One of the concepts which has come up again and again in training has been “returning.” And I’ve found that it’s the most powerful concepts and applies to everything from meditation to the spiritual life to exercise routines to… almost all human activities. But it is an essential concept in acting.
Essentially it’s this: whenever you get disconnected in a scene, reconnect. And when it keeps happening in a scene, you just reconnect again. And again. And again. And, as you keep doing it, you keep getting better at it.
There are various things that can help you reconnect efficiently: Sensory awareness and putting your focus on your physical senses (and away from your thoughts); thinking of your need in the scene and how that shows up physically in your body; reminding yourself of what your character/you care about in the scene and then placing that need entirely in your scene partner.
But the underlying idea is this: no actor is every 'fully connected’ for an entire scene, much less an entire play (that can happen sometimes, but it’s a minor miracle when it does).
Rather, being a good actor is precisely this skill: learning how to reconnect when you’ve become disconnected. Returning. Always returning.
Not getting in your head about what a screw-up you are, or why didn’t you do your homework on the scene better, or are your teachers judging you, or how you wish the scene was going, or your favorite part in the scene three lines ahead, but just returning. Again. And again. And again.
Returning until your brain and your mind start to give up on their distracting tactics a little bit and you come back to the present with force and power and freedom.
Now, there are lots of ways to prepare for this work. Warming up in the morning helps quiet the mind and helps you be present. Knowing the scene extremely well helps you have confidence in your understanding of what the ‘event’ of the scene it.
But the basic skill remains: returning. Always returning to the present moment. Always beginning again.