The Lessons from Acting
Ultimately you can't learn anything worthwhile from just reading a book; a book can only be supplementary to what you learn in the 'field' ...just as you can't learn swimming or surfing from a book ... you have to get into the water, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. - Michael Golab
Michael Golab is an actor, producer and writer. He has been in hit shows including Killing Eve and The Grand Duke of Corsica. I asked Michael 5 questions, to help me better understand the principles of acting and to learn how these principles can be used in other areas of life.
1. What 3 books would you recommend for a person, like me with no prior knowledge, wanting to understand the broad principles of acting?
2. Have you noticed that some principles can be applied from one field to another? For example, engineers use the principle of ‘margin of safety' so a bridge can hold more than the maximum displayed weight. This same principle could be used in personal finance, having excess cash to spare whenever we budget. What principles from acting can be applied to other fields?
'Being in the Moment' ...good acting is always 'dangerous', not too pre-planned or rehearsed but flexible in the present moment which allows you to surf the wave of the 'now', fully connected to your breath, listening to your scene partner and staying in the flow ... this can't be forced... it has to be continuously practiced.
A really good performance is truly different every night. Everything else is a stale repetition of a repetition, that not only bores the audience, but ultimately also the performer.
2. (a) Can you expand on 'being in the moment....how can we learn to be more in the moment?
A few practices that can get you into the present moment:
Connecting to your breath as the breath is always NOW, which is basically practicing meditation.
Really listening to your partner (instead of preplanning how you are going to reply).
Listening to sounds, especially in nature.
A deep psychedelic, mystical experience under proper guidance.
2. (b) How do you balance being prepared with being in the moment?
You need to know that good enough is good enough...perfection is just an idea in one's head. In acting, really knowing your lines allows you to forget them, which means you can be in the moment and totally focus on the scene instead of thinking about your lines (which would get you out of the scene and into your head). You can compare it to a good surfer who has practiced all the basics, fallen off the board countless times, and is now 'one' with the wave, riding it... as the wave is always in the now, as soon as he starts thinking about last week's wave he will be too much in his head, lose the 'now' and fall off instantly.
Acting, as well as public speaking (which also takes confidence, authenticity, a real connection with your audience), takes practice. Practice and a good coach to provide a healthy feedback loop can make all the difference.
Ultimately you can't learn anything worthwhile from just reading a book; a book can only be supplementary to what you learn in the 'field' ...just as you can't learn swimming or surfing from a book ... you have to get into the water, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Also in regards to this Vervaeke’s 4 kinds of ‘knowing’ are quite insightful. The type of knowing my example above is referring to is participatory knowing.
3. What small things make a big difference in acting?
Learning your lines so well that you could recite them in your sleep. This allows you to let go and be in the moment, focusing on your scene partner within the imaginary circumstances of the play.
4. What is the biggest misconception or the biggest mistake that people make in acting?
'Trying to be good' and 'safe' by overly focusing on how you are perceived by the audience instead of focusing on the scene, your partner, and your breath.
5. Which gadget or tool has the biggest bang for the buck in your job?
You can find Michael on Twitter here.