Whenever someone tries to achieve something in the world outside of themselves, they will use the following sequence of modes: Action, Response and Thought.
Actioning is an individual’s attempt to affect someone else in pursuit of an Objective, often detailed using Action Verbs (Transitive Verbs). The A.R.T. System deals with Actioning extensively, with many of the exercises being outlined in the book.
A person’s search for Response is their assessment of the impact of the Action on the other person. Response is regarded as an essential component in the system and is explained, with exercises, in detail in the book.
The final component of the sequence is Thought; the person must now decide what their next Action should be.
|Action||Do something to achieve your Objective|
|Response||Observe the difference made by this Action|
|Thought||Calculate what the next Action should be|
This may seem incredibly obvious and unnecessarily pedantic, but actors will all too often concentrate so fully on Actioning that the Response and Thought phases are neglected.
One may imagine that Thought is invisible, but this is not the case at all.
If you visit a friend it is easy to tell that they have something on their mind which is troubling them, even if they are trying incredibly hard to hide it. We may not be able to ‘read’ the exact detail of what they are thinking but we can often judge the importance and, to some degree, the personal impact of those Thoughts.
For the actor it is not enough to ‘pretend’ to think, because humans, and this includes the audience, are incredibly good at reading the Thoughts of others; the actor must really think, and decisions must really be made. Every line spoken, each Action made by the actor, should be driven by a Thought. It doesn’t matter how quick and fleeting the Thought is, but if it is not present the line will lack a layer of truth.
Much of the truth of our experience of the relationships between people happens outside of the words which are spoken; there is as much in the silence of Response and Thought as there is in the Action of the lines. We see the words of a script as the main bulk and substance of the complete event, but if we look at the words as a product of Response and Thought then they are merely symptoms of a larger structure.
Every line, or Action, is driven by a Thought; it is as if the Thought is a stone thrown into a pond and the words are the ripples generated. The real substance here is composed of Thought. The text is merely the articulation of that Thought as a route to achieving an Objective.
A Shakespearean soliloquy is a good example of how the Thought is in fact the root of the text. The writer is using text to allow the audience to experience the Thoughts of the character. In reality the soliloquy would have no words and will be entirely composed of Thought.
Each mode of the A.R.T. sequence is different and can be practised separately, with each lending a different dimension to the drama within a scene. Once an actor is comfortable with the system, switching between modes is automatic and the Thoughts, Actions and Responses may be improvised in the moment. The crucial factor is that the Actioning is constantly assessed and reviewed just as it is in real life, that this Response gives rise to Thought and that Thought is allowed to ‘drive’ the lines.
The A.R.T. System introduces an entirely fresh approach to Feelings and Emotion, so often regarded as the mystical ‘Holy Grail’ of quality performance. This fresh approach is based on the most current psychological theory and simplifies what many regard as a minefield of confusion in the world of actor training,
‘Introduction to the A.R.T Acting System’ is a step by step guide to this process with over 20 exercises to help students and teachers alike, including The Shop Game, which is great fun to play and which gives the participants a thorough grounding in Actioning.