Actor and the Target by Declan Donnellan

By Declan Donnellan

“Acting is a reflex, a mechanism for improvement and survival. . . . It isn’t ‘second nature,’ it really is ‘first nature.’”—Declan Donnellan
 
This immensely well known and ever-practical publication on performing takes a scalpel to the center of actors’ continual fears, aiding them to liberate their expertise on degree. it really is common and unpretentious, with a spirit of inventive and private freedom.

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So, if acting in itself cannot be taught, how can we develop or train our ability to act? Attention Our quality of acting develops and trains itself when we simply pay it attention. In fact, all we can be ‘taught’ about acting are double negatives. For example, we can be taught how not to block our natural instinct to act, just as we can be taught how not to block our natural instinct to breathe. Of course we can learn a multitude of stylised developments of our natural reflexes. The Noh actor in Japan may take decades to perfect a single gesture, as the ballerina will sweat years developing feats of muscular control.

The push, the effort, the cough is propelled by the image of the next living moment that he sees and needs, and if only he clears his throat this time, or takes another deep gulp of air or endures just this next spasm of pain, then perhaps there will be hope. We each see different targets, even when we happen to be looking at the same thing. So Rosalind sees a different Orlando from the Orlando who is seen by his jealous brother Oliver. The specificness of the target is different for each of us.

But she is always looking at something. The conscious mind is always present with this ‘something’. While she digs for a memory: ‘I went to work, I wrote a letter’, her eyes still focus and refocus on points located outside. Although common sense insists that all her memories must be contained within her brain, she still must look outside her head to remember them. Her eyeballs do not rotate inwards and scan her cerebellum. ’ Each finds its own specific target. ’ But her eyes still will search in different places for the elusive memory.

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