Acting and Reality

by Joe Marinelli

Photo of alternate reality

Break down a scene and learn to imitate reality.


Acting is an imitation of reality, or a reflection of reality, or a heightened reality, or whatever metaphor you choose, but reality is almost assuredly connected to your definition.

In learning how to imitate reality some of us learned from the "outside - in," while others learned from the "inside - out." The choice of the style you use probably had to do with your success at it. What works for one actor, may not work for another. This choice is largely due, I believe, in each actor's individual sense of reality, matched with their specific teacher's view of reality.

I have noticed that many actors can break down a scene, know what they need to know about the situation their "character" is in, and perform with incredible insight into the human condition. I have also noticed that while most actors can use their respective techniques to break down the reality of a scene, they don't always reverse the direction and use their own acting... or reality... or philosophical techniques in their own life.

In the next few paragraphs I am not promoting any acting style, merely using my own choice of acting as the example. Please feel free to insert your own techniques and apply them.

For me, one of the strongest approaches to a scene is figuring out where I am, where I am going, and what I want. Now what I want is a wish which might not come true, so I also ask myself, "What is the opposite?" and there is the conflict.

Studying opposites has become quite a journey for me. It has lead me to research atoms, which have a positive charge (the proton), and always an equal negative charge (the electron). If all matter is made, and governed by these principles, it seems to follow that other forms of reality should too. I became friends with Peter Hofstee, a professor at Cal Tech, at the time this theory came into my consciousness. His father is a psychiatrist in Holland, and Peter told me that his father would ask his patients questions, and when the answers were given he would write them down along with the opposite of each answer. In this manner he would map out their minds, and have a more three dimensional view of them.

Peter and his father gave me tremendous confidence, for these intellectuals used a similar approach. I use to spend so many nights lying awake in bed, tossing and turning, while wondering if I would ever work again. My mind was a roller coaster manufacturing more fear as it went around each corner. My blood could not settle into slumber. Finally one night while looking out my window at a beautiful crescent moon, I looked back at myself as a character in a play and asked, "What's the opposite of never working again?" I laughed out loud, and couldn't remember much more as I fell into a deep sleep. That I night I had a powerful dream that I was a planet hanging in the heavens. The sphere symbolizes totality. I was one, and three dimensional. Since that night I have always used my acting technique to calm my soul, or help me make serious life choices.

When I was young I thought I was studying acting, but later I learned I was studying life. Many of us don't realize this. Our job is to understand our world, or our reality, but unlike a philosopher we act it out instead of just writing about it.

The reason I am compelled to share this, is because I love actors, and I see so many of us reach the boiling point. We get down on casting directors, the way auditions are run, the way we are treated, and on, and on. This builds a negative internal life when we don't use our own problem solving techniques on ourselves. Odd but it works. Your own study applied to yourself works. It is your answers to your reality questions, and when it does work you realize your acting is even stronger because you will be more confident in your approach to reality. This will give you a positive internal life making you stronger for yourself, thus stronger to help the world around you.

Follow your Bliss.
Joe Marinelli is a professional actor. He's had starring roles in numerous films and has appeared in dozens of television shows including "The West Wing," "NYPD Blue," JAG" and "ER."

Copyright © Joe Marinelli. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the author. Not to be reproduced or distributed.
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