The Actor: Artist, Instrument and Art-Form

Actor, Artist, Instrument and Art-Form

The actor finds themselves in an unusual situation as an artist. They are not simply an artist. They are also the instrument through which that art is achieved. They are also a considerable component of the final art form’s result.

We are the artist, the instrument and the art-form all in one.

And that’s tricky for a couple of reasons:

  1. Training the artist means mastering their instrument and the art form.

  2. They are the instrument and the art-form.

Along with dancers and perhaps vocalists, this makes acting an incredibly personal experience when training the actor.

When something is as personal an experience as acting, it is no wonder that our sense of self is often bound up in it. It’s hard to separate ME the actor from ME the person. I can put down my guitar, I can come back to my novel later, but I am always with myself.

Any feedback, any criticism isn’t just personal, it’s speaking directly to our sense of self. And most of us don’t take criticism or feedback well that isn’t praise - our ego is deflated. Furthermore, when we are praised, we take it very personally again. Our ego becomes inflated.

In fact, whatever affects ME the person, affects ME the actor. And vice versa of course. When a theatre critic writes “Mick Taylor as Alf is lacklustre.” - it is hard not to take that personally.  

When we perform a scene in acting class, and the feedback is overwhelming one requiring much improvement, it is hard not to imagine that WE are the one who needs much improvement. Imagine for a second that we do a scene and the feedback is ‘awful, just awful.’. Which of us would not feel our ego twinge?

To persevere as an actor (if we’re going to make a healthy career of acting) means learning to separate one’s self from one’s acting performance. This is - of course harder than it looks.

We are the instrument. For the most part, if our confidence is based on how we feel about ourselves. Or, if our self worth is based upon our self-confidence. We are likely to be in trouble. We must be confident in our abilities without it becoming tied into how we evaluate ourselves as people. 

We cannot help confusing these roles that we have, but we must acknowledge that we are not our performance.

To You, The Best


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