Dialogue with Educators

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Q&A with Larry Silverberg

In this Q&A, Larry Silverberg breaks down his new book, True Acting Tips: A Path to Aliveness, Freedom, Passion, and Vitality for teachers to use with their students. The tips in the book offer inspiration and suggestions that help individuals in their path of discovery, growth, and learning. The information gained from the tips can not only be applied to acting, but to any profession or hobby.

StageNotes: How can teachers use True Acting Tips: A Path to Aliveness, Freedom, Passion, and Vitality in their classroom?

Larry Silverberg: True Acting Tips is an invigorating exploration of the deeper values of all artistic creation, which is rooted in our shared humanity. Often, under the pressures and challenges of navigating their way through the complexities of social life and figuring out where they fit into the scheme of things, students lose touch with their creative spirit and the intrinsic power they possess to be fully expressive human beings. True Acting Tips offers 203 dynamic reflections on the basic values of authentic living which can re-ignite the students’ desire to be more who they actually are and to make greater connections with the world around them.

SN: What types of inspiration does the book give to the teachers?

LS: I have a summer program where I train drama teachers and professors in how to teach the Sanford Meisner technique, so I have worked with hundreds of teachers. One thing I know is that if a teacher can help the students re-claim their availability to the people in their lives, they start to awaken to the fact that this is the route towards greater satisfaction in life. I call this “listening with the ear of one’s heart” and this suggests that the path is about becoming very sensitive to what is actually going on with other people. This also happens to be a requirement in the craft of True Acting. Of course, this requires that the students begin to take their attention off of themselves which, especially in the high school students, is quite a struggle as their whole life is about, “How do I look, what do other people think of me, do they like me?” Yet, the struggle is certainly worth it and True Acting Tips offers a doorway to this path with many examples and exercises for the teacher to do with their students in the classroom.

SN: Did the quotes in True Acting Tips inspire the tips or did you search for quotes to match the tips?

LS: I happen to work in an organic way. As I was writing the book, I would channel things that had an impact on my life into new tips. The book developed from daily tips that I was uploading to my website and to my Facebook page.

SN: What ways can True Acting Tips be influential to students?

LS: I offer a special visiting class for high school acting students called “The Teen Actor Master Class” and as I have been around the country working with the students, I have seen that they are very worried. They are plagued with the questions: “Am I talented enough? Am I wasting my time? Can I make it out there and be successful?” Of course, this fear creates such enormous tension that it paralyzes the very parts of themselves that they need to work effectively and to be successful. The tips in True Acting Tips are actually an honest, direct, and clear response to these worries and concerns. One thing I talk a lot about is the idea of commitment and what it really means to be committed. We all know that the things in this life that are of true value are difficult and there is a price to pay if we are going to fulfill our deepest desires in this world. We also know that it is easy to say, “I am committed.” The truth is that it is only when we are faced with great challenges that we discover if we are actually committed or not. What we know from looking at this world is that when things get hard, most people run in the other direction! Just look at the divorce rate, what happened to the commitment? Ultimately, every person must find out what they are actually committed to and creating a great dialogue about this with the students is a wonderful revelation for them and quite useful.

SN: What are the costs and sacrifices associated with commitment?

LS: The cost is personal. It is intimate to each one of us and the most important thing anyone can do in the midst of the hardships of training in any of the arts is to work very hard. The answers are not in talking about the work but in doing it. And the work of the True Actor is demanding in ways that no student can predict. It is demanding the student to become an authentic human being and to start to work from their own, unique point of view towards the world around them.

SN: How can teachers help guide students to develop their own point of view?

LS: A lot of times, teachers want to “save” their students from the difficulties of training rather than allowing them to wrestle with important questions and with the work itself. The answers for each student are only available out of their direct experience and by permitting them to go through the hardships of the training process. On this path, the students get stronger in essential ways and they begin to discover what has real meaning to them. Also, the teacher must be an honest, direct and compassionate guide for the student. Compassion and respect, these are certainly the keys.

Larry Silverberg is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Sanford Meisner technique of acting and is the author of the internationally acclaimed four volume series, “The Sanford Meisner Approach: An Actors Workbook,” his book, “Loving To Audition,” his recently released, “The 7 Simple Truths of Acting for the Teen Actor,” and “Meisner For Teens: A Life of True Acting.” You can visit him on his website, http://www.trueactinginstitute.com/.