I heard a number of teachers asking each other for advice about help their students gain the skills of demanding the attention of the audience. They then went on to discuss louder voices, bigger behavior, more interesting tactics. Of course, all of these old theatrical notions simply push the audience further away. Unfortunate for all involved because in these endeavors, there is no real interest, no real enjoyment for the actors, so no interest or enjoyment for the people who have come to see them on stage. Let's be very, very simple. We would say a cat on stage has presence. You can not take your eyes off her. She may be sitting upstage in a corner licking her paw and your attention is drawn to her while the actors are busy downstage trying to demand your attention. Please, you must see why this is true. It has to do with what Sanford Meisner called the "Reality of Doing". Even without the addition of personal meaning, urgency, high stakes, the struggle to accomplish against all odds, yes, even without any of that, the simple reality of doing something without adding anything extra, is captivating. If you can grasp that, if you can embrace it, trust it, encourage it and master it, well... You can take it to the bank.
Facing the fact that life is happening like a movie reel, one frame at a time, is powerfully liberating. There's tremendous freedom when you finally grasp that we are not continuous beings who move from the past flowing through the present and into the future, rather, we are an evolving being, built from the ground up to evolve, and it is all happening right now! This fact also implies a great challenge as the next question you must face is "How fully can I bring myself to this moment right now?" For the new born human organism, the question of course is unnecessary as he or she is completely involved, interested, available and responsive in every moment as it arises. It's as if the infant is walking on the very top of a rapidly spinning wheel, keeping right in stride, not too fast and not too slow but at the very pace that keeps him or her from reeling backwards or being spun off the wheel into the distance ahead. But as you get older, you fall into a kind of sleep state caused by what has been called the "distraction addiction." One drifts off into the cyclical, ongoing rumination of the mind and then seduced by the virtual world with its infinite assortment of little digital screens. Before very long, this condition is no longer at the level of awareness, like the fish who is asked about the meaning of "water"... The fish has no idea what to tell you! It is only when the fish jumps above the wave and looks down does it exclaim, "Is that what I have been living in?"
The flow of these journal entries has taken me right into the heart of the "true acting" matter, because it is crystal clear that without an outward directed attention, completely off of yourself, so that you disappear to yourself, so that you no longer have any concern what you look like, sound like, what impression you make on anyone in the whole wide world, so that the fear of looking foolish no longer holds its grip on you, so that you have freed all energy normally consumed by your attempts to have control over every nook and cranny of life and human relations that will not be controlled anyway, so that you can once again respond to the reality of what is happening all around you, in every person and in their every subtle shift of emotional and physical behavior and so that you regain the courage to respond out of your native, instinctual, simple and human impulses immediately, before the crashing in of the committee of internal voices that make you pretend you are other than that, after all of this, which will come simply by having your attention directed outwards one hundred percent, one hundred percent, then and only then, is there the slightest possibility for one of the rarest things in this world, the thing which is the root of all great acting, the underpinning of all dramatic expression, the basis of all human existence as we know it on this little planet of the universe that we inhabit - authentic relationship.