Why you need to strengthen your imagination as an actor
What do you do to strengthen your imagination in acting?
Practice! For example:
- Think about a specific setting or place of a scene you have worked on. (Like, a park or a funeral home)
- Use sensory work to deepen your connection and get as specific as you can–
- What does this place look like in your imagination?
- What does it smell like?
- What is the temperature of the air?
- Is there an object in this place you might touch that affects how you’re feeling?
- What if there’s a monster you need to be terrified of? How can you create the reality of that monster? Can you see its gnarly teeth?
- What would be like if you were covered in spiders?
- If your flesh was on fire?
- If you had an alien in your belly?
- Think of a character you’ve worked on with a rich history or backstory.
- Use your imagination to build a specific event from this person’s past so that roots take hold in you and affect you deeply.
- How specific can you get? Can you include your five senses?
When you practice, can you feel yourself being affected by this work? If not, it’s definitely time to add more imagination to your daily practice.
You can also read a new book, and when you get to an interesting scene, put the book down, and strengthen your imagination through building the scenario on the book as vividly as you can. Invest in the circumstances. How would you react in that situation? Can you get on your feet and embody it?
Even just five or ten minutes of this sensory work daily can help you strengthen your imagination, and as a student says in this clip from class, there’s nothing more powerful than the human imagination.
CLASS CLIP TRANSCRIPTION
Sarah: And that’s why it’s good, as part of whatever warmup you do regularly, for both of you, to have regular work of sensory recall – of working that muscle so that you can see and connect and have things hit you and there’s not gonna be, the more you do those kinds of warmups every day, so that things really do move through you in a free way, you can tell that story with your body and your voice.
Student: There’s nothing more powerful than the human imagination.
Sarah: It’s really true.
Student: But it is like a muscle.
Sarah: It is!
Student: You have to regularly train in.
Sarah: It is. Larry Moss used to say that actors’ imaginations were lazy now because we watch everything instead of read, and that the best thing an actor could do would be to read a lot of novels, read a lot of things that are gonna constantly strengthen your imagination. And then to do those kinds of exercises, where you’re seeing someone in front of you, and touching your face, and smelling their hair, and allowing it to affect you.
And doing that work all the time. Even in a small way, if you do that for five or ten minutes, that muscle gets strong. But it can be hard. It can be hard if you’re not used to doing it.