Impulses: Another Tool for Truthful Acting

When acting, as in life, IMPULSES cross your mind constantly.  Things you want to do, to say.  Thoughts you either act upon, or do not act upon.  When pursuing truth and a “life” on stage, it is absolutely imperative that you honor those IMPULSES.  They will lead you to your greatest discoveries and surprises during rehearsals.   They will lead you to your greatest originality, depth and new discoveries while performing.  IMPULSES are the evidence that you are actually “ALIVE” and not simply “Acting” and following a pre-planned “map” for the scene.

It is crucial for the actor to understand his or her own impulses in life, as being human.  Destroy the habit of denying your impulses, and, as the cliché goes, “honor the child in you.”  A child has not yet been taught, or muted by the social niceties that govern polite behavior.  A child is free.  A simple example of this dynamic is how we are taught not to burp or yawn in front of other people, or at the very least, “excuse ourselves” when we do.  My one-year-old burps freely and with relief when she finishes her bottle, because she is honoring the truth of what is going on in her body.  She needs to burp, so she does.  Only later in life will she learn that the “appropriate” thing to do if you must burp, hold it in and excuse yourself.

But what if you are an actor playing the “rude” character, or the character that has been imprisoned and isolated, or the character from a remote culture, or the character that is mentally challenged; the character who is purposefully trying to irritate, intimidate, or shock another character?  Perhaps, you simply existing on stage or on camera in a private moment, where “no one else is watching” (except the audience).  You must be free to live in a truthful manner.  Follow the impulse.  Do it.

Watching a dainty, “lady-like” character who mistakenly gets drunk at a party, can be delightful, funny and revealing–if the actress understands the EVENT and the truth of the scene well enough to relish the opportunity to experience her character’s bawdy, “impolite” side.

IMPULSES, of course, have far more important functions than burps.  It is a simple example that illustrates the need to follow physical impulses that can be functional, sensual, or arbitrary.  There are infinite behavioral, emotional and reactive impulses that cross your mind when you are invested in the reality of the scene you are playing, your awareness of the other actor and the environment.   Train yourself to instinctively acknowledge these IMPULSES, honor them and often act upon them.

Sometimes the simple acknowledging of the impulse is enough to affect your point of view on the scene, your character, and your scene partner.  Sometimes simply having the “real thought” is all we do in life, so that is all we do on stage.  However, it is “having the real thought”, whether we act on it or not, that makes our experience on stage interesting, and hence our portrayal of the character interesting as well.  “I want to smack him.”  “I want to kiss her.”  “I want to ask that question . . . but I won’t.”  We see that impulse in you.  We feel that impulse in you.  That’s good.

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Adam Lazarre-White Adam Lazarre-White grew up in NYC, graduated from Harvard University with Honors, started at QB for the “Crimson” and played in the Harvard Jazz Band. He is known for roles on Scandal, Heroes, Ocean’s 13, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, The Temptations, Living Single, The Parkers, and starring on The Young & The Restless. Adam’s writing and directing have become equal pursuit in recent years; and he has owned his acting school in Hollywood, ALW Acting Studios since 2000. For info on Adam's classes, acting, writing & directing visit his website at