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  • Writer's pictureJosephine Larsen


When I teach acting and improvisation skills to a constellation of 6-9 players—all unique beings and all present for different reasons—many wonderful things happen. I write about this in my book THE POWER OF ACTING, published in 2016 and republished in 2020. But even after writing extensively about this subject and after fifty plus years of teaching this higher human art form, there are revelations that continue to surprise me and confirm my belief that ‘learning acting’ should be made accessible to all. We are all actors. And yet we not really taught anything about it in school. On the contrary. Schools tend to dumb this innate skill down. Why? Maybe because a career in theatre and film acting is notoriously unpredictable and unstable? It is off-putting, I agree, but learning to act doesn’t mean that one has to nurture the aim of becoming a successful professional actor. The games actors play are fascinating and fun and offer insights into the hidden depths of the human mind and creative spirit, no matter what age you are, no matter which walk of life you choose.

I believe acting is not encouraged because it is very edgy. It encourages bold risk taking. It awakens a healthy curiosity and intelligent critical thinking. It introduces you to the fact that you have the responsibility of choice as to how you act and re-act. It makes you ask questions about what is defined as ‘normal’ or ‘real’. For this reason, I can see how it could be deemed as potentially disruptive of an educational system (which tends to stream-line people into a desired norm) and therefore dangerous.

The actors’ ability to see things from different and new perspectives threatens the social norm. Queen Victoria stated in a commissioned poster: ‘Beware of Artists! They mix with all classes of society and are therefore the most dangerous!’ Precisely. The actor’s skill is to step into the shoes of others; rich or poor; criminal or saint. The more complex the role the more fascinating it becomes to enter the mind and raison d'être of another person, even Hitler or Lady Macbeth. But how does understanding the lights and shades of human nature make the imitator or investigator of it dangerous? Does a detective who chooses to get into the psyche of a criminal in order to capture him/her, make him/herself dangerous too? Perhaps in the eyes of the criminal. Perhaps if the actor is someone called Sacha Baron Cohen, who is also a provocateur, a jester and an activist, one can see the controversial potential of this art form.

Even more fascinating to me, above and beyond the actual skill-set of an actor to perform roles on stage and in films convincingly, is the profound information an actor gathers about him/herself and the nature of being human simply through the practise of this experiential form of expression. To act is to know one’s SELF or put it another way, to know the many parts of oneself; both good and bad.

The skills I teach empower an individual to see the world with empathy from alternative perspectives. And this is basically how we should be encouraged to function. Although a human still has the instincts of an animal for many very good reasons, a human being is endowed with a mind that has the responsibility of choice, as to how we act, re-act, and inter-act. And these choices should be informed by the awareness of opposing truths and the paradoxical nature of the universe; not by the dictates of strong biases, double standards or hypocritical thinking.

Acting helps you in real life to be more conscious of your different states of awareness; for example, the awareness of the difference between seeing subjectively and objectively, indeed to operate in both states at the same time. It teaches you that memory and imagination run on the same neural pathways. It teaches you how to step in and out of different states of consciousness with ease. It teaches you to observe that most people say one thing, while thinking and feeling something different. It teaches you to read body language and discern incongruities. It teaches you to ‘think on your feet’, to listen, to observe and to respond with intelligence, not ignorance. Ultimately it teaches you that your state of body and mind is totally affected by your perceptions; what you imagine you are seeing. These are some of the unbelievably interesting insights that we are not taught in school, but the knowledge of which can ultimately change your life and those of the people around you.

To sum up what I know now, learning to ACT is something like a Shaman’s or Shape-Shifter’s journey into a multi-perceptual realm of consciousness.

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