Schooling Magazine

Post-Meisner Class Thoughts (A Note on Objectives)

By Adam Stadius @AdamStadius
This Sunday gone I started a Meisner course, on the student side of things this time. Yes I am that much of an addict, a student said to me the other day 'don't you get sick of it' clearly I must be sharing my addiction quite ferociously. The answer to her question is a resounding 'no'.
The reason for that being, it's never the same one moment to the next, one class to the next or even one actor to the next. Every actor brings something new to the mix therefore it's always going to be fresh. Plus, as a spectator, it's always gripping to see private moments and feelings played out in front of you. I would argue I've seen more radiant, truthful living (beyond acting) in small classrooms than many TV screens or stages. I've been moved to feel something by the sheer honesty of the actors in front of me so many times it's ludicrous. 
My Sunday class at the Actors Centre led by Scott Williams was a great chance for me to flex my own observe and respond muscles again, it's difficult when I am teaching/leading to truly switch off the teaching hat and just let go, so it's nice to give myself permission to do so. It's a very tensile and varied group too. I do my better work with groups of relative strangers than my friends. I think social politics can damage an actor, especially a young one, if their attention is split between being a friend or peer and being an actor. Also, people I don't know are so interesting, I love to hear the stories of what brings them to a class, or their previous life and acting experiences. On top of that, there are no 'in jokes' to detract anybody. It's a very healthy environment. For my repetition I was with a female actor, very quickly it became a comfortable and fun exercise and it seemed at some point like a kiss might have occurred. On reflection afterwards it was clear that that had become my driving intention. It certainly wasn't my objective going in to the exercise, but perhaps I let it become a driving force during, unintentionally yes, but a force nonetheless. The issue with objectives is that they are self driven and motivated. And don't always come as a response to the other person. I had an end result in sight.
'What happens to you as an actor doesn't depend on you, it depends on the other person'
Actors should be striving to live in the experience, moment to moment or the process.  If you're aiming for a result, you're not fully engaged in the present.
To quote Bill Esper (Who's book, The Actor's Art and Craft I would highly recommend) 'Objectives are like loose change in your pocket' in that you don't walk down the street going "I have change in my pocket, I have change in my pocket, I have change in my pocket." the knowledge of that loose change will come up when it needs to, i.e. when you need to pay for something.  An actor shouldn't come in to a scene chasing an objective.  Yes if there is one to find, know it, then leave it alone, put your attention on the other actor and begin to observe and respond.  It will become relevant when it needs to, within a text, the writer gives you the outlet to do so.
Objectives are a funny thing, it tends to be one of the biggest words batted around in British Actor training, and I understand why.  Often (though I don't think all the time) a character does have an objective within a scene, but once it is ascertained, it can't become the all encompassing focus of the scene. 'I need to blackmail Nora Helmer, I need to blackmail Nora Helmer, I need to blackmail Nora Helmer'  If you're playing Krogstad and that is all that moves through your head you'll become paralysed and not truly in the moment. 'Living Truthfully' refers to the constant responding to the behavior of the person in front of you, not a self motivated objective.  The focus of many Stanislavski teachers
Know it, then leave it alone.
Footnote:  I realize I do harp on about Meisner a lot, it is my specialism now, and I do intend it to remain so.  But I am always interested in debate or research and do have a good old grasp on your other practitioners too.  Let me know if there are any practitioners which influence you, or any you want me to blog about on here.

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