Sunday, August 28, 2011

Integral Acting Q & A

The following in an edited transcript of a Q & A session I had with a young actor I am working with who was interested in my Integral Approach to acting:

Question: What’s the best way to know one’s self as an actor?

Answer: That is a big and tricky question; one that every acting theorist, coach, etc. would answer a little differently depending on their approach, etc. Since human beings have varied ways of perceiving, what is the “best” way for one actor, may not be the best way for another actor. That said, my own humble opinion is that knowing yourself as a person is key; that is, becoming conscious of the many dimensions of your own being, gives you a strong foundation from which to study the dimensions of your characters’ being. Knowing your self and knowing the self of the character gives you powerful reference points of where you are at and where you need to go to become the character. For example, if you know how you perceive the world, how you relate to others, how your environment has and is impacting you, etc., and if you know these same aspects of your character, you will be able to develop a felt-sense of the difference between these two realms of beingness.

Question: Now I've heard of dimension before, but exactly does that mean?

Answer: As with your previous question, the issue of what dimensions we are talking about varies depending on what acting theory we are using. In my experience and research I have found that no matter what these different approaches call these dimensions or how many divisions they make, in essence they are all talking about the same basic realms. The approach I use is based on Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory, which is a metatheory that attempts to integrate all human knowledge, and according to this approach we can say that we as human beings have and exist within four main dimension-perspectives: 1. Intentional/Experiential: Our thoughts, feelings, awareness, consciousness, intentions, sense of self or “I”-ness – this includes our multiple lines of development (Cognitive, moral, emotional intelligence, creative abilities, etc.); 2. Behavioral/Physiological: Our bodies, actions, the objects and other bodies we interact with – this includes our physical limitations and gifts; 3. Relational/Cultural: Our cultural worldviews and identity, how we relate to others, or our way of being in relationships or our “WE”-ness; 4. Environmental/Sociological/Systemic: The ecological, political, economic, technological systems that we were born into, grown up in and now operate in and how they have and continue to shape us. Here is a chart from my journal article on Integral Cinema that summarizes these dimensions in relation to a character:
For more on these dimensions and the Integral approach, see my Integral Cinema Studio Series at The Holonic Lens; The Quadratic Lens; and The Developmental Lens.

Question: In your Integral Cinema Studio article on the Holonic Lens you state: “Cinematic holons also have positive, neutral, or negative charges, much like atomic particles. At the level of text, an example of positive and negative charges can be illustrated by the energetic difference between moments of affinity and conflict between characters.” Can you please clarify negative, neutral, or positive; in what aspect; for a film maker or a character?

Answer: Holons are a useful perceptual lens for all aspects of cinema (and life), recognizing that every moment, every experience is a whole in and of itself, and at the same time all the past moments and experiences in your life (or the life of your character) are part of that whole moment/experience as well (i.e., everything that happened to you is part of the whole of who you are right now)…and this whole NOW moment/experience you are having will become a part of you as you move forward into other whole moments/experiences. When we are talking in terms of “charges” connected to these whole/part moments/experiences, as related to a character: Your character can be having a negative (i.e., fear, hate, anger), neutral (i.e., indifference, detachment), or positive (i.e., love, joy, wonder) emotional experience in any given moment. This moment is experienced as a whole unto itself, yet under the surface, deep within the characters unconscious, all the other moments in their lives that resonate with this moment help to color their experience in the present (i.e., in an onscreen moment your character may be feeling love for another character, while at the same time every other experience of love in their life is swirling inside them under the surface…so for example, if your character has had bad love experiences in the past, their present moment of love may bring up a tiny quiver of fear inside them. This fear may not be easily seen on the surface, but a great actor can feel this and energetically project this undercurrent to the audience). This performance moment then becomes a positively charged whole moment with a subtextual negative charge as a part of it…a holon…a whole/part.