We’ve all had a colleague who made a major breakthrough early in their career, but then they failed to kick on, instead they dropped away, like a star which shines brightest just before it disappears. We’ve also known vast numbers of colleagues who have quit the business, and others who haven’t quit, but the demands of the artistic life have diminished them, and turned them into soulless hacks. It is only the precious few who constantly grow stronger as artists, and not despite the resistance they face, but because of it.

Anyone can have a good year. Anyone can have a good couple of years. Question is, can you keep improving year after year after year. And, how  do you measure this improvement? Money? Volume of work? Quality of work? Happiness? Self-respect?

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7 thoughts on “The Great Acting Blog: “How Do You Measure Improvement?”

  1. This question of improvement is something that has been with me most of my acting life. As someone who used/uses theatre as an ongoing creative therapy, I begin working towards connecting the role with an inner flow – a personal psychological flow – physical, emotional, mental. This is the basic reality which I begin with. Thereafter, throughout the rehearsal process, I continue to remain aware of the flow as I interact with the other actors and their individual process/mechanics which are usually very different from mine. The key is a whole-self connection and continuing flexibility regardless of what is happening. There is never ‘improvement’ – at least not as something linear and measurable – but rather a gradual inner transformation into the energies and dynamics that are needed at that moment – in each scene. In this way, the character grows organically as part of a greater whole. Moreover, it never stops with the end of rehearsals but because it is rooted in a living flexibility, continues changing dynamically throughout the performance. It is never fixed – something which infuriates many actors who prefer to run on rails

  2. So in effect then, you’re saying that “improvement” as such does not really apply to performance. But are there concrete things within the work which we can compare from one performance to the next, and say; yes, I’ve improved that part of my work since the lasting outing”?

    Many thanks for your valuable comment, Laurance.

    • Thanks James. It’s hard to talk about improvement when my process is holistic and improvisational in essence. I never work in mechanistic isolation and I never work dualistically. There’s no-one inside me to compare how I’m doing it tonight as opposed to last night. As far as I’m concerned it’s all down to a heightened state of sensory awareness – being present with an embodied self. For me that starts on the first day of rehearsals and continues through until the last performance. There’s no let up 24/7. So in a sense, whatever I’m doing is right – at that moment! There’s no question of that. All I can say is that it’s a whole self journeying inside the experience and it moves closer by degrees to a more authentic storytelling by inhabiting the energies and states that are somehow needed. But I only sense this when I’m in it and it’s futile to try to get ahead of myself or to think about repeating what I did yesterday. It also changes according to my moods and the nightly moods of the audience. I think that underlying the notion of improvement are the much bigger human concerns which can only come about through psycho-physical practises in life – being patient – listening with the whole self – living in an embodied sensory state – and being there – completely connected in the moment without past or future. When I am able to be completely present and in effect naked in front of the audience with nothing up my sleeve, nothing to hide, then everything else somehow follows – sooner or later.

      • Yes, it’s about creating something in the moment. Too much contemporary acting is about re-creation, where the actor merely trots out their preparation in performance. It’s bland because it removes the fear, the thrill.

        Thanks again for your comment, Laurance.

  3. I track my work, eg CV’s I send out, jobs booked, meetings and workshops, money made etc, practise hours, actual acting or singing jobs done on a weekly basis.
    In fact I do a weekly podcast newsletter where I talk about a subject and then run through my weekly tracking criteria for my listeners and then track myself. That way I can wince when I know I havent sent out any CV;s or marketed myself well in a week.

  4. ok, so you’re looking at your progress in a very practical way, focussing on things which are concrete. Is it purely about volume, or do you also use artistic/craft measurements?

    Many thanks for your comment, Marysia.

  5. Pingback: The Great Acting Blog: “The Story Of The Tragic Actor” – The Great Acting Blog

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