The Actor as Engineer

“I had just finished five years at the College of Building Technology to assure my parents I had a proper profession. At the college, ‘What is wrong?’ was a reasonable question. If cement didn`t bond correctly, we would ask this question, and the tutor`s reply would enable us to make the necessary adjustments. That is what I believed learning a profession to be – acquiring the ability to answer such questions for oneself. When the director had said to me ‘…do this’, she was telling me to ‘do what I show you’ – that is, to put aside my own understanding, and rely on her opinion what was good and bad. (…) Throughout my years of study that followed, it was evident that this ‘technique’ pervaded the acting profession. Acting was subjective, sometimes good, sometimes bad; liked by this tutor, not by that one. I increasingly found that I was in a profession without firm points of reference which could be relied upon every time.


Student: I don`t understand how it works.
Lee Strasberg: Darling, nothing here can be understood. You have to do it.”

Sam Kogan, The Science of Acting

Actors know how to build things. They build things for other people, not for themselves. The things they build fulfill a function for the people they are built for. Actors will do their best to fulfill the desired function as good as possible. They will do so to improve human life. They know how to test things. If things don`t work they will go right from the beginning until they work. Actors have profound technical understanding of what they do and have learned a lot by observing nature and its laws which is the basis for any kind of building things. They have understanding of the basic as well as of the more sophisticated rules that drive human behaviour. They have an immense understanding of the rules that drive human perception and know how to build the machineries that will work on this perception. Actors have a lot of know-how and the drive to understand more and more. They have great tools under their belt and a whole lot more in their toolkit. They are experts. They have high quality standards. They are refined enough to adapt their tools or even to invent new ones for yet unknown tasks. They are workers, they have work ethics and discipline. They are team players.

Isn`t that much more appealing than any kind of genius cult could ever be?