“Usually when a person believes in a particular religion, his attitude becomes more and more a sharp angle pointing away from himself. In our way, the point of the angle is always towards ourselves.”
– Shunryu Suzuki
There are many stubborn people out there who are convinced they know the answer before a question is even posed. That is wrong in life and also in acting. Growtowski said something like, “It is only after a production that I know something, not before.” There was no agenda in his work. He didn’t start out trying to convince his audience that they should believe the way he did. He let the work teach him. We should all be so open-minded.
In the development of character, your focus should be forever inward. You should limit your activity to the exploration of self. This notion of limiting your activity can be very beneficial to the actor for many reasons. One, it tells us to concentrate on what we are doing in each moment and to concentrate on only small things. In developing a character, we should only concentrate on one aspect of the character at a time, first the physical, then the character’s background, and then how he feels about the other characters, or however your process goes. Do not think of the big picture because it is made up of a hundred different snapshots, each of which has to be developed one at a time.
A second point about this idea of limiting your activities is not to set goals. This may be a hard idea to accept; after all, how can you develop a character without goals? But the goal we often set for ourselves is to be wonderful, brilliant, or fantastic. This is not a realistic goal and can only lead to the opposite happening. When we want to be good, we plan a certain course for ourselves. When we hit a stumbling block or the director asks us to do something we feel is inconsistent with our character, we freeze. We feel that his wrong choice is limiting our conception. This leads to unkind thoughts which tend to constrict our own artistic choices. We shut ourselves down instead of opening up to a new and exciting possibility. Our preconceived notions of right and wrong destroy a new and innovative character from springing forth upon the world.
Finally, we use our art to dissect ourselves. Acting is a scalpel that we can cut away the layers of artifice to reveal true, honest emotions. We can only find that by looking inward and touching our soul.