The Four Muscles of Acting | Harry Mastrogeorge

Every human being born barring organic deficiency of some sort, mentally or emotionally, is born with the natural faculties and powers to play this game on the highest level – if they’re willing to pay the price. We all did it when we were children playing pretend games. Acting is a state of mind. It’s not a concept. It’s not, you know, it’s not a theory. It’s not a method. It’s not a technique. It’s not a process. It’s not a procedure. It’s a state of mind. It’s about priorities. Your imaginative power is limitless. It’s infinite. I work four muscles: Your childlike innocence – and you haven’t lost your childlike innocence. It’s still there. It’s buried under adulthood, granted, But I work very hard at reviving people’s interest in their own childlike innocence, and the great actors, the brilliant actors today and in the past have that childlike innocence in their work. Your imagination, which is infinite and limitless…how dare, how dare some acting teachers, some directors say “well, you can’t imagine that because you’ve never been there.” What they can say to you if they’re teaching, hopefully, “you know, you haven’t used your imagination enough.” Third muscle is your vulnerability – unless there’s something organically wrong – you have a limitless vulnerability. And the fourth muscle is concentration. Concentration is the focusing of the conscious mind on something. The best actors focus on the story. Those are…you don’t need anything else to be an accomplished actor. All you need to do is exercise and practice these four muscles. And nature is always on your side. I say this to actors: natural law is on your side. Anything you practice and exercise becomes stronger and more proficient. I work with two terrible metaphors…cancers. The first cancer in the work I do in acting is concern about results, product, presentation… …good, bad, right, wrong, approval, etc. That’s a terrible thing to take into an audition with you. You just can’t be open. You can’t do as well. The other cancer is subjectivity and that’s even trickier because we all have personal opinions. Or they’re well-meaning. “Oh I don’t have enough time,” that’s subjective input. Already you’re cutting your legs out from under you. Or “I don’t have enough information.” That’s typical actor mentality that most actors, that’s the way they think instead of the better actors – the more accomplished – say “I absorb.” If you accept and absorb the information you’re getting you can understand it much deeper, much better, much more accurately. One of the things I love saying to new actors, “you’re asking yourself to behave naturally under unnatural conditions. So why wouldn’t you follow the way you behave naturally in your everyday life? – where most acting techniques take you away from that.” It was Stella Adler who asked Stanislavski, explain to us the method. Your method. And he said, quote …and it’s a quote, “I have no method. I just do everything I have to do to get what I need and want out of an actor.” End of quote. Makes perfect sense to me. He’s so misinterpreted. I mean, substitution, all that stuff, sense memory… those are exercises to help you get ready to do your work. He didn’t… he didn’t say bring them to rehearsal, bring them to the performance which is what a lot of bad method actors tend to do. It’s a game of pretending. Some of the greatest actors in history have said that. To be a successful actor you have to have the hide of a rhinoceros and the heart of a baby. That’s key. That’s the secret. It’s that childlike innocence. Daniel Day-Lewis publicly says it all the time. People refuse to accept it. He says, I have a private room in my home where I go to daydream. It’s a game we play. He gave a very in-depth interview with the New York Times after he had finished filming “Abraham Lincoln” and he said, quote, “I am not unhinged. I know I am not Abraham Lincoln, but for some reason or other I’m willing to accept the illusion.” It’s an adult way of saying “play pretend.”

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