Rehearsal vs instinct: does rehearsal kill instincts in acting?
It’s one of the great battles in acting, and especially in acting classes: acting technique vs. instinct.
I’m sure you’ve heard the stories of name actors who never rehearse – they walk on set having never uttered the words out loud until they roll. I’d be lying if I denied there are certain actors that can do this successfully in very specific scenes for very specific roles. Those roles are usually very close to the actor and can be played very close to home. It’s usually very naturalistic and, dare I use the phrase that gives me hives, “thrown away”.
I can even remember an audition I taped when I was acting that was pretty dang good where I pretty much relied on my instinct only and it was good work. (But I also have technique deeply ingrained in me and I break scripts down as I go without even being aware of it.)
This method has severe limitations.
On the other hand, if you’re working scenes with just rigid technique only, you might find yourself feeling stilted, or worrying too much about if you’re “getting it right.”
This debate reminds me so much of the parenting debate: should I read books about parenting or should I rely on my instincts? My approach for parenting and acting are the same – do the homework, read the books and THEN trust your instincts. It’s not just rehearsal vs instinct, one or the other. Instincts are freed by good technique, technique and rehearsal do not kill instinct.Check out this conversation in class to hear more about why I think having a strong foundation of acting technique is essential to creating authentic work.
CLASS CLIP TRANSCRIPTION
Sarah: I do think technique is so important because…I feel like there are these different schools of acting coaches out there right now. There’s like the hardcore dogma technique stuff, where it’s like, you have to follow these rules. And then there’s this other kind of new wave, new age of acting technique, where it’s like there is no acting technique! You just free yourself and then your instinct is all you need.
That makes me actually angry because there’s no way! If you’re truly just playing everything from your instinct, you’re going to be playing a version of yourself always and forever, you know. So I really feel like there’s a middle ground. We have to do all that work so that we can get freed up, so that we can have all those wonderful impulses and there’s some stuff where we really do need to know the rules of the world and all that stuff.