Respect for Acting

I’ve never tried acting, but lately I’ve become curious about how it’s done. I just finished reading Respect for Acting, by Uta Hagen. This is one of those seminal works that is recommended to young actors, particularly those working in the theater.

The actions of human beings are governed, more than anything else, by what they want, consciously or subconsciously.

Uta Hagen

There’s a cliche about the pretentious actor asking his director, “What’s my motivation?” As it turns out, that’s for real. One of the guiding principles of acting, apparently, is figuring out what your character wants. It’s a guiding principle of real life, too, we just rarely have to think about it.

We bring a concept with us from childhood which seems to be difficult to overcome even as we mature. It continues to exist despite a good education. For some strange reason, we believe that anyone who lived before we were born was in some peculiar way a different kind of human being from any we have come in contact with in our own lifetime. This concept must be changed; we must realize in our bones that almost everything in time and history has changed except the human being.

Uta Hagen

Human nature doesn’t change. We’re the same kind of critters we’ve been since we started telling stories.

You can strike the word attitude from your vocabulary because it can’t be played.

Uta Hagen

Acting is about behavior. No matter how subtle or interior a notion seems, the actor must figure out a way to express it through behaviors which can be observed by the audience.