Theatre Information

The Instinct of An Actor

By • Mar 18th, 2009 • Category: An Actor's Advice

Those who read both my acting blog and this column will no doubt deduce that I am an ardent advocate of preparedness when it comes to all aspects of acting. I have given countless tips, advised on many scenarios, and shared numerous anecdotes pursuant to this firm belief of mine.

As is said, fortune favors the prepared. I also believe this, though I am not referring simply to dumb luck. I am referring to an actor’s instincts.

Despite my insistence on being prepared, on time, off book and ready to go as soon as possible, I would never mean to imply that the marvelous intangible that is instinct has no role to play for the actor on stage. Indeed it plays a rather large role, for those who are able to recognize it, and willing to trust in it, yet not willing to rely on it alone.

My most recent post on my acting blog describes the rather discombobulated beginnings of my first real audition at a specific theatre. It was an unconventional evening for me, to say the least.

In short, my normal process of preparing for an audition went out the nearest window within about 30 seconds. I would not be dealing with just a cold reading of a script, (that is quite common), but in ways a “cold process.” In other words, having no idea at all about how to proceed with this new group. My denial of expectations was so disorienting in fact, that I very nearly left.

Disoriented is not the best way to feel when entering into an audition.

Yet when I at last did read for the role, I was complimented by the director. Though to be honest, even without the compliments, I would have felt satisfied. The reason being, I knew that as I was reading, something was clicking between me and the text of this one character. A total comfort washed over me, blocking out all of the previous confusion as soon as I began the actual reading. By all definitions, it was a sound audition after all. One that I could take pride in.

So how did it go so well in the wake of all the uncertainty? Instinct. I followed my instinct when deciding how to proceed, because instinct was what remained for me. My willingness to ignore the bewilderment and soak up the feeling of the surroundings and the people, and the piece. I hitched a ride on that feeling, and carried it through all the way into the reading itself.

The irony about instinct, of course, is that the more you make yourself prepared and knowledgeable under normal circumstances, the more powerfully instinct can come to your aid in time of disorder, if you let it.

So, I still advise an actor to keep his skills sharp. Again, fortune, or in this case instinct, does indeed favor the prepared.

This article can be linked to as:

is a Maryland native and has been acting for nine years, having studied it at Marietta College in Ohio. He has been schooled in Shakespeare, improvisation, public speaking and voice articulation throughout his career. His credits to date include over 30 plays and readings as well as 2 films. You can also read his blogs (for theatre related thoughts) and (for thoughts on personal success from an outcast). Follow him on Twitter @TyUnglebower.