I’ve been asked, “What’s ‘not’ acting.” Putting in to words what acting “isn’t” isn’t as easy as I originally thought it would be. When I see brilliant, amazing acting, it too is almost indefinable — the beauty, the artistry, the reality, the…wholeness of it. When I see bad acting, it’s…well, none of those things. And, frankly, even bad acting can be acting poorly executed, due to lack of skills or any other of a number of things. But really, often bad acting is something else: it’s someone’s misguided keys of what acting should be. Often it’s mostly superficial.
But what’s “not acting”? I suppose it’s just that. And I nearly find it more boring than bad acting.
[I suspect that there are more than a few people who will take issue with this opinion, but that’s ok, because like most things in theatre and art there are no rules (or very few,) and it’s all subjective.]
When I see an actor on stage doing nothing more than being him or herself….that’s not acting. While we all rely upon our own selves for creating the characters (and really, what else do we have?) to not actually create a character, is not acting. To not create a life of the character, or allow the character’s voice and body and soul to be developed and refined based on the script or the writer or the director or something else is not creating a character and is not acting.
Don’t get me wrong though. I have seen some extremely enjoyable, even engaging performances by John Doe that were nothing more than John Doe being John Doe. But that’s “performance” and not “acting“.
So maybe that’s the ticket. Performance, ie: the behavior exhibited on stage, is not the acting. It’s an element of skill, placed on top of the life of the character for the purposes of, among other things, being heard in the back row. But it’s not acting. And when you don’t have the life of a character, and a goal, and a challenge to that goal against which you are struggling, you’re not living. And if you’re not living on stage, in character, you’re not acting. And if you only have performance without those other things, you’re likely a boring shell of an actor.
So. What’s “not acting”? It’s simply being one’s self.
And, you know? Sometimes that’s all that needed. It’s called standup comedy. It’s called being a commercial spokesman. It’s sometimes called being a model.
It’s not called being an actor.