ate tasks without neces­sar­ily con­sid­er­ing how they fit into the over­arch­ing narrative.

Maybe we need to work backwards?

Having read the play, we need to estab­lish the object­ives and, there are sev­er­al of them.

SUPER OBJECTIVES

THROUGH LINES

SCENE OBJECTIVES

UNIT OBJECTIVES

COUNTER OBJECTIVES

Let’s do a quick remind­er on these.

SUPER OBJECTIVES

Are ‘life wants’. What your char­ac­ter wants to achieve by the end of their days. These are often eth­ic­ally driven and more gen­er­al than the other objectives.

THROUGH LINES

Are what your char­ac­ter wants by the end of the play. Through lines are often ini­ti­ated AFTER the story has begun. We tend to wit­ness the incit­ing moment of someones through line.

SCENE OBJECTIVES

Are what your char­ac­ter wants by the end of the scene.

UNIT OBJECTIVES

Are what your char­ac­ter wants, unity by unit through­out a scene. 

COUNTER OBJECTIVES

Are desires that run counter to your over­arch­ing object­ives. For example, my through line may be ‘to get fit for the upcom­ing Mara­thon’ but my counter object­ive may be ‘to eat that massive pizza.

Can we play all of these things at once?

I would say no, but we can cer­tainly incor­por­ate them. What do I mean? Well, having estab­lished these things at the start of rehears­al, we are in a pos­i­tion to con­sist­ently meas­ure them against the char­ac­ters beat by beat exchanges and ask ques­tions that become part of our sub­con­scious. If we have spent sev­er­al weeks pon­der­ing our super object­ive and through line, we will be ever aware of what they are and, like a splint, they will keep us in align­ment as we meander through the rela­tion­al dynam­ics we find ourselves in.

What can we play?

Well, this is totally per­son­al and sub­ject­ive but, for me, the only two things I can bring into a scene with me are my scene object­ive (one solid desire that I keep in my head through­out) and my point of con­cen­tra­tion (POC – a Mike Alfreds tech­nique which takes given cir­cum­stances from the text and keeps them as pre­oc­cu­pa­tions in the actors head allow­ing the actor to think like the character).

These two things are about as much as I can deal with and, as they jostle for suprem­acy in my head they create a won­der­ful ten­sion between what I want to say or do right now and how that may adversely or pos­it­ively affect my life wants or through lines. More on those soon!

So, for­give all the tech­nic­al jargon but it’s all explained above. Ulti­mately, if we don’t know what we want, we don’t know what to do and as acting is doing – that is a tricky pos­i­tion to be in.

Set your object­ives and you set your course. All you need do then is listen and respond and you can’t go far wrong.

To you, the artists.