For those of you who grew up watching Disney classic Bedknobs & Broomsticks, these lyrics will be familiar to you. As we grow up and become fully fledged adults, somewhere along the way we lose our belief in the world of our imagination.
But … for those of us who are artists, we have to keep hold of this imagination, even if we are gripping on by the sliver of our pinky finger.
Imagination for actors & voice actors is fundamental to believing in the circumstances the writer has given you. If we don’t believe in our imaginary circumstances, how can we expect our audience to?
There have been so many times when I have let my ‘Adult Brain’ get in the way of believing in my imagination. Just this week I was at a rehearsal and I kept on getting in my own way, worrying too much about what I was doing, how I was coming across and not allowing myself to just be - be in the present moment and believe in the imaginary circumstances.
In total honesty, that rehearsal was not my finest work, it probably wasn’t even close to good! I couldn’t get to my emotional connection because I wasn’t allowing myself to believe in my imagination.
So, I had to give myself a little talking to because if I can’t believe it, I stop my audience from joining me in the realm of the imaginary.
Here are a few things I did to help me believe again and open my imagination:
To connect with my imagination, I practiced mindfulness in the form of a meditation.
It allowed me to become present in the moment and stopped the chatter of my own mind in order to allow myself the space to believe.
Here is the meditation I used:
Your presence exercise doesn’t have to be long and drawn out, sometimes the shorter ones help me to focus quicker and calm myself easier.
This is because I know I’m not going to be sitting there for 30 minutes trying to stop the intrusive thoughts from coming back which can sometimes make my brain even more tense and chaotic than it was before.
Once I am calm and present, then I have room to start believing in the imaginary because I’m not bogged down by the weight of my thoughts.
Imagery is so useful to actors and voice artists because it allows you to see what you’re saying.
If you take the following sentence:
Close your eyes, take a few deeps breathes, then start to see the ancient tree roots - is the surface soft and smooth or gnarly and wrinkled? How does that make you feel?
Next notice how the light filters through the trees - perhaps it blinds you sometimes and you have to look away or change the position you’re in?
How is the foliage arranged? How many different colours can you notice?
This is a quick exercise to come back to when you find your imagination is stunted. Then you can start applying this simple exercise to the text you are working with and start creating the images of the world you need to believe in.
The childlike state of playing is one of the quickest ways to help you start believing in the imaginary.
When children play, they are simply pretending to be someone else in a different place/time and they truly BELIEVE that they are.
We can learn a lot from the way children play before they become conscious of themselves. Once you become conscious of yourself, it quickly develops into self-consciousness and this is where ‘the age of not believing’ comes in.
So, it's important for us as performers to throw our self-consciousness out of the window. This is something I have to remind myself to do regularly. It’s the very thing that blocked me in my rehearsal this week.
Some simple techniques to do this are improvisation - the classic ‘Yes and…’ scenario, not blocking or stopping the scene from happening.
Get present! Linking back to my original point, you can’t allow yourself to play the make believe of the scene if you’re thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner.
And focus more on your scene partner, the audience or the other people around you, than on yourself!
I hope you found these tips helpful today! I’m going to leave you with one final quote from Bedknobs and Broomsticks that helps me in times of doubt and self-consciousness:
“You must face the age of not believing
Doubting everything you ever knew
Until at last you start believing
There's something wonderful