Standing on the stage. This would seem like a pretty basic skill that even the most amateur of actors should be able to master. And yet I constantly see trained, experienced actors perform an entire play planted squarely on two feet. As a matter of fact, this happens more often than not. As in, almost every play I attend. It’s as if, not sure what the consequences of shifting weight might be, they opt for the safety of “actor neutral”. But how often do you play a neutral character? Never. Because neutral is boring. And so are you if you are just standing there.
Don’t worry though, there are concrete, unambiguous ways to not be boring. Here’s the essential thing you need to know (Warning: this sounds ridiculously obvious but it’s ridiculously not obvious in practice. If it were, I wouldn’t be writing this blog.): Having your weight supported by both feet indicates a measure of stability, certainty, confidence. It epitomizes a lack of risk. And there is a place for that. Like when a character is comfortable and confident. Or when you are the straight man to a partner’s wackiness. Meanwhile, even a slight shift in stance can underline a sense of uncertainty, compassion, desperation, hope, and more. Think about it – the list of emotions that can pull a person off-center is, well, it’s almost all of them. Being off-center can also denote someone who sees the world a little differently from those around them or add an attitude. Armed with an understanding of the subliminal messages your stance is sending to your audience, you can take risks, imbue your character with a passion born of action, and create a vulnerability expressed in visible instability.
Beyond the stance itself, there is the question of how to move from one position to another. The most basic question to ask is whether or not it is intentional. Is your character making the choice to commit to their Romeo/Juliette? Or are they knocked off balance by the sudden revelation that the prince is really an evil alien insect queen in disguise? Or… possibly by something more subtle but just as disconcerting. There are of course 50 shades of motivation between and around those examples, accompanied by just as many rhythm and energy choices, but that is for another blog.
Still not convinced? Let me ask you a question. Of the thousands of towers that men have built
over the ages, which is the most famous? The Leaning Tower of Pisa! Why? Because that lean makes it the most exciting tower in the world. It could fall over any minute! Defying logic, it hangs out there, about to fall over, looking unstable. If it didn’t lean, it would just be another boring tower. So get comfortable with the lean. Get comfortable being off-center. Don’t be neutral. Neutral is boring. And if you are going to be boring, I’d rather stay home and cruise the internet for pictures of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.