The Unlimited Actor is an exciting new paradigm in actor training. Step by step this book will guide you into sensing and controlling the body's mental, emotional, and physical energy centers. Train these "power points" to change at will and your acting range will take a quantum leap.
* Boost Your Confidence * Easily Access Any Emotion
* Embody Any Character on Cue
So Why Did They Get the Part?
The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.
— Jimmy Johnson
An actress walks into a competitive audition for a featured role on the long-running hit television series Grey's Anatomy. In the scene she is to be helped by the attending doctor after injuries endured from a shocking explosion in the local mall. She tunes into the character in a particular way and suddenly "sees" a hospital emergency room filled with dozens of victims, doctors shouting, and general chaos. She also "feels" her character is not moving her lower body much. She decides to sit for the audition and include the frightening, chaotic environment in her reading. She gets the part!
Why? The casting director said it's because she was one of the few to sit down for the audition — and the scene would be shot on a gurney. Even more important, she was the only actress to pick up on the chaotic environment.
An actress is auditioning for the role of a newspaper reporter in a feature film. She tunes into the character in a particular way and suddenly feels very aggressive. She takes a chance and shoves her face practically nose to nose with the reader's as she demands answers. Against stiff competition, she lands the role.
Why? It turns out the director wanted that much aggression, though there was no such indication from the audition sides. He ends up shooting a close-up with her face shoved right into the face of — this time — Sean Penn.
An actress is in final callbacks for a major feature film starring Harrison Ford. At the previous audition she was emotionally weak in a pivotal scene where she had to walk into the hospital room to find her husband mangled after a horrific car accident. Though she had done all her acting homework, she wasn't able to instantaneously break down as the script had demanded. This time is different: she lands the role.
Why? She added a new technique she had just learned and suddenly all the tears and pain came flying out on cue.
A model, new to acting, gets called in for his first film audition: to play the imaginary boyfriend of the lead character. In the audition, the director has him quickly shift into many different personas. The model works with a new technique he just learned and is able to swiftly and thoroughly make the shifts. He gets the part.
Why? The director says it's because he is so flexible, believably changing his "type" in a moment. The project turns out to be a huge hit and wins two Academy Awards.
So why are these actors getting cast? What are they specifically doing that gives them that extra edge?
They are all using techniques they learned in The Unlimited Actor workshops. They are now working consciously with their energy, having grasped new ways to shift organically into the character. They know how to attune to the energy beneath the writer's words and within the director's vision.
As an Unlimited Actor you, too, can learn to easily shift into any character you want. You'll be able to exactly match your energy — physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually — to that of the character's, and before long you will relish exploring their worlds.
Catching the Curveballs: Easy Energy Solutions to Tough Acting Problems
Another reason to learn about energy is that there are all kinds of curveballs that get thrown an actor's way — balls that are hard to catch with most traditional actor training, but have easy, practical solutions in The Unlimited Actor training.
As an acting coach, voice teacher, and healer I have literally heard thousands of actors rant about the following recurring challenges that hamper their creativity. Do any of these experiences sound familiar to you?
"I never had a chance!"
You walk into an audition all excited and you can tell at first glance that the casting director has decided you are the wrong type. How do you break that typing barrier? Or you walk in to strut your stuff, and the director seems far more interested in his or her coffee than in you. Yes, you should focus on your acting technique, including your emotional preparation, your objective, your relationship. But what if you already feel so judged — with nerves or defeat sitting in the pit of your stomach — that all your training goes out the window?
"People are a pain in the $&@!"
You are in an acting class or rehearsal and someone is being difficult — perhaps whispering or texting while you are trying to concentrate. How do you block him out without shutting down the rest of your acting? How do you stay vulnerable to your scene partner when a temperamental director throws a hissy fit every time you make a choice he doesn't like? In other words, how do you take in what you want to take in and filter out what you don't?
" There's not enough time!"
You have a last-minute audition with almost no time to prepare. Or your director suddenly changes his concept and you have to make a 180-degree adjustment right away. The lead in a major motion picture has just quit and you suddenly get the part! Of course, you're thrilled to step up to the plate, but you're also terrified because you have only two days to prepare before filming! What can you do?
"I'm so exhausted!"
During the long run of a play or a grueling shooting schedule, you have to play a traumatized character. How do you not end up drained and a little traumatized yourself?
"What does he want from me?"
The director gives you some acting adjustments on the spot and you can't decipher the directions you were just given. Maybe your nerves prevent you from focusing. Maybe he gave you way too many directions. Or maybe he's a master of confusion: "Your character needs to be stronger, but more vulnerable, angrier yet more peaceful. Oh, and much louder, you know, in a quiet sort of way." One frustrated actress complained about her inarticulate television director whose favorite direction on set was always: "More. I want ... more." More what?
All the above are common actor complaints. The Unlimited Actor presents energy techniques that address these problematic curveballs, with practical solutions to help you catch the part!
But before we get into the details, let me define what I mean by energy.
What Is Energy?
If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration.
— Nikola Tesla
Today we use the word energy in different contexts. Casually we use the word to mean vitality. "I am so tired, I need some energy. Guess I'll grab a cup of coffee!"
But I will be using the word energy the way it has been used in many healing modalities, martial arts and Eastern traditions for thousands of years. Here energy means the life force. This life force is everywhere, in and between everyone and everything. It is a vibrant alive pulse in the air you breathe, the food you eat, the body you inhabit, the earth you walk on. It is in the sounds you make and every thought and emotion you express.
This energy interconnects us all. Einstein and other theoretical physicists have called it the Unified Field and the Quantum Field. In India it is popularly called shakti and prana. In China it's called chi, in Japan ki.
You've seen these words in many healing and martial art forms that consciously work with this universal life force, as in ITLχITL gong, tai chi, reiki, and akido. In yoga there are breathing techniques called pranayama. Even in the Star Wars movies the positive power of the universe is called the Force!
The body has certain primary portals (often called chakras) that allow this life force to flow in and out, and each portal affects different aspects of our health and behavior. Opening these chakras maximizes your ability to express yourself freely and fully. As you open to more of this life force, you become more confident, emotionally fluid, and mentally focused — a more vital and vibrant presence. You naturally become more compassionate, intuitive, and creatively inspired. You can more purely express your true self — in thought, word, and deed.
However, as an actor, you want to believably portray other people and enact any character you want. To do this, you can learn through this book to control the way the life force moves through you, so that it moves with the exact quality, speed, even blockages that the character you are playing would have. You'll eventually shift your seeming essence with ease so that you instinctively feel and behave as your character does.
The tools offered here will lead you into what the famous Russian acting teacher Constantin Stanislavski called "the inner creative state." This state is beyond the "threshold of the subconscious ... where one's inner life, of its own accord, takes on simple, full form, because organic nature directs all the important centers of our creative apparatus." You will learn to be an open vessel as roles seem to naturally embody and act through you.
Sensing Energy: How to Feel It, How to See It
Color is everything, color is vibration like music: everything is vibration.
— Marc Chagall
How do you fully open yourself to the energy of your acting partner, to the energy of your deepest emotions, to the specific life force of a character's essence? You begin by first learning to sense energy in general, to see and feel the ITLχITL that moves in, out, and between all of us.
Most people sense chi all the time, but they don't necessarily think of it in those terms. Many times you pick up on what someone is feeling, despite their words to the contrary; you can tell by their tone of voice or behavior that something else is going on. Sanford Meisner's famous Repetition exercises are brilliant at helping the actor tune in to this. (Check out The Art and Craft of Acting by William Esper and Damon DiMarco for details.)
You can also sense energy beyond the behavior you see or the tone you hear. Do you ever walk into a room where a couple has been fighting, and feel the tension in the room, despite the "normal" smiles greeting you? You are picking up on the energy. Do you ever think of someone out of the blue, and then get a call from him shortly afterward? You picked up his energy before he finished dialing your number! Do you ever feel as if someone is walking behind you or staring at you, and you turn around to find you are correct? You are picking up on that person's energy signals, without seeing or hearing them.
Have you ever read a play and had a full reaction to the main character's plight? How were you able to do that? The little scratches of ink on a page — the words — didn't do it. You were responding not only to the meaning of the words, but also to the way the words flowed together. You experienced the energy flow through and beneath the words.
A sensitive mother will claim she can feel when her child is ill or in trouble, even when that child is living far away. Through this training, you can learn to pick up on your scene partner's behavior more specifically. You can pick up on the energy of a character as intended by the writer, riding the energy road map of his words. You can tune more deeply to a director's notes, making appropriate adjustments on the spot.
You can even use your energy-sensing abilities to help lead you to exciting work opportunities.
As a young teen, one of my favorite musicals was Man of La Mancha. I loved it and desperately wanted to play Aldonza, the Spanish prostitute turned nun. I had memorized most of the record (yes, it was in the days of records, before CDs and iPods) and I would sing and dance the songs all over the house. Why a junior high kid living in Cincinnati, Ohio, thought she could play the impoverished whore, Aldonza, I don't know, but there I was singing with deep passion and sincerity: "I was spawned in a ditch by a mother who left me there naked and cold and too hungry to cry." It was a role I was born to play!
One day, many years later, I was on my way to a general audition call at the Equity building in New York City. My plan was to sign up to compete with over a hundred other actors for a role in some production I can't even remember now, that probably didn't even have roles available. Dutifully heading to the call, as I reached the street corner just before the Equity building, I felt a strong pulling in my belly with a feeling to turn left. It was so unusual, I followed the feeling. Then, oddly, it pulled me into an electronics store two doors up. To my surprise, a guy I knew was shopping there. He had been in the chorus of Hello Dolly in which I played the lead a few years before. In a matter of moments he told me he had been cast in a production of Man of La Mancha. He then said, "We just lost our Aldonza. Wanna audition?" Well, within a few days I did and was cast! So instead of a going to a cattle call and competing against scores of actors, I followed the pull in my body, the energy, and found my way to a favorite role.
Here's a great way to start sensing your personal energy. You can jump into the first set of exercises right now. You just need your two hands for the Tai Chi Hand Series. We will go from Tai Chi Hands, to Chi Finger Painting, followed by the Tai Chi Ball.
Tai Chi Hands
* Rub your palms together vigorously.
* Place your open hands an inch or two apart. Slowly move your hands about six inches apart, and then back together again, never letting them quite touch. Repeat a few times with eyes closed, pulsing back and forth slowly. What do you feel between your hands?
* With eyes closed, see how far you can move your hands apart and still feel some connection between the palms.
* Start with your hands about a foot apart. Keep one hand still while you slowly move the other one toward it, but without touching. Put your attention on the BACK of the still hand. Do you notice any changes there?
Most people feel a tingling sensation between their hands. Some say it feels sticky, like taffy. Many people say there's an "electrical" pulse between their hands, while others say it feels "magnetic," which is very interesting because it's actually both. They are feeling part of their own aura, what scientists call the electromagnetic field, which surrounds and interpenetrates the body.
If you practice the last variation you will eventually feel, if not right away, that the back of the still hand gets more vibrant, tingly, or warm when you bring the moving hand close to it. The energy from your moving hand will actually pass into and through your still hand! When I first felt this I was shocked, but then I thought about it. When you get touched delicately by a lover, doesn't his or her energy go into you? When someone says something mean to you, doesn't it go right into you? Our energies interpenetrate one another all the time. If not, how could an actor affect an audience?
Chi Finger Painting
* Point your pointer finger (the one next to the thumb) from your right hand directly at the center of the palm of the left hand. About an inch above the left palm, twirl that right finger, making patterns, as if you were finger painting on the left palm and up and down the fingers. With your eyes closed, play with different speeds.
* Reverse hands. What do you feel?
You will most likely feel trickles of energy moving around your open palm, as well as other places you "painted." If you don't feel anything, try it again after stretching a bit.
Tai Chi Ball
* Gather the energy between your hands into a ball. Imagine you are packing the energy together as if you were making a snowball, moving the hands in and out. You are making the tai chi ball.
Were you able to feel the gathering chi? The more you play with it, the stronger it gets.
I was both surprised and delighted the first time I tried this next exercise as it clearly demonstrates how working with chi is real and potent. You can easily affect someone else's energy without ever touching them.
Excerpted from "The Unlimited Actor"
Copyright © 2017 Nancy A. Mayans.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Prologue: How It All Happened, xi,
1 So Why Did They Get the Part?, 1,
2 What Is Energy?, 5,
3 Sensing Energy: How to Feel It, How to See It, 7,
4 Your Magical Doorways: The Chakras, 22,
5 Chakras and Their Character Traits, 27,
6 Chakras In Motion: The Movie Version!, 47,
7 Physical Warm-Ups for Each Chakra, 53,
8 Laugh, Sing, Dance: The Creative Warm-Ups, 64,
9 Controlling the Doorways: Opening and Closing the Chakras, 87,
10 How to Create Sudden Shock, Trauma, and Drama!, 98,
11 The Vitality within All Actions: The Four Primal Energy Modes, 103,
12 Beyond the Rainbow: The Full Cast of Colors, 117,
13 Intro to "Downloading" Energy, 127,
14 Embodying Any Essence, 142,
15 Downloading Emotions, 162,
16 Kings, Queens, and Clowns: Exploring Archetypes, 177,
17 Three Archetypal Aspects of Character: Sexuality, Profession, Nationality, 192,
18 Instant Ingenuity: Downloading The Character, 202,
19 In Support of the Actor: Clearing, Protection, and Troubleshooting, 219,
20 THE UNLIMITED ACTOR: Rehearsal and Audition Protocols, 233,
Epilogue: You Take it from Here, 239,
Appendix A: A World of Color in Other Fields, 241,
Appendix B: Additional Physical Warm-Ups for the Chakras, 245,
Appendix C: The Unlimited Actor: Exercise Guide, 249,
About the Author, 269,
To Learn More, 271,