Actor’s Toolkit: Part 1, The Body
This is a three-part series blog that covers three important instruments of an actor that collectively form a toolkit: the body, the mind, and the voice. In this blog, we shall be touching upon the first instrument — the body.
6 min read
This is a three-part series blog that covers three important instruments of an actor that collectively form a toolkit: the body, the mind, and the voice.
Fundamental instruments and the age-old question.
In any theatre or film acting course, when we are asked the age-old question “What is acting?,” we often respond with “Reacting,” “Being present,” “Knowing your emotions,” etc. While these answers are true, what we often tend to ignore are the very fundamental instruments we already have access to. We need to master these fundamental instruments in order to really tap into ourselves and hone the craft of acting. These together form a toolkit and are composed of three instruments: the body, the mind, and the voice.
The body is the skin and vessel that contains us. It’s ours and it’s beautiful. Isn’t it? It’s amazing how we have normalised the conversation on body positivity today. Each body is beautiful and unique, and of course, on the other side, within the culture of social media, being fit has become synonymous with being shredded. There’s nothing wrong with that—you’ve got it, you flaunt it! Do whatever makes you feel good about yourself. But do you appreciate your body enough?
One of the most important lessons we can learn in a drama foundation course is to appreciate and understand our own bodies. Are we aware of how it feels, behaves, and receives every sensation? Are we being present?
Every actor, during riyaaz (daily practice), needs to be in constant touch with their body.
There are three main reasons why an actor must practise daily.
- The body needs to be in a state of alertness, where it can receive the stimulus and then respond (exactly what an actor’s job is).
- To help strengthen muscles and be flexible.
- To help ground energy and increase the sense of accessibility, sensitivity, and focus.
Our body is composed of all the elements of nature: earth, water, fire, and air. Knowing which of these elements is stronger and which is weaker in us helps us get to know our bodies better and lets us express ourselves more clearly when we need to. Having said that, the most important aspect is to find presence in the body.
Six things we should be doing, in order to activate our body to remain in a state of readiness, to be present.
1. Physical awareness
Make physical activity a routine and spend time with it. Even a simple exercise like walking while being aware of the direction of each step and each breath will help improve the ability to observe. Some of the forms that you can look up are Kalaripayattu, Capoeira, and Suzuki. Try it and notice what works for you.
2. Practising movement
Training in movement and any sort of contemporary dance form will enable the body to be in its most fluid and cursive state. Attend a session and see what change it brings in you.
3. Understanding boundaries
Each body is different and so are its thresholds. The limits will be different each day, and as much as pushing yourself is important, it’s equally important to know when to take a step back and rest. Let your body make these choices for you so that you can return with more power.
Consume the right amount of what your body requires at the right time! Bonus points for keeping yourself hydrated! When you’re attending theatre acting classes, your instructor will hammer this into your brain. Few performances are optimized on an empty (or overfull) stomach!
5. Body appreciation
Gratitude goes a long way! Let yourself know that you are enough. Every day spend at least five minutes and ask your body what it feels, and then ask why. If you can, journal these activities.
6. Letting go
This of course has to do with mind, as much as it has to do with body. Just allowing your body to express the way it is naturally inclined to react and freeing yourself from self judgement is the biggest favour an actor can do for themselves. Do it when you are alone, for half an hour and note what it evokes in you.
Knowing our bodies will only help us become more open and accessible. Of course, acting is also the sense of knowing your emotions and using them to forge a way ahead. As they say in theatre acting classes: “Acting is doing!” But what is that doing what? Doing with what? -This very body.
Ekalavya: Act, Create, Communicate
India’s best online acting and theatre training platform, an initiative of Drama School Mumbai (DSM). DSM is one of the best acting and theatre schools in India. At Ekalavya, all the courses are designed and delivered by highly trained DSM faculty and industry professionals. Currently available courses are Breaking Open Characters, Mastering Monologues, Expressive Voice and Speech, Art of Auditioning, Expressive Body, and Art of Storytelling.