THE RULES OF ACTING ©2010 by Eric Stone

1. Acting is a craft and an art. Craft means that it requires ability, aptitude, know-how and skill.  It also means that it is governed by specific principles, rules, tools and techniques which, when applied, produce an impact or an effect in the direction of the intended result.  Craft also implies that there is a finished “product” in mind to be delivered: the rehearsed scene, monologue,etc. Art means that acting, when executed properly, illuminates the spirit, elicits emotion from an audience, delivers understanding and, most importantly, communicates.

2. The purpose of acting is to communicate. It is more important that acting communicates than that it is executed perfectly.  The test of the great actor is how little he or she reduces perfection to be understood and to communicate.

3. The purpose of the actor is “authenticity of emotion and behavior in a given or imaginary circumstance and complete physical, emotional and psychological creative freedom”. Circumstance is a Stanislavskian technical terminology referring to the specific facts and events surrounding the characters as well as the facts and events that lead up to the situation at hand. A circumstance must always be dramatic to produce behavior; therefore it is important to look for the unusual events in a scene. The scene and the characters are always inbedded in a circumstance which limits and dictates their behavior.  Stanislavsky said that “truth in art is the truth of the circumstances”.  Truthful behavior can only be found inside specific circumstances.  Circumstance gives power and reality to our actions. It entraps us and animates us.

4. Confidence in acting means certainty or to be certain.  Only when the actor is certain of his or her circumstances, character, point of view, relationship to other characters, which dramatic conflict is taking place and what s/he is pursuing, can s/he be confident. Confidence, therefore, is not an attitude or a feeling.

5. The spine of the actor, his or her backbone, is his or her intentionality.  Intentionality is defined as the ability of the actor to stay on a certain course of action to reach a desired goal or objective.    Intentionality arises the moment one desires something.  A goal or objective is then established which gives birth to an intentionality for the purpose of reaching that goal. Therefore, the spine of characters is also intentionality. Characters live for the attainment of their goals. There are immediate and long-term goals.  There’s also an overall life goal for that specific character and all other minor goals are subordinate and aligned to it.

6. The essence of acting is confrontation, also called clash of wills, conflict or drama.  Every scene has a confrontation in it. If one cannot see it, it means one hasn’t found it, not that it isn’t there. Characters confront each other regarding items of interest and pursuit.  A confrontation almost always results in a negotiation. Negotiations get resolved through the clash of the characters’ wills and points of view. Disagreements or difference of opinions are not confrontations. Furthermore, a confrontation exposes the characters’ points of view to the audience. Risk in acting is in the confrontation because confrontation exposes the true feelings of the characters. Every scene is a confrontation. To confront means having the ability to face without fleeing. The tension between facing without fleeing and the thing being confronted is what brings about feelings and emotions. When one acts in the direction of one’s goals, one always finds obstacles. If one persists in spite of the obstacles then emotion will occur.  Emotion is always a consequence not a tool_–it is to be left alone. An actor may be blocked emotionally or psychologically which would keep him or her from experiencing certain scenes fully. A scene is always a specific circumstantial “trap” or “set-up”.

7. There are five main areas in acting that either invite, produce or dictate behavior. They are: place, circumstance, character, confrontation(which includes intentions), and relationship.

8. Good communication between actors is essential for producing authenticity of behavior. It acts as a bridge upon which the scene will rest and a platform from which the scene will take off.  Without communication between actors there are just empty moments, regardless of who the characters are and how little “they” communicate.

9. Each scene has an event.  The event is a sub-category of circumstance. It is the specific occasion of the meeting. It is also the kind of occasion around which the scene takes place. The event happens in a place but is not the place.

10. Every scene happens in a specific physical location called the place.  The place dictates behavior. Place also invites specific activities and use of objects in that place.

11. Every scene has a physical activity also called physical objective. It is simply what the character accomplishes in the course of that scene from a physical activity stand point. The physical activity and its use of objects is separate from what goes on in the scene from a psychological or emotional stand point. Physical activity is the physical task at hand. It does or does not get accomplished or finished by the end of the scene. Its purpose is to anchor the actor to the scene so his or her attention stays focused.  It grounds the actor and gives the actor faith in what he or she is doing. By doing something with a real sense of purpose and destination one gains confidence.

12. Every scene is a purposely flawed diversion of the “perfect scene”. A perfect scene starts with the same exact circumstances given by the author. We then substitute the characters given by characters who are highly expressed, fully communicative and completely willing and able to tell the naked truth to each other without holding anything back from one another. By creating a perfect scene we come in direct contact with the flaws of the characters at hand and their potential lack of communication and where the trouble is exactly located in the scene. The effect is staggering. By comparing the perfect scene to the scene at hand, we can make very specific choices. The perfect scene is worked on and read by the actors from that perspective.

13. The language of acting is the doing. The action or the doing is born out of the intention to reach a goal or objective. Actions then are the “messengers” of the characters’ wishes.  The actions are aligned with and at the service of the objective. Being in action is at the heart of the matter in the craft of acting.  “The actor is a doer,” my teacher Herbert Berghof used to always say.  Good acting is good doing.   Doing something physical to oneself, someone or something (objects/ environment) is the proper way the actor gains trust, confidence and faith in his/her imaginary portrayal and consequently, so does the audience.  What isn’t expressed physically has no substance and isn’t happening.  Even a thought has its external, physical expression.

14. Every scene has an atmosphere also referred to as the mood of the place. Atmosphere or mood is the quality of what is happening.  An atmosphere is an imaginary tool used to determine the feeling or tone present in the place and between characters.   A full stadium has a mood and so does a cemetery at 2:00 am.  Equally true to acting, the quality of the relationship between two characters has a mood.  Atmosphere or mood inspires behavior.  It is a powerful tool. Please note that the mood of the scene is different than the state of mind of the characters.  It is the quality of the air in the place which affects the characters.  Being audited by the IRS has a mood to it which is separate than the agenda at hand.  Actors surrender to the mood and let it inspire them.  Always work with atmospheres-it is essential.

15. Creative freedom, which is part of the purpose of the actor, is obtained by applying a process that I named Start-Stop-Change.  Start-Stop-Change is a known business term which originally refers to the business person’s ability to Start tasks, be interrupted in the middle of tasks, therefore having to Stop or Change routine suddenly because of various emergencies.  An actor has to give him/herself full permission to release his or her physical life, emotions, thoughts, attitudes, behavior, etc…  Therein lies the freedom.  The actor Start-Stop-Changes by using the tools of the trade spontaneously, without predetermination or manipulation.

16. The main tools of the actor are: Body, Thoughts, Imagery, Imagination, Posture, Gestures, Hand and Facial Expressions, Fluidity, Use of Space, Eye Contact, Touch, Smell, Movement, Rhythm, Speed, Energy, Voice Pitch, Loudness, Silence, Willpower, Communication, Intentionality and Destination (physical, emotional, psychological) and so on.

17. Acting is a public and creative art form. Public means it has to be understood by and exposed to an audience. Creative means that it is sustained solely by the willpower of the actor. If the willpower stops, the act ceases to exist and the falseness of the illusion is revealed.  Willpower and intentionality are the actor’s best friends.

18. Every character has a point of view on him/herself, the other character(s), the situation s/he is in, the world around him or her, etc. Point of view is the cutting edge of the actor’s performance.  Point of view is also referred as to what the character “really” feels and what his/her take or angle is on the items just mentioned. A point of view acts as a “laser beam” in the direction of one’s wishes. It is expressed internally as a “recurring sentence” which needs to be identified by the actor.

19. The true enemies of authenticity and therefore good acting are: Tension, Rigidity, Conformity, Self-Consciousness (not trusting our real feelings), Ignorance of the Actor’s Tools, Poor Communication. Competition is not an enemy of acting as it is necessary to bring out the best in us.

20. Characters live moment by moment, not line by line. Actors act in “real time.” Lines come from the dramatic action and express the deeper layers of the conflict at hand. To live in the moment means one is receptive to each and every impulse one has on the physical, emotional and psychological levels and their resultant physical manifestations. Holding an attitude or looking to feel a particular feeling will result in stiff and predictable behavior. To live in the moment also means to use the behavior that is given by one’s partner(s) and to avoid fabricating behavior that was not given by the other character(s).  “Real is real is real” is the saying.  The full employment of the actor’s instrument has to be reached.  Each action, activity, gesture is executed without hesitation or manipulation on the part of the actor.  There lies the confidence, fun and power of the actor.

21. Organic behavior or organic acting means un-manipulated or unpremeditated behavior. Therein lies the freedom as well.  The moment one attempts to control behavior the acting looses its fluidity and moment-to-moment quality.  Acting lives.  It isn’t a regurgitation of a static results or a duplication of robotic behavior learned during rehearsal.

About Actors_Studio_Hollywood

Eric Stone also known as artist Philippe Benichou first studied privately in New York with Herbert Berghof, Uta Hagen, Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, William Hickey, Tony Allen, Austin Pendleton & Bob Mc Andrew from the Wynn Handman Studio. Eric is well versed in most major acting techniques and ideas of the 20th Century including the Meisner and Russian actor and director Michael Checkhov Techniques. Michael Checkov was famous playwright Anton Checkov's cousin. Eric Stone was made an Honorary member of the famed New York Actors Studio in 1981 and was accepted as a student in Uta Hagen's highly acclaimed scene study class that same year. In addition, Mr. Stone was privileged to work with Judith Unland in New York. Ms. Unland had been a private student of Michael Checkhov. "Michael Checkhov's breakthrough work in freeing the actor has greatly influenced me and still continues to amaze me." Eric Stone Eric Stone first began teaching in 1983 and has contributed to the growth and success of many actors and performers including some well known stars in the US and abroad. As his acting, directorial and coaching skills began to represent a potent body of distinctions, Eric realized it was time to make his discoveries and love of acting more public. He founded the Eric Stone Studio in 1989 in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and began touring with weekend workshops around the country. An ongoing program was designed via classes, privates, intensive workshops and seminars. His sheer passion for artistic expression and his relentless pursuit of freeing the actor led Eric to establish a permanent actor's studio. A safe, clean, non-gaming, healthy, creative and empowering "arena" for people to hone, discover and challenge their spirits to more desirable heights of experience. This approach is focused entirely on training the individual artist not delivering a general system to a group or mass. It is the strength, success and competitive edge of this training. By aiming straight at the individual, it becomes easier to understand the actor's specific needs, talents and possible problem areas.
This entry was posted in Acting Principles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *