Term Paper, 2011, 17 Pages
Acting is the gate to a world, in which everything can become true, even if it is absolutely fanciful. I experience this for 10 years and I like to look back on this time. Therefore is the topic of this essay: How to become a virtuosic actor? That contains on the one hand the question of how to become an expert in the area of acting in general and the other hand how to become an adaptive expert. I want to answer both.
First of all will be a summary of the requirements given, which are linked with the satisfaction of the public expectation toward a capable actor in general, and the abilities, which are needed to fulfill the requirements. This way of explanation was chosen, because the point of views among the actors them self relative to what a capable actor is differs with a large degree under each other. Afterwards will be the differences between novices and experts stated. This is to explain, why experts-actors can fulfill the requirements and novices mostly not. In the following will be the differences between experts them self and the reasons for this fact explained, to illustrate why not every expert-actor is a virtuosic one. Building on this will be several conditions and techniques introduced, which are necessary or advisable for becoming an expert-actor in general, like motivation, and an adaptive expert-actor, like learning in several contexts. This essay will be concluded by summarizing the significant information, which will answer the given questions.
The mostly facts stated will be illustrated with examples from the field of acting. It should be mentioned that all examples are lend from my own experience. Since the space is limited, this essay does not cover all important aspects of theme, but gives an overview of the issues that were crucial to me toward the field of acting in general.
The public expectation toward a capable actor in general is to understand the way of behavior, the motivation and mental state of the person, who has to be presented by the actor. On this way an actor should merge with his role, to create the illusion that the displayed person is on the stage and not the actor himself. The achievement of these expectations is linked with increased psychological -mental, cognitive, social and physical requirements. (http://www.hfs-berlin.de/v2/bereich_schauspiel_beschreibung.html)
The high degree of psychological -mental and cognitive load is a result of the fact, that an actor needs a deep understanding of the one who has to be shown. This includes the
information about the person as well as knowledge about his or her circumstances, for example the historical background or social influences. The actor has to recognize, how this internal and external conditions interact with each other. With the help of this awareness, an actor knows why and how a person would behave in a specific situation. The process of analysis requires the ability for a detailed observation or empathy, especially when the role of actor is based on a person, who is already dead or fictional. Just as important as the analysis is the choice of the appropriate way to act, for example the volume of the voice or the body tension. Furthermore must be possible to act the role every time, even when the mental constitution is opposite to the role. Furthermore is the best analysis inappreciable without an adequate decision. This is possible, if a person has the knowledge about various ways to act and awareness when to use what behavior. (Hagen, 1973)
To implement the own conception of acting in exactly movements, a high level of body control and physical capacities are necessary. Persons, who want to become an actor, should be aware of the above average physical requirements. Especially the musculoskeletal system and supporting tissue as well as the voice are strongly affected from the work as actor. This is a result of the daily workload, which is ordinary 8 - 12 hours. For example, a theatre-actor has practices in the morning and afternoon. In the evening he or she has one or two performances. The need of psychological -mental resilience is a result of the necessary ability of an actor to control his own mental and emotional constitution, to adapt these to the moods and character traits of the displayed person. The actor must be able to do this any time, even when the personality traits, which the person has to gamble, are opposed to their own ones. This requires a big deal of flexibility and self-control. (http://www.hfsberlin.de/v2/bereich_schauspiel_beschreibung.html)
Finally social skills, like the capacity for teamwork, are urgently needed, to work in effective way, because a great number of persons are involved in acting work, to manage all the manifold tasks, which have to be done, before and during a play or a film production. Due to the fact that persons, who are involved in the production, see themselves as artists and have their own artistic preferences, it is completely impossible to avoid conflicts, only to reduce them. Actors report frequently about an increasing level of psychosocial strains: The closer the premier, the more conflicts emerge during the practices. Furthermore, social skills are also needed to perform with the other actors in such an authentic play, that the audience forgets being in a theatre. Without soft skills it is not possible to create basic confidence in the colleagues, which is the basis to act in that way. (http://www.moviecollege.de/filmschule/schauspiel/filmschauspieler.htm)
Differences between novices and experts
According to Dreyfus and Dreyfus (1985) have a person to pass 5 basic steps for becoming an expert in general. These contains as first stadium the status of novice, which is followed by the stadiums of an advanced beginner, competence, proficiency and finally expert. The result of this development is that experts distinguish significantly from novices in nearly every aspect of their expertise area. This can be shown clearly on examples of actors. The reason for differences is knowledge, not as often assumed, personality straits like intelligence. In general, experts have more knowledge than novices in the areas of their branches. But these are not just a loose accumulation of facts or concepts, but rather clearly arranged and integrated in schemas or networks , whose centres are the “big ideas” of their domain, for example cabaret or musical. This way of knowledge-organisation contains on the one hand declarative knowledge, which representing information about facts, and on the other hand procedural knowledge, which representing information about concretely strategies and actions, for example how to act in a musical. These two kinds of knowledge are based on deep understanding. Boshuizen (2004) called the even mentioned principle of integrated knowledge "encapsulation". A part of this network is next to the positive knowledge, which contains information about which acts are appropriately in certain situations, also the negative knowledge, which contains information about inappropriately acts in certain situations and results mostly from mistakes of the own person. This kind of knowledge is important to avoid serious mistakes in nearly every sphere of activity, whereby it is just important as the development of positive knowledge.(Gartmeier et. al., 2008)
In contrast: Novices can also have a certain amount of knowledge, but this not arranged and integrated in networks, but rather in fragments of these. Therefore perform novice-actors mostly as they see fit. Justifications, which are based on deep understanding, are frequently not traceable. This could be successful, but mostly achieves that kind of acting not the desired effect.
The well-organized knowledge of experts provides them benefits, which are responsible for decisions that are superior to those of novices. One of them is the ability to recognize meaningful patterns more likely and faster than none-experts. Studies of chess-masters have shown that experts are aware, where they can find the significant information. Therefore they fix faster more crucial information then novices. This is the base for considering, which decision is the most appropriate. DeGroot commented on this field: “We know that increasing experience and knowledge in a specific field (chess, for instance) has the effect that things
(properties, etc.) which, at earlier stages, had to be abstracted, or even inferred are apt to be immediately perceived at later stages [...]abstraction is replaced by perception [...]”. (DeGroot, 1965, p. 33-34 quoted in Bransford et. al., 1999, p.20) The even mentioned concept can also be found in the area of acting. Expert-actors have the knowledge, which movements or character traits of persons are significant for them acting them in a credible way and the ability to recognize these. Furthermore this kind of actor knows what information of a person could be significant for acting in a credible way. In contrast to that, novice-actors frequently do not know, which information of a person are crucial for acting these one. Therefore novice-actors attempt to imitate him or her with all information they have about them, which leads most likely to an overloaded acting, or they do not recognize the necessary ones, whereby no basis for authentic acting is given. Furthermore experts have the ability to remember more crucial details, because they chunk what they recognize. “Chunking refers to a strategy for making more efficient use of shortterm memory by recoding information.” (http://kms.sdcoe.net/differ/21-DSY/53-DSY.html) The mentioned strategy includes, to sort the recognized data in a way, in which all information of the same kind are composite in one rubric. Due to this technique experts can remember more then seven information.
It has been already mentioned, that experts accumulate in the course of years of deliberate praxis a huge amount of declarative and procedural knowledge. A consequence of this is the existence of conditionalized knowledge. This includes trigger-conditions, whereby the occurrence of certain situations will cause, that the adequate knowledge is activated and therefore readily available. (Bransford et. al., 1999)
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