Actors are danger artists.

No one wants to go and watch actors that can’t experience danger, and experience it in a way that we can experience that danger with them.

As animals, we have an instinctive, preconscious understanding that other animals activate their pelvic core when they sense danger. The pelvic core is a constellation of muscles that goes from the lower thighs to the abdominals, and is intimately connected with basic fight-or-flight functions like locomotion, stability (needed for fighting), strength, and appetite. While many people live their lives with little or no core consciousness or activation, actors always need to have a wakefulness in this region. Otherwise, they are sending a signal to the audience that nothing dangerous or significant is about to happen.

That’s why we place such a high premium on articulating an underlying objective in the class. An underlying objective is a positive need that lives in the gut or belly, and prompts us to engage with the world to meet this need. Everything an actor does should issue from this need, just as all movement should include at least a modicum of core awareness or activation.

There are many acting approaches out there that emphasize the importance of give-and-take with the partner, that as actors, we are always trying to affect others and are being affected by them. But too many of these techniques take this give-and-take as the be-all and end-all. If all of the impulses that the actor receives are being processed in a more superficial region than the core (often the intercostal muscles, which help the ribs move in concert with the lungs), and therefore all outgoing impulses originate in this more superficial region as well, then an actor can offer us a very “believable”, and even “honest” performance that clearly presents the arc of a character, but we remain uninvolved. Our sympathy might aroused, but not our empathy. There will be no danger. The danger will not be televised, because there isn’t any.

The give-and-take with the other actors and with the environment is very important, but the neuromuscular center underwriting that activity is at least as important. A give-and-take where there is no core engagement and no danger can only be described, ultimately, in one way: boring.