The 4 P’s of Acting
Here’s a way to easily remember some fundamentals. These are what I call The four “P’s”—process, patience, practice, and perseverance.
Process. I don’t know about you, but when I’m asked to do something by a director, writer, or producer, I want to do it quickly—and do it well. The pressure I put on myself can get in the way. If I get too concerned about delivering a requested result, then I am not able to perform optimally. My work improves when I remind myself that everything we do as artists is “in process.” When a director asks me for a specific result, I just give myself adjustments that will move my performance in the direction that they seek. When I allow my work to be process-oriented, rather than result-oriented, I do better and occasionally deliver performances that go far beyond the director’s vision.
Every time I perform, I learn about myself. How can I relax more? How can I tell the story better? How can I infuse my performance with greater spontaneity?
Patience. Processes take time, and when I forget that simple concept, I get tense. I become hard on myself for not being immediately brilliant. This sort of harsh self-criticism is counter-productive and detrimental. I find it helpful to remind myself, “Patience, Lee. It will come.” This simple message helps relieve pressure and allows me to work more freely. When I practice patience, I become more…patient, and that’s good.
Practice. Every day provides an opportunity to practice your craft and refine your skills. Every time you go to an audition, you are practicing. Every time you do a scene in class, you are practicing. Every time you walk onto a set, you are practicing. Every time you meet a casting director, you are practicing. The more you practice, the better you will become.
Perseverance. When I watch a well-seasoned actor turn out a transcendent performance, I am reminded of the value of perseverance. Think of Geraldine Page in “The Trip to Bountiful,” Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn in “On Golden Pond,” Mark Rylance in so many things. These accomplished performers practiced a lot. Their ease, fluidity, vulnerability, and grace are byproducts of a life in the theater. One of the great pleasures of our chosen field is that it gives us the opportunity to get better and better with age. I find it comforting to know that the best may be yet to come. I know there will be times along the way that feel difficult and stressful, but I also know that there will be times of relief, joys of discovery, and even peace of mind.