By Allison Spratt Pearce
Growing up with a father in the military shaped my creative life from a very young age. I was lucky to live, study and travel all around the world. I learned different languages, arts, religions, and cultures. I quickly became captivated by people; their actions, reactions, speech, body language, movement…the very way they acted.
At age eight, I wholeheartedly committed myself to the performing arts and never looked back. After graduating with a BFA in Music Theatre, I was cast in leading roles of national and international tours. When I moved to New York City after touring, I took on roles in films, television, commercials and Broadway. This only made me yearn for more growth as an actress. I had always lacked the knowledge and experience of the works of Shakespeare and the classics, so I took a class from Karen Kohlhaas at The Atlantic Theatre Company. Doing so opened my eyes to this genre, and from then on, I was hooked.
Graduate school was always on the horizon for me, I had always wanted to teach acting at a college level. When the time was right, I decided to apply to one of the most demanding and prestigious graduate acting programs in the country, The Old Globe/University of San Diego. When I was accepted, I knew this was an opportunity of a lifetime. Getting my masters was creatively the best decision I’ve ever made.
There are so many paths to acting. While pursuing the craft, I’ve learned some key factors in how to hone the process of defining a character, and it starts with three primary questions:
How do I get what I want?
Who am I trying to convince?
What are the internal conflicts and external obstacles?
The best actors are those who study different situations of life, their environment and relationships, drawing upon both their own lives and others’. Acting is also a wonderful form of exploration using self-reflection. Taking an acting class can be the best therapy you could ever ask for. Personally, I find that after every coaching or rehearsal, I come out with a brand new outlook on life—not just in others and myself, but the journey I took to get there.
For example, the Stanislavsky method (one of many acting methods) uses this format for the actor:
I want to convince __________ to ________. But __________.
It is what we call our objective and our conflict. By understanding, empathizing and learning from others, we can apply it to create a behavior on stage that feels natural, true and authentic. In learning to listen to our inner selves and to others we become not just actors but re-actors. Working this way—allowing yourself to be aware, alert, and totally present in your situation—can be life-changing. It brings a new sense of confidence in your work and relationships, and a deeper appreciation of who you are as a person and how you fit in with other people.
And isn’t that something that we could all benefit from in our lives?
Allison Spratt Pearce, MFA (USD/The Old Globe), is an accomplished actress, coach, singer and dancer. She has performed in numerous roles—both straight and musical theatre—around the US, including both on- and off-Broadway, and in several acclaimed productions in San Diego, and has been featured in national TV commercials and films. She is teaching Acting II in Summer 2012.