As an actor, whether for stage or screen, you will likely be told to think back on certain experiences to help pull forth the required emotional reaction to a certain situation. While this is an effective means of creating a realistic and believable character, you mustn’t concentrate solely on finding the emotional description of your past experience.
Actors must learn to remember the actions, or physical details, of an experience rather than focusing on the primary emotions in order to enhance a performance.
Outlining Physical Actions of an Experience
One of the primary reasons why an actor shouldn’t rely solely on the emotional memory of an experience is when this emotion is used in a scene, it can look forced or rehearsed. Rather, recalling the physical actions and environment within a particular emotional memory will conjure up the emotions without actually focusing on these emotions.
When outlining the physical actions of an experience, try to recreate the world around you at the specific time frame. What did the room look like? Where were the lights in the room? What were you wearing? Were you sitting or standing? What did the room smell like? Was it cold or hot? Were you physically uncomfortable, and if so, why?
What is the primary physical action or physical object within this memory that stands out to you? By determining not only the details, but the primary object/action that recalls this memory, you can instantly transport your mind and emotions into that state of being.
By outlining these physical actions of an experience your brain will automatically place you back into the emotional state without you having to specifically focus on the emotions within the scenario.
Tips for Recalling Experiences
As you progress further into this advanced acting technique, you will likely create your own tips and processes to help bring you back into a specific scenario; however, I have cultivated several tips to help those just starting out with this technique to help transport them into their past.
Sit in a quiet and relaxed space. Turn off all noises or distractions and focus on relaxing your mind and body for several minutes. Try to remove any mental or physical tensions. Find your tranquil mental space.
After several minutes of relaxing and finding your inner peace, begin the process of sifting through your memories. Once you’ve found a memory with the emotional blueprint you require, focus on this memory. Close your eyes and visualize yourself back in this moment in time. Look around you (figuratively) and recall the images of the room or space you’re in. Who are you with? What are you wearing, or what do your clothes feel like? What is going through your mind at this moment in time?
Write down your memories and observations into a notepad. You will likely find that as you’re describing the experience, more details will come to you.