“Live each present moment completely, and the future will take care of itself. Fully enjoy the wonder and beauty of each instant. Practice the presence of peace. The more you do that, the more you will feel the presence of that power in your life.” Paramahansa Yogananda. This quote is by my Guru, Yogananda, and yet it could just as easily become an acting lesson that very much aligned with this lesson I am about to write about.
My mentor and acting coach, Sally Kirkland, once said: “You have to stay very human, from moment to moment. You can’t in any way, let the audience know what’s going to happen next.” This is yet another inspiring quote on being in the moment. How very true. Once we harness the ability to stay in each instant, allowing it to take us to the next, then we can call ourselves actors. The antithesis of that would be to practice thinking of our next line or anticipating what the other actors line will be. All of that is the opposite of being in the moment.
Many times, I ask actors to keep going when they feel they have made a “Mistake”. Mostly because that mistake can keep you in the moment more quickly than if you had stopped and started all over again.
These are the golden moments we live for in our work. Those moments when we go up, the hair stands up on our arms and our mind is a blur. Those precious moments are something that can take you on a journey in a split-second from being in your head, thinking about your lines, how you look to others, or wondering what the heck to do, to the NOW.
They are golden moments that Meryl Streep says she hopes for when she works. They bring you immediately into your own skin, your body, and your mind and then you must KNOW where you are in the story and live in it.
Allow those moments; do not be afraid of them, for they will take you places that are delightful, organic and raw. They not only give us a little journey to the NOW, they also keep your scene partner on their toes, wondering, “Where is she going with this?” Thus, needing to follow along on the trip to our truth, our moment. Giving us the opportunity to live through the role and surprise not only ourselves, but also whomever we work with.
Of course, having confidence in our Improvisational ability and trust in our scene partner goes a long way. But if you can relax and allow those moments, they are truly what we strive for in each moment of our work as truthful actors. When I say relax, I mean really don’t worry about what will happen, just go with it. Just as Yogananda believed each moment will take care of itself, I also believe that will happen when we forego any upset or frustration and just allow the voyage to take you to yourself, to your soul — to performances full of surprise and wonder, much like the journey of Life.
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