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How to develop Transparency In Acting

Another quality that many really good actors develop is transparency. This means that the audience does not see the “actor” or any “acting” being done, they see only the character’s emotions, thoughts, pains, desires, etc. And those emotions, thoughts, etc. are very clear, present and understandable. When we see and hear the character with very little of the actor and his craft intervening, we have transparency.

This is a very high order of accomplishment. Some actors seem to have this quality even from the start of their training, from their first acting assignment. They just don’t appear to be “acting”. They seem to be living the role, up there on stage or in front of the camera. Their technique, the “work” they’re actually doing to create the illusion of the role is “invisible”. Only the character is visible. They appear to naturally be the character. The effort to present the character is simply not visible or apparent.

How can an actor develop transparency? There are a couple of things you can do. It is important to understand that such an actor is totally focused on creating the character and only that, while performing. Their attention doesn’t slip to other issues such as the audience or their upset stomach. They place their attention on exactly the thing or things the character would be placing his (or her) attention. For the time they’re up there, they think like the character, feel like the character, pay attention to those things the character would pay attention to.

So the first thing for you to get right in developing transparency is to know what the character would pay attention to, what interests you, and the difference between the two. They will not be the same thing. Then, while performing, place your attention on those things the character would place his or her attention. It is their universe you’re up there to create. Be interested in what they’re interested in, which almost invariably will have something to do with their objectives, tactics and beats.


EXERCISE: Take a scene from a play or film. Look over that scene and decide, at every point of it, what the character would be paying attention to. What would the character be interested in at any given point in the scene. Write out at each point in the scene what EXACTLY the character is paying attention to, and how it relates to his objective. Then, read through the scene five times at least, or until you are certain you can do the scene with nearly all of your attention and interest on EXACTLY what the character would be interested in.

Do this again, with a second scene, and perhaps a different character. Repeat this exercise until you feel you can focus, and be entirely interested in what the character is interested in only, while performing.

If you’re not certain what transparency looks like, watch almost any movie with Spencer Tracy or Denzel Washington.