I always stress that what an actor needs the most is a basic sense of empathy. Sure, imagination and ability to create and inhabit fiction is also important. But the key tool to balance the duality of being an actor and living in that fiction is empathy.
In our training, there are many opportunities for people to get hurt or explode, or experience strong emotional episodes. And it becomes apparent very quickly that empathy causes people to react to those things honestly, but also have the choice to break that consciously while staying within the realm of safety for themselves and others.
To train oneself to read and react to others is a vital skill. Without it, we become selfish and walk through life hurting the people around us because we fail to recognise the impact of our seemingly small actions.
This is not the same as being subversive or anarchic by choice. But what separates anarchy from chaos is conscious choice. Knowing the impact, researching the repercussions and most importantly deciding then whether or not to follow through with the action.
An actor who comes on stage, does whatever they want with no regard for others is very quickly seen and labeled as difficult. So by training actors to tread the line of being completely free, while balancing their natural sense of empathy, we can see how close someone comes to complete selfish abandonment.
It means the group develops a clearer, intuitive understanding of where everyone’s limits are, and can therefore challenge each other further and grow together.
I do believe that honesty breeds honesty, and that the revelation of oneself, one’s vulnerabilities, especially over time, builds deeper trust within an ensemble.
If actors can do it between themselves, and the company can do that with an audience, and the audience can do that with society, we can progress.
5toMidnight is an international network of theatre companies with branches in Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan. We focus on regular, contemporary actor-training and intercultural exchange for the creation of new work. If you would like to learn more about and support our efforts, visit https://igg.me/at/5toMidnight and be a part of the 5toMidnight experience!