I went to see a play not too long ago. The premise of the play was that two architects, who had been partners decades earlier, but who had fallen out, find themselves sharing a hospital room near the ends of the their lives. I knew this going in to the play, and that the play would be a reckoning between the two old partners and friends.
In the first scene of the play, when they discover that they are sharing a room, they both lose their tempers, and the nurse offers to see if there might be another room. Now, I could see the set, and I knew the premise of the play was that they were in the same room and were going to have things out in that room, but the quality of the acting was such that I found myself wondering whether there might not be another room for the two of them, in spite of the fact that I knew the script was going to keep them in the same room, and that the set provided for no other room!
As an acting teacher and coach, when I go to see plays or movies, my “critic” is very alert. I am watching the actors carefully to assess their skill and the depth of their work. It’s hard to shut that off, even when I want to For me to find myself wondering whether it was possible for the play to take a course other than the one I knew it was going to take is very unusual. The acting was powerful enough that I was drawn into the immediate reality of the situation. I was no longer judging or evaluating, I was trying to solve the characters problems for them!
In short, I was watching a play the way I watched a play as a kid: with fully open heart and mind (whether I wanted to or not).
That’s what (really great) acting can do.