Does acting in acting class need to be authentic to the student? I recently came across this question in a professional forum.
Certainly authenticity is good – especially in theatre. It is a creative process; the product is best when it is personal to the actor. However – I contend that this may only be the desired end product.
A novice actor needs skills to build from – guidance even clear direction to develop with. Ready, set, create… GO! Open ended creation can be difficult. Giving a student a framework, blocking, gesture, vocal placement, clear direction is not only good teaching, it is a real-world occurrence. In doing so, the teacher is supporting the skill level of the student and scaffolding from that point forward. Yes in theatre education, there should equally be as many opportunities to collaborate, devise, and create in an open-ended forum. These are key skills that theatre can main-line to the student; these later skills, require a prerequisite of experience to build from.
Consider instruction in English Language Arts. In middle school and high school, writing instruction is often prescribed. A teacher may say, “use these sign post words” or “use a first person voice”; they may further say submit your paper in 12 pt font and MLA format. And in the execution of that prescription, the student learns the structure, the form, the style required and then can learn to write in that mode authentically. But, their first prescribed may not be authentic to the student.
I contend that the instruction of an acting student does not need to be much different. I am curious to see what other teachers of theatre may think on this point.
This approach of prescribed movements and highly directed or choreographed work could also be described as an “outside-in” style of acting. Physically based styles are widely used around the world. Included in this would be the Lazzo of the Fly from Commedia and the stylized movement and voice of Kabuki. Here are some examples.
You can see in the Lazzo, the movements are very planned, even choreographed in response to the music.
Here you can see an example of a planned combat scene in Kabuki. It has been done in this exact prescribed style for the past 400 years.