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GUEST POST BY BEN HODGE: The 3 C’s of Great Acting

June 14, 2013

Please welcome Ben Hodge to the blog today! Ben is an actor, director, and acting coach in York, Pennsylvania.

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3 C’s of Great Acting

We all love a good performance. Whether we are sitting in the house of a live show or sitting in our own house viewing a film or TV show, the respect, awe and joy transferred from stage or screen to audience is a palpable and desired effect for all actors. But what really makes a performance great? What makes an actor great? Is it training? Skill? Look? Luck? In this post, I posit that great acting has its foundation in three key areas: COURAGE, CHARISMA, and CONNECTION.

COURAGE
I start with courage because I feel that this is truly at the very core of a great performer. Most of us think courage has to do with bravery and a deep strength of will. While bravery and strength are crucial aspects of an actor’s life, I want to look deeper into another meaning of courage. The word courage comes from the french word ‘coer’ which means heart. The word was originally used to mean ‘one’s innermost feelings.’ To me, a great actor has to be able to find courage in order to be effective. An actor has to tap into their innermost feelings and be okay with sharing them with audiences everywhere. As we all know, most people struggle have a hard time understanding their feelings. Many people have a hard time with their emotions and how to effectively communicate them. Actors in many ways are the emotional experts of our society. Great actors have to find the bravery and strength to share their inner most feelings in their performances. Great acting should literally come from the heart, play on audience’s heart strings, break hearts and MOVE the audience. This takes courage at its purest and simplest definition.

To be a great actor, find ways to discover and share your innermost feelings in your acting. This is not to say we should share everything with everyone in our real lives. Performing is perhaps the best way to find creative outlets for emotional expression. John Patrick Shanley says it best: “The theatre is a safe place to do the unsafe things.” Great actors understand this. Great actors have courage and are able to showcase it in their performances.

CHARISMA
We have all heard about the “it” factor. Some people have “it,” some don’t. I’ve talked to many people about what they think “it” is. The tricky part is that “it” is tough to define. In reality, the tricky nature is really part of its definition. Some actors just have a innate quality about them. They walk into a room and the mood changes for the better. They can change the dynamics of time and space with their presence and personality. To me, this is the very definition of charisma.

Charisma is all about one’s grace, beauty, kindness and charm. This is what we often refer to as the “it” factor. An actor walks into my casting room for a role, and they literally light up the room. How do they do that? I don’t think it is that mystical as we think. Think about a time when you have met someone who you thought possessed this “it” factor. They really didn’t do anything mystical or miraculous. They were kind, compassionate, caring, concerned, focused and “cool.”

Great actors understand that charisma goes a long way in their performance on screen/stage and when working the audition circuit. In reality, these memorable actors walk in with a lot of the same characteristics:

1. A sense of purpose and poise-they look confident. The moment is not too big for them.
2. A sense of joy and kindness-they look friendly. They look like they want to be there.
3. A sense of humanness-they act natural, not forced. They aren’t trying to impress anyone, they are just in tune and present with the situation at hand.

I believe that charisma can be developed. We can all learn to be more poised, joyful, and human. We have to find ways to be more honest with ourselves. This is why it is imperative to find an acting class to work in. Great actors stay working in classes that allow them to be critiqued so they can truly learn where they can improve and grow. For many actors, these discoveries come down to preparation. When we prepare for our performances, we can develop more confidence. When we underprepare, our confidence and charisma is negatively affected.

To increase charisma, we have to find ways to improve our preparation. We have to find ways to improve our listening and communication skills when dealing with other professionals (actors, directors, teachers, etc.). We so often get so caught up in the worry and anxiety that we forget to breathe, relax and center ourselves on the task at hand. We all must reclaim our acting life by making it fun again. Sure, it’s work. Sure, it’s hard. But there also was a time when it was fun, enjoyable and life-changing. Tap into that, and your charisma will shine.

CONNECTION
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”-Chief Seattle

All things connect. Do we believe this? If we did, we would all be better for it. Acting is all about connection in a variety of ways. If you look at acting from the artistic standpoint, connection is its very core. It is the actor’s job to connect to the material presented: the lines, the character, the subtext, the overall theme, etc. Actors have to look at their work in the same way Chief Seattle viewed the human race: as threads within a larger web. Everything is connected. A line is never just a line. A part is rarely just a part. Everything has meaning and it is important to find ways to connect with any part you play, whether you have no lines or ninety-nine lines. Actors need to connect artistically to every part they play. The deeper the connection, the more believable the performance is.

Find ways to connect to your character by making it less about method and more about understanding what is going on in the scene/play/film. Understand what the writer is trying to convey through your character. Pay attention to the details and clues within the script itself: most of the connection you need is right there in front of you. Be aware of the objectives (WHAT your character wants) and motivations (WHY your character acts) within the scene. And above all else, LISTEN to the other actors onstage. Pay attention to what is happening around you and allow yourself to stay connected to it. Staying present onstage (and not on what is coming next or what has past) is crucial to an actor’s artistic connection. In many ways, it is ALL that we have as actors.

Acting is more than just an art; it is a business. Connection will help you in the business side of acting as well. Actors have to find ways to connect with industry professionals. In the 21st century, there is no excuse to NOT be connected with other like-minded creatives or industry professionals. Social media has literally changed the way we get our news and information and it has also opened the doorway to increase pathways of connection for millions of people. Casting directors, talent agencies, directors, celebrities, acting coaches, directors, writers and working actors alike are all available to anyone who seeks them out. Are you finding ways to connect with them? There is much to learn.

Jump on social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) and start searching for connections that speak to your interest. Be sure to keep your connections professional, poignant and purposeful: you don’t want to hound, annoy or distance them in anyway. You’d be surprised as to how many industry professionals are willing to connect with you. Start small, but start somewhere. Here are some great starting points:

• Actors Access-www.actorsaccess.com
• Virtual Channel Network- http://virtualchannelnetwork.com
• Marci Liroff- http://www.marciliroff.com
• Anthony Meindl- http://anthonymeindl.com
• Backstage- http://www.backstage.com

So that’s it. I’d love to hear from you all about this post…what a great way to connect!
Follow more from me on Twitter @benhodgestudios, learn more about my studio at http://www.benhodgestudios.com and read more great acting information at benhodgestudios.blogspot.com.

Now get out there, make CONNECTIONS and find ways to be COURAGEOUS, CHARISMATIC in all that you do.

Thank you so much for your insight, Ben! Check out Ben’s website and be sure to follow him on twitter!

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