It requires no specific expertise to understand that even when we are not on stage, we do a fair share of acting throughout our daily lives. If you never set foot on a stage in your life, you will at some point be acting in some fashion. Playing a part, in order to bring about something you wish to bring about.
In other words, acting is a part of everyone’s life, even if performing is not.
However, sometimes that everyday acting can become more like performing. And if you are a performer, I highly recommend taking the chance to play a character, even when you are not on the stage.
Decide you are going to spend one evening out at a restaurant being someone else. Dress up and behave as though you are rich. If you are a contractor, act like a lawyer. Or the other way around. Invoke a character behaviors, speech, reactions, around a character that is clearly not you. BE that character throughout the determined period of time. Either a character you make up yourself, or one that you have read someplace. What role you are taking on is not as important as the level of commitment you bring to this act of make-believe.
Even most actors will find doing this in “real life” to be far more difficult than it is to do on stage. That is because there is an obvious expectation we have of ourselves to be able to perform when we are on stage. That, in fact, is what the “old boards” were built for.
Yet when we choose to take part in this artistic exercise, we have no such platform, neither literally nor figuratively. Our “performance” of whatever character we are creating is not known to even be a performance to anyone but ourselves in such times. (How does the waiter know you are not the Banker visiting from New England?) And yet, we feel less able, and in fact, less free to engage in our acting skills when we are in a non-theatrical venue.
That may be natural, but, I encourage all of you to say, at least once in a while, “forget the venue, I am going to perform this part.” Right there in the line at the grocery store. Or at the ballgame. Or at dinner. All of your skills are still there. Improvisation. Adaptability. Creativity. Use of costume. Even use of dialect, if you like. Though the possibilities are not as unlimited as they would be in an actual show, the benefits to the actor are undeniable; honing skills away from the stage liberates us even more when on the stage.
The point is not to be obnoxious, or disruptive in a public setting. It then just becomes a stunt instead of an exercise. The point is to release your inhibitions, and prove to yourself that you can play a role at any time, anywhere. The liberation of that fact may not only make you a deeper actor, it may make otherwise dull errands quite exciting.
A little extra excitement never hurt anyone, after all.
(Originally published on showbizradio.net on May 6, 2009 )