There are two main schools of acting in the Western World. One school holds that you should observe life (actors are regularly sent to the zoo to observe animals for some reason when they are training), the aim being that you can ‘be’ anyone or anything you need to. I call this acting from the outside in. You adopt gestures, tics, ways of moving from observed characters. The other school, which I will here abbreviate as working from the inside out, holds that you, anyone, has every single aspect of human experience within you to some extent and that you just have to find your inner Mother Teresa or Hannibal Lecter and connect with it. Acting teachers in this school also send students to the zoo to observe life.
What, you ask, is the now traditional insistence on actors observing animals at the zoo? Not sure but I can guess and the reason that I can guess is that I have both observed myself and others observing animals at the zoo and because somewhere inside I am an animal in the zoo, sort of. Poets and artists are also sent there. There may some kind of secret cabal between zoo management and arts teachers but I probably can’t prove that.
Most actors use both methods, they observe life, sometimes channeling other people, sometimes just taking a pose or attitude from a photograph or piece or art, or a dream or someone they knew and also reaching deep inside themselves for those impulses that might be similar to the ones the character they play are subject to.
Artists have a rich inner life, but so do all humans. On some levels we are all human impersonators, Shakespeare said that in his life a man plays many roles. Sometimes it’s not safe for some of those secret people inside us to come out and play and sometimes, especially in a sweet, defined, protected space like the stage during a performance, it is safe to be whoever you want to be, at least until the curtain comes down.
Now that I only get to put my secret lives on the blank page, it’s harder. It was easier to play with them on the stage and secretly, I really miss that.