By Melissa Bruder, Lee Michael Cohn, Madeleine Olnek, Nathaniel Pollack, Robert Previtio, Scott Zigler, David Mamet

6 operating actors describe their equipment and philosophies of the theater. All have labored with playwright David Mamet on the Goodman Theater in Chicago.

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In other words, itemize what is within your control and what is not. If you apply this rather stoic philosophy of working on only those things within your control and not concerning yourself with those things that are not, then every moment you spend will be concretely contributing to your growth as an actor. Why not devote your time and energy to developing measurable skills such as your voice, your ability to analyze a script correctly, your ability to concentrate, and your body? On the other hand, how can it possibly help to concern yourself with the views others choose to take of you, the overall success or failure of the play, the ability (or lack thereof) of the director or other actors, which critics are sitting in the audience, your height, your feelings, and so forth?

You are legitimately willing to sacrifice, and you think that the sacrifice required of you is subjugation to the will of a teacher. But a more exacting sacrifice is required: you must follow the dictates of your common sense. It would be fine if there were many great master teachers of acting, but there are not. Most acting teachers, unfortunately, are frauds, and they rely on your complicity to survive. This not only deprives you of positive training but stifles your greatest gift as an artist: your sense of truth.

Third, it is in line with the intentions of the playwright because the stakes are high: if I don’t get my mother’s forgiveness something terrible will happen—I will be banned from my home. In the scene, if Stanley doesn’t convince Stella to come home to him, he too will incur a terrible loss. An as-if should be no more than two or three simple sentences in order to keep it readily accessible to you. It should have enough details to spark your imagination, but not so many as to form in effect a substitute for the scene.

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A Practical Handbook for the Actor by Melissa Bruder, Lee Michael Cohn, Madeleine Olnek, Nathaniel
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