Justification and Concentration
Justification and Concentration
Circle of concentration: Different objects need different focuses, sometimes wide and sometimes narrow. The ‘circle of concentration’ must expand or contract as necessary. For example, in a scene, if an actor wants to show that he is threading a needle, he would require to show that he is focusing on a very tiny, narrow circle of concentration. In contrast, a five versus one sword fight scene, needs a much larger circle of concentration.
One of the most important skills that an actor must possess is that of concentration. An actor must be able to forget his real world and focus on the imaginary world of performance. He must live entirely within the space that his imagination has created and be out of reach of any unwanted interference. While enacting a scene, a performer might be subjected to all manner of distractions. Say, for example, once during a play, someone sitting in the second row in the audience removed his training shoes when an actor was about to deliver a moving speech. And this member of the audience produced a loud noise like that of paper being torn while undoing the Velcro fastening on both of his shoes. Fortunately, the actor was focused enough to carry on with his act. Although he confessed later, that this experience had shaken him a bit for a moment, but he managed it well. His concentration got him through.
Actors can speak about stories of this nature endlessly. Actors have to deal with various personal as well as external interferences, like controlling their coughing, talking in the audience, barracking, unfortunate incidents like someone from the audience getting sudden heart attacks, fire alarms being turned on and children chattering. These are disturbances that actors come across indoors. Whereas performances conducted in the outdoors can be even worse. Police cars, ambulances and fire engines, all can be interruptions. Bats, birds, dogs, cathedral bells and drills also could be distractions. Besides, the fear of wind and rain can never be ruled out.
Filming also has its distractions – the camera, sound, boom, lights and crew all have to be pushed out of the actor’s mind. One method of keeping your attention focused is to use a method which Stanislavski called “Objects of attention.” During a performance, the use of this method helps you see yourself, through all distracting moments that can prove dangerous in terms of concentration.
During rehearsals, make sure your character has an ‘object of attention’ at all times. This can be a physical move or reaction, or simply the task of listening. The important point is that throughout a performance, you know where and what you should be concentrating on; that there are no free moments. This can be particularly useful while filming, where you may have to repeat a scene many times for different camera angles, and it is important that your actions and movements stay the same for each take. This method can help you keep your performance consistent.
Along with ‘Objects of attention,’ Stanislavski worked with a technique called “Circle of attention.” Imagine yourself on a pitch-black stage; suddenly a spot light is turned on, which creates a pool of light. Once you enter this lighted area, you are cut off from the rest of the world; nothing exists outside of it, except black emptiness. In this situation, anything that happens only within this area will have your full attention. A space has been divided, in this case with light. While performing you must try and create your own mental circle of attention, which will only include the space in which you are performing, everything outside stops to exist.
Did you know?
Constantin Stanislavski with his partner Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko founded the Moscow Art Theatre in 1898.
Of course, not all performances provide scope for this limited approach. Very often, a performance may require you to interact, connect with your audience. In many plays, speeches have to be delivered directly to an audience. In such a case, an actor needs to connect with them. The audience knows when they are being addressed directly or indirectly. The actor may also be required to make changes in a performance to observe the reactions the audience may give, and audiences can never be relied upon to give the same reaction every time. Here, an actor must have a level of concentration, which is more like the concentration a musician requires. You need to divide your attention into two: partly concentrating on the performance, partly to take into account any external circumstances that may need to be addressed. This is something we do all the time in our everyday lives. Driving a vehicle for instance needs this kind of dual thought. The only way to make it work is through regular practice.
A way of acquiring this skill is to recite your line, whilst juggling, or doing some other activity that requires a level of complete concentration.
One important point that needs to be addressed regarding concentration is the need for the performer to be relaxed. Concentration should not make you rigid or tense. There are certain practical exercises used by Method actors as tools to enhance focus.