Be The Tree
As an on-camera actor in television commercials, industrial films, and various video and film projects, one thing | have learned over the years is the difference between “acting the part” and “being the part.”
In my part-time career in front of the camera I have been called upon to BE the dad, the neighbor, the automobile expert, the banker, and various other “roles.” It has taken me a while to learn (and I am still learning) how to actually BECOME the role I am called upon to play, as opposed to simply “acting like” the role I am called upon to play.
Many people new to the art of acting misunderstand what it is an actor actually does. Actors are not simply “playing the part of” the dentist, or teacher, or wacky neighbor. They ARE the dentist. They ARE the teacher. They ARE the wacky neighbor. In other words, when we act, we become the part we are called on to portray. This is an important distinction because it makes all the difference between communicating the message and simply entertaining the viewer.
The goal of every stage or film actor is to communicate clearly the intent of the script AS a certain or specific role. I happen to believe this is more crucial when we are communicating something as potentially life-transforming as the message of the gospel or other biblical themes.
How many times have you watched a short dramatic sketch in a church service and thought to yourself, “Isn’t Brother Rogers funny as the doctor?” If that is what you thought, then Brother Rogers blew it. The response of the audience should not be that they notice Brother Rogers “acting like a doctor,” but rather that they notice, and pay attention to, the doctor in the scene. Being the part is far more difficult than it seems. In fact, it is almost undetectable. And that’s normal.
We have all seen a movie where a well-known actor was in the lead role and we commented on what a fabulous job that actor did “playing the part.” We have also seen films where we commented on the character played by the actor. The second scenario is the more successful of the two because the actor has done his or her job in breathing life into the character, rather than simply acting the part he or she was paid millions of dollars to play.
To be a successful actor, one must be willing to strip away all the trappings that so many of us bring to the stage. If we are to be successful as actors and, consequently, communicators of the script, we owe it to those watching to do the best we can at becoming what the script calls for. If the script calls for us to be a tree, we become the tree, not an actor pretending to be a tree. Do you see the difference? But to get to that place takes a lot of practice and even more courage! At no point can an actor say, “Well, what if they [the audience] think it’s silly?” The moment you ask that question, you have stepped away from being the actor God has created you to be.
Drama can be a very effective way to communicate biblical themes and is even more striking when done correctly. If you are an actor on your church’s drama team, the next time you are handed a script and given a part to portray, don’t just read through it and wonder how you might play the part. Instead, find a quiet corner of a room and, when nobody is looking, become that role — own it! Then, at rehearsal, you will amaze your team members when they suddenly stop seeing you and see the tree! This is when you will know you have succeeded as an actor.