Acting: The Development- The Art, The Craft

The Craft of Acting Is Timeless

The circumstances of David’s acting were quite different from the craft of acting used in modern drama. Despite the unemployment rate in Actor’s Equity, survival for an actor today is not to be compared with the issue of survival David faced in his command performance before the King of Gath. Yet, in essence, David’s brilliant acting is very much the same craft which our theatre students wish to excel in today.
Yes, David’s acting is essentially the same craft as that used today, and as that used at the beginning of time by Satan. Perhaps acting still seems tainted due to Satan’s effective use of it, however Jesus’s words in Matthew 10:16 should give us some insight here. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.” The startling contrast here denotes and connotes more than “keep your wits about you.” “Shrewd” has as much of a negative connotation to it as “crafty” does according to Webster’s. The contrast of Christ’s command is so extreme that it becomes a paradox, for the dove is as strong a symbol for the Holy Spirit as the serpent is for Satan and sin. Obviously Christ is not commanding his disciples to be innocent yet to deceive. Rather he is exhorting them to exercise effective communication techniques and enough common sense not to fall for the tricks and traps of their critics. David used the most effective communication mode for his situation. The craft of acting is a powerful communication medium which is why David used it and that is why Satan still uses it. He excels at taking good things and using them for evil just as he took the fruit of a tree created by God which was pronounced “good” and used it in his con game to betray Adam and Eve into his power sphere.
The craft of acting is not tainted because Satan used it first nor because it is a tool of con men. It is a valid and a sophisticated form of communication which God gave us as part of our natural behavioral makeup.

Learning Control in the Craft of Acting

Children love to pretend! We do not call their pretend play the craft of acting, but it fits our definition. Occasionally, like student actors perfecting their craft, they tend to confuse their pretend world with the actual world resulting in someone getting banged over the head during a “castle” assault. Children, like student actors, must learn control. Adults must intervene and clear up misunderstandings and reinforce their discernment between the pretend and the actual world. Learning control means keeping this discernment always active. With our two boys my wife and I would reinforce their discernment something like this when Dan was pretending to be a baby warthog.

  • Dan Oink, oink. (or whatever)Mom What are you, Danny?
    Dan Oink, I’m a baby warthog.
    Mom Are you really a baby warthog?
    Dan (out of character for an instant and rather condescending) No, I’m Danny.
    Mom Well it sure is fun to pretend. What do you want me to do?
    Dan (back in character) You find me under a thorn tree and I’ve lost my mother…
  • Or sometimes a child will try characterization to get out of a responsibility. This of course must never be allowed: creativity does not supercede accountability in the actual world.
    For example Scott may be pretending to be a dinosaur when he is supposed to be picking up blocks.

  • Dad Come on Scott, clean up the blocks.Scott (begins picking up blocks with his mouth making dinosaur noises)
    Dad Quit pretending to be a dinosaur. You can’t get out of your responsibility that way. It is clean up time.
  • Creative, pretend play which involves the craft of acting begins very early in child development. Yet the discernment between the pretend and actual worlds, between the self-image and the pretend character, must be learned. If a child, like an actor, has a weak self-image and low self-worth then some pretend character traits might be a shield that is rarely laid aside. Obviously the antidote is to improve the child’s (or actor’s) self-image and self-worth, not an easy task.
    Given children who have healthy, developing self-images it is easy for them to learn to continually discern between the pretend and actual worlds. When someone gets carried away defending “the castle” and knocks an attacker, the solution is not to ban play which has anything resembling physical conflict, but rather to stress and enforce his accountability to the actual world, i.e. to a playmate’s health

    The Craft of Acting and Imagination

    Once a child understands the difference between real and pretend it becomes tremendously freeing and creative play flourishes. Inhibiting self-consciousness (stage fright) disappears because the child realizes his/her self-image is not tied to the characterizaton or to the activity. Once the world of the pretend opens up, the sky’s the limit and imagination blossoms. Even characterizations of bad guys can be played with
    great gusto and without harm as long as the total tenor of the play remains positive. In fact I believe it is even healthy in this context because understanding of evil motives can be explored. The imaginative pretend play of a child is much of what makes childhood a vibrant, celebration of life itself. Imaginative play – the world of the pretend which the craft of acting is a part – expands the imagination beyond the immediate or the obvious. It is the place where the impossible can be explored.

    The Craft of Acting and Emotions

    Imagination for both kids and adults is of critical importance for not only can the macro-world be explored, but so can the micro-world, the world within a person. Deep fears, joys, emotions, and feelings can be vented, explored and communicated. It is crucial, I believe, for parents to be aware of this and even create situations in which this venting occurs. Young children’s pretend play after a crisis will often reflect what was going on in their emotions. If only adults were so uninhibited. If we are lucky we have nightmares, if not so lucky, high blood pressure. There is a role for drama therapy here. Pretend role playing which necessarily utilizes the craft of acting can help us discover the health of our subconscious. Certainly to know oneself and not to hide “skeletons” in the “closet” of the subconscious is important in order to be wholly honest in any relationship with others, God in particular.

    The Craft of Acting and Faith

    God and his kingdom here on earth in us must be imagined for faith to make the transition from the written Word to the living Word. Yes, we must obey, but “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” approach can all too easily become legalistic and joyless. An uninhibited imagination stimulated by the Word and accustomed to the unlimited world of the pretend can much more readily fathom the warmth and joy of the personal relationship with Christ. The “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1) is based on more than intellectual knowledge, the joy comes with tasting it and owning it!
    The concepts of pretend, imagination, and faith are at times inseparable. Peter J. Kreeft in his excellent bookHeaven, the Heart’s Deepest Longing, says the heart’s intuition can be “pretend” and “real” together as we look at Christ through the eyes of a child.{11} Our imagination which has been stretched and trained by the pretend becomes the receptor of a reality “that surpasses knowledge – that [we] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God…who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us…” (Eph. 3:19-20) The imagination is the raw human stuff of the heart which must be stimulated by the Word and inspired by the Holy Spirit.

    To ascend the sky of reason we must become hard: doubting, critical, endlessly testing and proving. We need hard heads but soft hearts. Here in the depths [of our hearts desires] our strength is our softness. We must become little children, for only a little child is strong enough to open the greatest gate, the gate of the Kingdom of Heaven.{12}

    What strength does a little child have that enables him to open the gate of the Kingdom of Heaven – imagination accustomed to the unlimited world of the pretend. Certainly such an imagination has already thought of the Person who forgives, understands, always accepts and loves and whose home is a place where there is no sickness, abuse, pain, or hunger.

    God and the Craft of Acting

    If acting is, as I believe, a high form of communication and a universal form of human behavior then could not God utilize acting too in that He created humans in His own image? God displays acting through His prophet Nathan in II Samuel 12:1-13
    when he confronted David with his sin of adultery and murder. The detail, feeling and imagery of Nathan’s story was essential to make David believe it to be a true account. Before the conviction of the Holy Spirit could take place David, the shepherd, had to emotionally identify one hundred percent with the poor man. Feeling one’s offense from the victim’s point of view is a must for repentance.
    David’s response in verses 5-7 is not words of intellectual agreement; he is furious at a specific individual and swears an oath in God’s name that justice be carried out. His heart and spirit were aroused for justice and righteousness, and WHAM!, Nathan convicts him with his oath still ringing in his ears. What a marvelous example of drama therapy. Did the world of pretend blend with the actual world here?
    God displays acting through Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers in Genesis 42:6ff. Joseph’s accusations and harshness were tools of conviction used by the Holy Spirit in 42:21. In this way the brothers in effect confessed their sin by acknowledging their guilt from their victim’s point of view. Joseph’s role playing of the tough Egyptian and his carefully calculated threats which were delivered in a most fearful manner also brought his brothers to the point of repentance. By upping the ante in framing Benjamin (Gen. 44:1-13), a selfless response was demanded of the brothers which they rose to by Judah offering himself as a substitute for Benjamin. The old brotherly envy was broken – repentance had been accomplished and it was then Joseph knew intuitively to reveal his identity.
    God displays acting, drama therapy if you will, personally in His command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22:1-19. I maintain in this incident that God never intended for Isaac to be sacrificed but that He very much intended for it to appear to Abraham that his son’s sacrifice was required. God acted! Abraham’s incredible trust in God’s character, not the circumstances, set an example for all time. God drove home the point to Abraham (and hopefully for all of us) that if nothing is held back from God, He will hold nothing back from us: that “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39). Thus Abraham’s response enabled God to bless his descendants so fully that “all nations on earth will be blessed” through them. The craft of acting was the most appropriate mode of communication for God to reveal, and strengthen Abraham’s faith.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *