The Acting Corps Book - Rants, Observations, and Meditations for The Aspiring Actor
by Eugene Buica
Point is: You already have everything necessary. Inside. At the end of the day, the only technique that matters when they call “action” is the personal courage you summon to step out of your own way.
So this is not another acting book. This is a call to action, a slap in the face to ancestor worship, a brazen dare to finally embrace what has been in front of you since the beginning. Bottom line, will you bust through that steel plated sarcophagus called your creative resistance or not? Are you ready? If you’re not, it doesn’t really matter. The professional athlete who plays injured anyway teaches us that action has little to do with readiness; what is required is willingness. At The Acting Corps we like to say, “If not now, when?”
This isn’t to say that acting technique won’t help you. It will. And so will a massage and a yoga class. But no matter how good the technique, the book, the school, or the instructors, often you won’t respond with the consistency and success that is promised to you. Why?
You are born a blank canvas with a predilection for certain colors. Probably you
are broken. How many people from happy homes follow the yellow brick road into
show business? Yet suffering doesn’t make you an actor, either. Then what does?
Second, the study of acting is also the process of removing the clutter, cleaning house so that when the muse visits she will want to stay – she likes it when it’s tidy. Without this process you are nothing more than an impatient hobbyist waiting to be “discovered.”
You did not come across this book by accident. The Acting Corps student from Denmark who was afraid to leave her safe nursing career did not crush her ankle by accident either - hurting herself was the only way she could escape the prolonged agony of what she was doing with her life.
When I studied with Meisner, he urged, “It takes twenty years to become an actor”. Well, twenty years ago I did not have twenty years - as I worked my discomfort grew, until it hit me. Meisner meant it took twenty years to embrace your creative identity, twenty years not to care about other people’s opinions – not twenty years to learn how to act.
When I started the Acting Corps and The Actors’ Boot Camp, it was a grand, perhaps foolhardy experiment - the 21st Century was making its entrance and there was no looking the other way. Though it was commonly held that most long term acting training could be condensed, at the time no one was doing it.
In 2000 I gathered a group of eager actors who were audacious enough to embark on a creative experiment in the middle of show business land. I presented the challenge – a serious commitment to acting training, every morning for a year no matter what. Classes would be free, and our reward would be the fruits of showing up every morning for a year and working on our acting with mad abandon.
Each day we arrived at seven AM sharp, full of hope, willing, and caffeinated. Never mind we were also broke; we had cleverly secured a studio - a scruffy patch of lawn between the L.A River and Riverside Dr. in Burbank. Our creative perimeter faced Forest Lawn Cemetery and Mortuary, a location made famous in Evelyn Waugh’s THE LOVED ONE. The Mortuary columns stood tall, prodding the sky, ignoring us. I could hear the faint murmurs of the dead, the celebrities of bygone eras, their radiance entombed. I leaped up from the circle in my worn out, dew drenched sneakers and said to the group “The movie stars across the way are watching us. ” They stared at me. I laughed and said, “let’s pay our respects.”
At first appropriately reverent, soon we were flinging ourselves at the pockmarked oak trees, dropped to our knees in the sodden clipped grass, reinventing the old acting exercises. We weren’t sure if it was what the movie stars would have wanted, but we were sure that they identified with the spirit in which our offering was intended. We were playing in the face of death, the way they had and the way every actor had since Demosthenes. Cars honked. Dog walkers laughed. Children pointed and stared, perhaps embarrassed by our childishness. Within months, something unexpected happened: people began to book jobs.
We knew we had something. But we also had more questions than answers. Who were we, why were we doing this, really? And once we started to book jobs, was it still necessary to engage in this sort of early morning lunacy?
Some of the answers, then and now, still intrigue me as I have come to consider them a crucial part of actor training. The issues are the same, though they are presented to us in more innocuous ways, “Why do I start off with a bang, but never finish things?” “Why do I cling to loser friends who drag me down but insist they need me?” “What’s a creative identity?”
Like before, my approach to acting technique is always evolving, the spirit of those exercises in the park lives on. As does my quest for personal truth. I invite actors to look at how they keep themselves from their creative purpose. I invite the man who says he can’t connect with his partner, who says that it’s always been impossible to let people in, I invite him to address these intimacy issues. It may border on psychology, but so be it. If we’re going to paint, first we have to learn to stretch a good canvas, if we’re going to write, we better come to the empty page with a sharpened pencil, and if we’re going to act, we need to bring only as much baggage as the part we are playing requires.
Over the years, I have made a slew of costly mistakes, mistakes I’d like to help
you avoid. In this book you will find the shards of my journey, fragments
documenting the ups and downs, and the lessons learned or not. Glimpses of the
eager, impetuous, desperate, twenty-three-year-old aspiring actor I used to be.
Also gratitude for the purpose and passion that has saved my derriere (backside,
posterior) and continues to do so every time I get out of my own way and do my
work. And if that’s not enough, a little advice about surviving Hollywood.