An actor’s discovery of epigenetic changes of character
When we move out of our self, into another idea of being, unrelated to ourselves, we have the opportunity to remake ourselves. We certainly cannot remake ourselves by holding onto the same self. We must let go of our emotional responses, our hard-wired thoughts of so many years of repetition, and our identity as a certain role, father, mother, friend, worker, etc. and allow a new physicality to emerge. This new physicality will emerge because we are rewiring our brains by rethinking our thought patterns, along with consciously choosing the emotions we desire, which change the biochemistry of our physiology. Every choice we make, consciously or unconsciously, changes ourselves. The complexity is that we are not very aware or conscious of most of our choices, they are on automatic pilot, subconscious.
But when we use our intentions and do the hard work of refocusing and maintaining awareness, we can override the old, familiar patterns and create new ones, which then create new behaviors, thoughts, emotions, etc. We can become someone new. We all know this. It happens all the time. A child leaves home and when the parents see him six months later, he is unrecognizable, he has changed, and it shows. Again, the complexity is being in that old environment, with the old familiar parents still treating their son as if he were the same. All hell breaks out often as a consequence.
All of this is part and parcel of epigenetics. The science of how the genes express themselves. The genes express themselves by receiving signals from outside the cell, be it on a macro level of the outer environment, or the inner micro level of the fluids and electrical and magnetic charges inside the body. This kind of change is, as I often say, exactly what actors do. Expert actors are experts at changing their emotions, thoughts, physical characteristics, etc. My interest in how epigenetics and what we call the new sciences, or the science that is exploring the quantum universe where the material world limitations do not apply, has been ongoing for a long time. As I recently wrote about, my desire to study this interconnection between the performing arts and the hard sciences was first met with enthusiasm but turned sour by the end because higher education, in general, is not open to exploring the non-physical realms of our reality.
So as a pioneer of bridging the gap between performing and quantum science, epigenetic biology of possibility, neural plasticity, and psychology of optimal mental health, I struggle with little support for this endeavor. But boy is it fun. And when my students take to it, and some do not at all, we are transported to new discoveries and ways of thinking about performing and what we do as actors.
A very intelligent woman who studies acting with me recently realized that if she made the proteins of her character and turned off the proteins of herself, she could easily transform into her character. As she said “Voila!” Her revelation was exciting to me, and to the ensemble she works with. Of course, there is a lot to the process, and this student distilled it down to a simple and truthful equation because she understood it. Complex processes are usually simple at the fundamental level. One may not understand the advanced math of physics, but one can certainly understand the principles. Gravity is simple in our minds even as it comes from very complex mathematic equations. The principle of gravity is not hard to understand: what goes up, comes down.
And so, teaching my students to tune into the quantum field is simple. It is about getting out of our heads, our personalities, our identities, and moving toward the larger nonmaterial existence. When we are in that nonphysical aspect of reality, we can tune in, like a radio tuning into 90.5, our brain antenna can tune into the information that is always there but which we seldom tune into. Yet when we consciously tune our brains/minds to a specific frequency, like the frequency of intuition, we can gain more possibilities than just using our conscious minds.
As actors, we want to discover the truth of imaginary situations. We want to tune into the “givens” that an author writes into the script. The “givens” give us the solid absolutes that must be present for the script to work. If an author writes that a character freaks out in fear over a spider, that truth must be part of the action of the play because it is written in, it is a given that this character does this. On the other hand, authors do not write the entire life givens of their characters, that is not possible. The actor’s job is to bring a fully developed human being forward, not a one-dimensional flat, stereotype or caricature. So, the actor begins with the givens, discovers the truth of the givens and then moves out and creates the rest of the character’s non-givens out of one’s imagination. The imagination is where actors turn to find their characters.
Okay, often actors use their literal, analytic, heady, intellectual mind to find these same things. But this is what I teach to avoid. Our conscious minds are inestimably tiny compared to what we can access through imagination. Many quantum theories involve the idea that our reality is fractal and holographic. In other words, we can dissect each material thing into tiny pieces and still each dissection will contain the whole. That within each and every particle is the whole. Like the biblical mustard see which contains the kingdom, from the smallest comes the largest. Or, as physicist Nassim Haramein has deduced from his math, every proton is a black hole. Simplifying these ideas is the notion that there is a large filed of information that we can tap into if we learn how to.
Actors can tap into this field by calming and centering their bodies and minds, and then opening into, being available to, attending to, and invoking the intuitive powers that she has. Once aligned with intuitive energy, she can ask questions and allow answers to appear. They do appear. However, if she forces the answer, she bypasses intuition and moves back into her head; her antenna gets turned off and she only has her smaller brain to work with. Yet if she opens back up, releases her analytic mind and is patient enough to wait for answers to appear, she will move back into the quantum filed. Now don’t get me wrong, the quantum field can be called whatever you want. I am not attached to that label. It is what I refer to this field of energy as, but it could just as easily be called anything at all. The label isn’t what’s important, it’s the field of unlimited imagination, information, creativity and understanding.
My actors preparing for our January production of Area of Rescue are in this process right now. These seven actors are showing bold courage in their trusting themselves to wait, not force, intuit, not decide, and work off each other, not crystalize. These student actors are inspiring me with their dedication and willingness to take risks and “when in doubt, do nothing” as the great acting teacher Sanford Meisner would say. Our foundation for this acting work is the Meisner technique. Meisner was a quantum traveler long before any of this science was really exposed to the general public. Meisner knew that using one’s memories to create character from was limiting. He suggested actors to fantasize and daydream. He knew that was where riches would flow from. He also knew that “working off” the partnered actor was essential to truth manifesting onstage. His technique is placed right in the center of the unknown. He begins with script work by doing a “mechanical” reading, which plants the seeds of the text into the subconscious mind. His work is truly spontaneous, impulsive, alive, vibrant, dangerously open to possibility, and thrilling for actors who understand the work and can stay aligned with these methods of preparing, rehearsing, and performing.