Simplicity or Complexity

Simplicity has a bad name in society. Somehow, we are led to believe that complexity is more desirable than simplicity. I don’t believe that to be true.

This philosophy has negatively affected many actors, especially through the field of acting instruction. In an attempt to add layers to their performances, actors are taught a myriad of techniques that often just muddy their acting, or cause it to be stilted.

And yet, if we examine a brilliant performance, it is filled with countless apparent “choices” the actor has made from tics, glances, inflections, gaits and emotions that make up the brilliance. The problem arises when someone tries to reverse engineer the performance — they come up with all sorts of techniques that had nothing to do with how the original actor prepared.

But great actors do deliver complex characters and detailed performances. How do they do that?


First by understanding exactly WHO and WHAT they are acting. If they’re playing someone who just lost their home to a foreclosure, do they understand WHO this person is? Some people will fight tooth and nail while others slink away… who is this person? Specifically. And when they have that, what’s it like for this particular person to lose a home?

Perhaps they interview a couple of people that had that happen. They listen to their story… try to be in their shoes.

In their research, they will arrive at a point where they fully understand, in an emotional sense, what it meant for that particular character to lose his home. They get it. They don’t have to think about it anymore.

When that happens, they will find, in rehearsal, that they are walking differently, talking differently, behaving differently. They, in essence, are able to BE the character. The rest of the performance will be easy.

Someone watching from outside may comment on the 1,000 choices that made their performance special. All well and good. However, they were just BEING the character and not thinking about the 1,000 choices that someone else observed. If they tried to think about the 1,000 things they did, they couldn’t act.

Through the simplicity of understanding someone and their predicament, they delivered a rich, complex, performance.

So leave the complexity to the critics. Keep it simple. Intimately get to know your characters and their troubles so you can perform them on stage or screen.

Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” I agree.


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