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Scene4 Magazine — Martin Challis
Martin Challis
Scene4 Magazine-inView

october 2008

No Acting

It was one of the last rehearsals before we moved to the theatre. I had invited my acting teacher, my mentor to watch the performance. It is never easy to disassociate from the critical voice that questions what the audience thinks of your performance. Even harder when your mentor is the audience.

Nonetheless you know you need his watchful eye because he’ll spot your habits. He’ll see if you cut corners. There will be no fooling your mentor. He’ll tell you straight. He’ll tell you plain. You won’t always like it but you’ll need it. You’ll need the truth. You’ll need it if you want to improve.  

I remember this performance as the day that acting finally started to make sense. I remember the lines I was uttering at the time. I remember the moment, the feeling, the images. I remember the freedom.

What changed was that I crossed the bridge between my world and the world within the language of the text. It became personal. It became meaningful. I had no need to generate an emotion or produce an outcome. I just had the experience. The experience of the fictional world meeting the experience of the story teller. There was symbiosis. The need to “Do” had disappeared. The need to “Be” in the experience, to solve the problem, to communicate the intention, to unlock understanding became all consuming.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace…

Each tomorrow had its own meaning. Each statement was generated by a different image, a separate memory or a personal need. I concluded that this must be what my mentor referred to as “No Acting”.  

He approached me afterwards with tears in his eyes.

You get it now, he said.  

Yeah, I said. I had to let it go to find it.

Yes you did.

I realise now that if some are born with this freedom then I am not one of them. I am not naturally free of myself. I have not been wired that way. There are actors who possess this natural freedom. And I am not one of them. I watch their performances with awe. They repeat what I stumble across accidentally. They deliver constantly what I find occasionally. When I see my mentor again I will tell him what I have learnt. I will tell him the reason why for me, there can be No Acting.


©2008 Martin Challis
©2008 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Martin Challis is an actor and director in Australia. He's also the
director of the Studio For Actors and Ensemble Works and
a Senior Writer and Columnist for Scene4.

For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives
Read his Blog


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