My name is Joseph Dean Coburn and I teach acting. Once in a while, when meeting someone new, I am asked, "What kind of acting do you teach?"
"Good acting." is my response.
So, what's the difference between Good and Bad acting?
Good acting is so simple. The late, Sanford Meisner would say, "Disabuse yourself of the horrible need to be good." In class, I will say, "Who you are, as a human being, is good enough." These are things that a teacher says in response to forcing, faking, indicating, posing, or trying to put on a performance -- BAD acting. It's your simple, truthful, human response that makes up good acting. When you see someone trying too hard it's a lot like being on a bad date, you just get uncomfortable and want it to end -- NOW.
Robert Duvall, Marlon Brando, and Rod Steiger, were all asked the question, "What's the difference between great actors and good actors. All three gave the same answer, "For the great actor, it's really happening to him." Brando was asked that by Connie Chung in the 70's, Brando in the 80's during a print interview and Steiger was asked the same by Charlie Rose in the 90's. So, three GREAT actors, decades apart, and they all gave the same answer. It shouldn't need to be pointed out that they did not collaborate on their answer.
So, you want to be a GREAT actor, do you not? Well, then train in a way that builds the same habits that all great actors share and have shared. Listen, take personally what you see and hear, allow those things to affect YOU (You cannot turn yourself into someone else, some character, you just look foolish). Finally, permit your truthful, instinctive, emotional response.
So, good acting is a game of permission. Permit yourself to listen and watch your partner acutely (that's called "connected" or "chemistry" when you see it on the screen). Permit what you see and hear to affect and emotionalize you (contrary to "Don't take it so personally" that you were taught as a child). Permit your truthful, instinctive, emotional response (the one that happens TO YOU, not the one you MAKE happen). Those are the fundamentals shared by good actors and great actors alike. Make a habit of working that way and you will elevate your acting to "Good."
You want to get GREAT?
Do all that for 8 shows a week, every week, for about 6 years. Then you can start auditioning against world class players for the highest paychecks and greatest fame. Does it sound a little like competing in professional sports? It IS the same approach. Fundamentals, Discipline, and Respect for the game. That's old school and it works every time.
Anyone who says differently is lying to you and trying to steal your money. You cannot be taught acting, you can only learn it. Learn good acting and you will become a good actor. Learn bad acting and the results are just as predictable.