What makes an artist? What makes him or her creative, going beyond technique? The answer is profoundly simple, the ability to be inspired, able to live spontaneously in the context of the character and the play. Because, life is defined by its ability to be spontaneous. Without this spontaneity, really living in the moment, there is no art, there is only mechanical technique. This is true, even when you learn to produce emotions by manipulating yourself, as some techniques in the realistic school teach. It is this dedication to the accident of spontaneous life, the inspired moment, which is a fundamental part of the organic creative process, that is at the heart of the teaching at the acting school John Strasberg Studios. All the classes and teachers in the acting program are dedicated to developing each actor's individual creative process.
Formerly, there was no method or system that helped the actor develop an Organic Creative Process, where you live spontaneously within the context of a character and play, learning to create an intuitive state of inspiration, consciously, in the same way musicians, dancers, singers, and other artists, work, naturally, for centuries. The Organic Creative Process discovered by John Strasberg is a conscious, intuitive process that goes beyond the work currently taught in the realistic school. Stanislavsky, his father Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner, brilliant master teachers, did not define, or train, talent and inspiration. Their teaching works, but mostly becomes mechanical. The actor learns to think like an actor-machine, programming yourself to send messages from your mind, to behave and feel, like a human being. It works. But, we are not machines. Real thoughts are simple, personal, profound, they come from what you sense and feel. They are more spontaneous. They are not correct, or intellectualized, and mechanical. Recognizing the difference, you think like a human being, putting yourself into the character's shoes. Not like an actor making a plan, directing yourself. You become the most human that you can be, knowing yourself, knowing how to use yourself, so, you become deeply involved in the character's life.
As part of this process, developing your talent, and your sense of truth, you learn to recognize the difference between being natural, and being real. The difference is profoundly simple, because when you are real, you are truly experiencing whatever reality you create, whereas, in naturalism there is not the deep involvement and feeling that define reality. It's the difference between being hungry, and eating because it's time to eat.
The bases of technique in the Organic Creative Process are the Nine Natural Laws of Creativity. You learn technique within scene work, not separated from it. There are two principal roads. Basic technique is knowing yourself and knowing how to use yourself. You develop a preparation in which you create a state of being in which you are capable of being spontaneous, able to recognize and channel your impulses and intution into behavior and expression. And, the work on the character and the play, within scene work and organic script analysis, learning what realities to focus on, and involve you, in the character's world. The process is deeply personal and involved. You become the actor you dream of being, with your own personal technique. Because, an actor has something to say about life.
How do you know when you are developing a good creative process? The answer is, when you begin to develop the kind of contact with yourself, and the context of the play, and you discover you have a question about a specific reality that obsesses you. And, when you have a particular problem that you become obsessed about, and need to resolve. You have to learn how to handle the natural desire to be obsessed about your work. Obsession is normal to any creative process. Scientists like Einstein, dancers like Nijinsky, Composers, writers, businessmen like Rockefeller, leaders like Caesar, doctors, and yes, actors, passionate about what they do, become obsessed. You have to learn to be the boss of the process, not letting fear, or your emotions, run you around. If they do, they are useless to you.
Your thoughts become more personal and real, and help to involve you deeply in the imaginary world that you are focusing on, and want to make real. As your process develops, your sense of direction, your choices of what to focus and concentrate on, go to the heart of whatever context you are working on, and help you to become deeply involved in the world you are dreaming about. All this takes place in what I call your personal dream space, where you dream about your work, yourself, the context of the character and the play, while you are awake. In a way, technique in the Organic Creative Process teaches you to dream on your feet. It is, and isn't, otherworldly.
The particular technique you need to learn depends on how much imagination you have, and whether you can focus it on specific realities in the character's world. In this respect, learning how to prepare yourself to work, so that you recognize what you really want to do, feeling the deeper impulses that intuition brings into consciousness, channeling them into the imaginary world, is a critical part of basic training.
Sense memory is a brilliant technique for developing focus, concentration, and imagination. Using it, you learn that you can make what you imagine completely real. Some actors have natural sense memory, and must learn to recognize and use it. Eventually, all technique helps the actor bring the imaginary world to life, and you go beyond realities that you have actually experienced. This happens as you master the technique. What is important is that the technique serves your creative process, instead of you being at the service of your technique, as in most other processes.
More important, with an Organic Creative Process, there is no need to do affective memory exercises, one of the major elements of "The Method", reliving traumatic experiences to produce emotions. Because, human beings have more emotion than they know how to use, and, as you get to know yourself, and become involved in the character's life, the emotion happens by itself, and more pleasurably, because you live someone else's life.
The best quality of the Organic Creative Process is that when you know how to do it, work is pleasurable and without manipulation. Certainly, there is suffering, but one learns the difference between good suffering and bad suffering, good pain and bad pain. The Organic Creative Process teaches you that to be successful, you are responsible for trying to do what you need to do, that love and determination are the most important laws of creativity, and, that you have two best friends, yourself, and the play.
We recommend that you read John Strasberg's book: Accidentally on Purpose: Reflections on LIfe, Acting, and the Nine Natural Laws of Creativity. There is also a DVD with the same name. It's very hard to really define what acting technique is. Most of the world that the actor focuses on seems to be an invisible world, until one perceives it with one's feelings. Then, it becomes as clear and real as any object in the material world we live in when we are awake. Deep down, whatever I, or anyone, teaches, is a philosophy based on what we know about life and the creative process.
What follows is a simple outline of the nine natural laws of creativity, which are the foundation of the Organic Creative Process.