Learning from "The Actor and the Target" by Declan Donnellan



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"The Actor and the Target" by Declan Donnellan


The book The Actor and the Target by Declan Donnellan is a great book on acting and plays. It tells the real problems faced by the actors and also provides quick and easy ways to overcome those hurdles. It is a great resource for the actors as well as their guide. Donnellan is a world-famous director and gives a radical and fresh approach to acting. He believes that acting is an essential part of the world and there is a need for humans to act and play out the dramas from Greek Tragedy to soap operas.

He also tells that theatre is an essential part of society and it is there to stay as there is a need to act by the actors and by the audience to get played to. The theatre provides actors and others to realize their dreams by playing them. Accordingly, the last theatres will remain until the time while people will have dreams that should be played.

Learning from the book

The author clarifies that learning and acting are natural. Even the baby acts and is acted to. It learns acting and becomes proficient in performing its acts. It is also clear that acting is through paying attention to the details. First, there is an innate ability to act and one keeps acting. Then, the actors pay attention to it and try to learn the process. The author of the book also clarifies that writing about acting is difficult as acting is an art that is not general but is specific. Then, acting is about revealing emotions and truths. We are acting all the time. However, it requires us correctly show our feelings and emotions. The actors are also blocked. They, then, are not able to show themselves fully and express themselves. Acting is circulating in the blood. It needs an outlet to go out and reveal its true extent. Thus, only those actors are good who are not blocked and can quickly show their true acting which is inside. The actors who are blocked cannot express their acting abilities.

It was also learned that there are both visible and invisible parts of acting. The rehearsals and all the preparation are the invisible parts of acting. It results in the visible part of acting which is the performance. The flow of acting depends on the senses and imagination. Senses tell the actor where he or she is and what is the surrounding. They also sense the audience. These senses are not useful until we can imagine the world around us. Then, imagination comes into play and we can perceive things around us. We cannot perform until we have perceived what is expecting of us. Then, the author also identifies that it is us who are impeding our own way. We create darkness in our world which inhibits our abilities to act. Therefore, we must get out of the way to see things clearly in light to act to our fullest.

Actors very often become blocked and then they do not know who are they, what they are doing, and what is their goal. The problem comes in acting when we are not able to relate to the thing that we are performing to or for. Therefore, we must always understand that there is a target out there for whom we are acting. It is also not possible for the actors to become something or the other. Rather, they have to do it. For example, they cannot become happy. Rather, they have to show happiness and what it is like. The actors also have to do a double-take on the things. They have to look at the thing again to grasp its meaning and intent. That is why they have to do it twice. Our target is also specific. For example, a wounded soldier is looking for life. The next breath is a prelude to the achievement of that specific target of life. This target is also constantly changing. It evolves and transforms. Finally, this target is also active and the actor has to change and alter this target (Donnellan, 2005).


It is then clear that the actor and the targets are the two things that go hand in hand for the actor to perform better and the best. The actor has to understand that there is a target. Then, the actor can pursue that target and can see it changing and evolving. The target also has to be dealt with and reacted to. This brings an end to the block that the actor may be facing. Such a block prevents the actor from wearing what he or she is trying to perform. The more he or she tries the less he or she can. This shows the occlusion of senses and a lack of imagination.

This target that the actor is trying to capture could be in the play or outside of it. It could be the hero or villain of the story or a member of the audience who is expecting the actor to play the role. The actor is then an object of this target and is working to please this target. This could be through changing or altering oneself to trying to change the target itself when the actor has seen the need for the change. 

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