Actor and Director Ben Hodge has been the acting teacher at Central York High School for the past 10 years where he has developed an innovative and fresh curriculum for young actors aged 13-24. This curriculum and workshop format is now available to the greater York area with hopes of training and leading new actors to the realisation that acting is a more than just a hobby or pastime: it is an honourable profession and a way of life. His connections with New York City, LA and local talent agencies are now being offered to anyone who joins the Studio classes and have opened the doors for many already joined. He currently runs classes and offers private acting coaching via Skype. Connect with Ben on Twitter or via email
We all love a good performance. Whether we are sitting in the house of a live show or sitting in our own house viewing a film or TV show, the respect, awe and joy transferred from stage or screen to audience is a palpable and desired effect for all actors. But what really makes a performance great? What makes an actor great? Is it training? Skill? Look? Luck? In this revised and updated three part series, I post that great acting has its foundation in three key areas: COURAGE, CHARISMA, and CONNECTION.
Courage in Acting
Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.
I feel that this is truly at the very core of a great performer. Most of us think courage has to do with bravery and a deep strength of will. While bravery and strength are crucial aspects of an actor’s life, I want to look deeper into another meaning of courage. The word courage comes from the french word coer which means heart. The word was originally used to mean one’s innermost feelings.
To me, a great actor has to be able to find courage in order to be effective.
An actor has to tap into their innermost feelings and be okay with sharing them with audiences everywhere. As we all know, most people struggle have a hard time understanding their feelings. Many people have a hard time with their emotions and how to effectively communicate them.
Actors in many ways are the emotional experts and gurus of our society
Great actors have to find the bravery and strength to share their inner most feelings in their performances. Great acting should literally come from the heart, play on audience’s heart strings, break hearts and MOVE the audience. This takes courage at its purest and simplest definition.
he theatre is a safe place to do the unsafe things
To be a great actor, find ways to discover and share your innermost feelings in your acting. This is not to say we should share everything with everyone in our real lives. Performing is perhaps the best way to find creative outlets for emotional expression. John Patrick Shanley says it best: The theatre is a safe place to do the unsafe things. Great actors understand this. Great actors have courage and are able to showcase it in their performances.
In my classes, I often speak about how our personalities and lives are like icebergs. I talk about how 10-20% of our persona is often defined by what people see on the outside or what is considered the tip of the iceberg (things like clothing, style, gender, race, etc.) There is nothing wrong with any of these things, yet these are often the things that we are often defined by and these external features are also what we define others by.
These external features are not the whole story.
The reality about icebergs is true for us as well: that there is ALWAYS something deeper, massive and stronger under the surface. The major portion of an iceberg is found underwater and can be anywhere from 80-90% of its total mass. In order to truly know someone, we have to know more about the 80-90% of them that lies under water.
It takes courage to share that depth. It takes courage to take that water level down to uncover the actual shape of the iceberg underneath the surface.
While this is a helpful metaphor for real life, it can be transformational for actors as well. Challenge yourself to dig deeper with the roles you play. Depending on the role or situation you find yourself in, sometimes there will be something deeper and meaningful to discover, and sometimes there may not be anything deeper. Either way, find the courage to share the larger, and more truthful part of the character in all of your performances, the 80-90% of the character that remains hidden from view.
Courageous actors do more than focus on the tip of the iceberg: they dive down under the cold water to discover the massive foundation of that iceberg.
Great actors even go one step further: they find ways to communicate and share those discoveries with their audiences. Great performances usually follow.
Ben Hodge has been acting and directing for 20 years in a variety of formats. He has directed several productions in York, PA and had his play REACH performed in NYC at an Off-Broadway venue in 2009. Ben studied English and Acting at Messiah College and received his Masters in Education from Penn State University. After the success of REACH, the hit play about the hidden issues of 21st Century teens, Ben started acting classes in the York, PA area and created Ben Hodge Studios in October 2009. His main goal is to bring a high-level, professional acting workshop to York, PA that is modelled after professional workshops with influences by Uta Hagen, Sanford Meisner and David Mamet.
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