I Believe This About Acting

By Anne Fielding

Reprinted with the permission of Definition Press from Aesthetic Realism: We Have Been There, Six Artists on the Siegel Theory of Opposites.

In An Actor Prepares, Constantin Stanislavski writes: “A real artist must lead a full, interesting, varied, and exciting life. . . . He should study the life . . . of the people who surround him. We need a broad point of view to act.” My first acting training at the School of Performing Arts was based on the Stanislavski method—a method I have enormous respect for. He says: “We need a broad point of view to act.” That is exactly what Aesthetic Realism provides. It is broad and exact at once. Eli Siegel knows the nature of self more truly than anyone in history, and he describes what selves and actors are looking for. “People are trying to put opposites together,” says Siegel. Actors are also trying to put opposites together.

Aesthetic Realism says further that the purpose of acting is to care for the world honestly, not to escape from it. This is true about acting of every period and style, and it is new in theatrical education.

I have learned that acting shows a person’s desire to become other people as a means of becoming more oneself. Anything else is untrue to acting and untrue to the self.

I believe that the opposites as described by Eli Siegel are present and crucial from the moment we have a script in our hands, a character in our minds, through all the rehearsals, up until the final performance. Even the remembrance of a performance has the opposites in it.

Marlon Brando & Eva Marie Saint in the 1954 film "On the Waterfront"
Marlon Brando & Eva Marie Saint in “On the Waterfront”

There are Spontaneity and Plan at every moment. An actor has to be willing to be surprised, even as he has a scene or an entire play carefully thought out. We have to know our lines and movements and cues and inner desires, let alone what we are doing and where we are; and at the same time we must welcome and even look for the unexpected.

Great actors have spontaneity and plan working simultaneously. For example, in a scene from the film On the Waterfront, Marlon Brando did something wonderfully unexpected with a glove….Read more