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Monday, October 28, 2013

The Difference Between GOOD Acting and BAD Acting


The Difference Between GOOD Acting and BAD Acting  Acting
Stage 32 (click here).


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.
Okay.
  •  20 comments
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Interesting, I've never heard it referred to as a sport, but I can understand that very well. It's nice to hear candid talk about skill as I feel so many people tip toe around the issue of truly good acting, and I really don't know why.
  • 1 week ago
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I enjoyed it very much,thanks
  • 4 days ago
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Nice post! Thanks!
  • 4 days ago
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Very nice post! I think we as actors feel we have to make a situation more complex than it is. It is usually the simplicity we crave as an audience. :)
  • 4 days ago
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As a former student at The Neighborhood playhouse playhouse, I have to agree on Every Word you wrote. Thank you!
I think actors should throw their hands around as much as possible. Warbling when you speak is good too.
  • 4 days ago
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yes, and making as many silly faces as you can in one line works too.
J.D. Coburn, I LOVE not only the way you've worded your post but the critical truth of it as well. I call it acting vs. becoming but my meaning is the same. It's not until an actor really listens, really feels and really reacts that they even begin to understand the craft. Fantastic post!!!
The old saying is true: Don't act, react!! Check out Robert De Niro's One Minute of Brilliant Advice - the update that RB posted recently. xx
Simple, & truthful ……be yourself in reacting !
Thank you, J.D. Long after Meisner's passing, the sign on the wall in NYC still hangs and rings, oh so true - "Act before you think." As for the scum liar / acting "teachers" stealing money, may David Mamet's "Invent nothing, deny nothing... stay out of school.", (from his book,TRUE AND FALSE),...
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Cogent, sound, and absolutely honest advise and counsel, J.D.
  • 2 days ago
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Thank you for this. As a director, I have come across actors who think they're great and give a bad audition because they're acting. I have had some come to an audition and read the part as if they're reading a book. It's a bad audition and I feel for them. I know they have the passion to be an...
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  • 2 days ago
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Thank you so much for sharing sir! I want to learn from you.
  • 1 day ago
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Thank you for the positive responses, folks. It makes me feel good. I noticed a typographical error. It was Duvall in a print interview in the 80's, not Brando. With regard to bad auditions and bad acting generally, you have to be forgiving. It's not the fault of the actor who is badly trained...
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Oh, @Cayden, most acting teachers don't want students to know the difference between good and bad work. If they learn the difference, they'll want their money back!
Acting is less about becoming the character than making sure, through what you do and do not do, that your audience believes you are the character. There's a difference. It's important not to under-estimate the power that your audience has to transfer your actions or lack of actions into building...
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In a word.... Credibility.
Wow, Bob. You must have paid a lot for your education. Can you get your money back? Because there is no practical means by which you can employ those ideas. Said another way, you can't act that. It's just a lot of intellectual gobbledegook. Still, thank you for sharing.
Why don't you pull it back a bit JD... you're not letting your audience do their job.
  • 3 hours ago
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