Relaxation, Tension, and the Artistic State: Part II–The Performance

(For Part I of this series, Click here)

Being RELAXED and loose does not mean to be void of emotion, excitement, power, awareness or focus.  On the contrary, one needs ALL these things in order to act well.  In fact, acknowledging how you are feeling in any and every given moment is one of the most important skills an actor must develop.  Yes–skill.  It is a skill to “KNOW THYSELF”.  It takes practice.  Ask any psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor.  Don’t deny your feelings.  Know thyself.  “Thyself” is the palate, paint, canvas and brush that the actor uses to create psychological, emotional and physical truth or poetry.  “Thyself” is your instrument of art.

Own up to it when you are nervous.  There is nothing wrong with “nervousness”.  It is better to refer to the adrenaline rush you experience before you perform as “excitement”.  “Excitement” has a positive connotation, and “nervousness” has a negative one.  However, the bottom line is that what you are experiencing is an adrenaline rush–by any name.  It is the “fight or flight” instinct built into every animal that rises to the surface in times of need.  A performance is a time of need.

If you don’t get a “rush” when you are about to go onstage, get out of this business.  Be a lawyer, doctor, garbage man–whatever.  Don’t be an artist.  This is what artists do art for–“THE RUSH”.

Acknowledge your feelings–fear, excitement, fatigue, anger–then USE IT.  Use whatever you are feeling NOW in the scene.  This is a crucial component of “Moment to Moment” acting.  Use the Moment.  Your feelings will be appropriate to the scene, as long as you justify them (as you experience them) with regard to the circumstances and the story.

Also, remember: your feelings may change.  You may be nervous and excited as the curtain goes up–but halfway through the scene, after your focus on the job at hand (“what you are doing in the scene”) has released that adrenaline, you now find that you have “relaxed” and you are angry with yourself that you are not as wound up as you wanted to be for the upcoming “emotional peak”.  USE THAT ANGER.  Use that frustration.  It is truthful.  It is real for you.  It will be real for the audience.  It is infinitely better than trying to recreate the sorrow and vulnerability you found in rehearsal.  Use what you have NOW.  BE RELAXED ENOUGH TO TRUST THAT WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU HAVE INSIDE OF YOU–NOW–IS ENOUGH.

Stanislavski, the great acting teacher of the Moscow Art Theater, whose disciples were Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meisner, Stella Adler, Bobby Lewis, and Uta Hagen, said, “the actor should be most relaxed at his highest state of emotion.”  Like a great athlete, when the actor is immersed in the most demanding moments of a performance, one’s focus and relaxation should be so great, that the mind and body work powerfully, accurately, gracefully and beautifully–in a word: artfully.   Athletes often refer to this heightened state of both relaxation and focus as being, “in the Zone.”  Actors often simply say, “I’m in.”  Whatever the name, the state of total relaxation while in a heightened state of focus, awareness and emotional availability, is what you must achieve.  The ARTISTIC STATE.


This entry was posted in Acting Tips, How To Guide and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.
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