Sanity in Acting
Every so often, I enjoy taking or auditing a course just for fun. This book makes me feel as if I’ve done just that. I’m just not entirely certain if it was a psychology course or an acting class. But maybe that’s the point—Stanislavsky’s system is based on understanding how the mind works and using that understanding to create real responses to imaginary scenarios (persuasive acting). What Galina adds to Stanislavski’s work is the need to disconnect from the character and return to the true self. She has seen how damaging it can be to the individual when it is too hard to let go of a character.
Each chapter includes explanations of each new idea, thoughts are “discussed” as in a classroom setting, and there are homework assignments for practical application. The first three sections all deal with how the brain works, while the last two take all of that information and apply it to the real work of acting. This process of breaking down a script to really understand the characters in every part of the scene was fascinating, if somewhat disconnected from my real life (as I am not, in fact, an actor).
I am, however, often called upon (as I believe most of us are) to play a role—when I get up to sing in front of an audience or when I do my work in customer service. In either case, I need to know how to release the tension from my outside life and be fully tuned in to the task at hand. Those are skills addressed right at the beginning of the book. Then, because it’s not healthy to delude oneself, it’s important to return to reality and deal with personal situations at the right place and time. The commonsense approach to preserving mental health makes this book valuable even for such small-scale “acting” as I do.
Margaret Norwood and Galina Boulgakova