New Naturalism is a style of acting that takes dramatic material and presents it in a naturalistic style using actors who have, at their root, experience of working life outside of the traditional theatre world.
These actors have often come to acting later in life, after a career in other sectors, they may have displaced into the profession from careers and jobs in offices, businesses and public oeganisations that they are bored with.
Some are attracted by the glamour of acting and theatre, others by a wish to experience a more creative and artistic life. They bring with them a groundedness, they have stories to tell of the Darwinistic world of competitive business, they have experienced bureaucratic hierarchies, the frustrations and joys of business life. They have hired and fired, been fired and been hired. They have bought and sold. They have learned to talk, to listen, to be in conflict, to get out of conflict, the coach, to advise, to battle and to bore and be bored.
Of course, traditionally trained actors (who I call “thespians” )have experienced some of these things but most of their gaze has been inward, into the profession, into the field of ; they have trained in the skills of acting. While the new naturalists were on team building courses or engaged in trade or politiking, the thesps have been learning fencing or studying mime. They know how to project, how to find a character, how to improvise, how to cry for real or for fake.
Often the new naturalists sees their new naturalism not as a strength but a weakness. They have romanticised the theatre world and feel they are supposed to “act” like “actors” do.
New naturalism occurs where an acting style emerges that is minimal in terms of the “over-dramatic”. It is underplayed rather than overplayed and when intense emotion is expressed, it draws from the pool if real life experience – naturally. Acting becomes a life challenge, like an other life challenge. The play is a life experience.
The new naturalists are hyper-believable on stage because their “skills” on the stage are naturally performend life skills. Good new naturalists also make use of theatre technique – they know how to articulate or project when needed, but these things are not the primary concern. New naturalists have a quieter, more easy charisma born of the pain of life itself. Thespians access this life experience too, but as an acting strategy, not because it is part of their fundamental nature as an actor. A lot of thespians see new naturalists as not talented, muscling in on their already over-crowded territory.
New naturalists use timing, eye contact, pacing, intensity, emotional impact in their work in emergent, spontaneous, “natural” ways. Often good dramatic writing will draw excellent performances out of new naturalists as the authentic realism rises up to meet the well crafted words of a script. Bad writing can magnify new naturalism and cast it down into a bit of bland realism. Powerful dramtic writing can draw the new naturalism out of the new naturalist creating charismatic, powerful performance, often minimalistic in terms of visuals and voice, yet burning with a flame of power and impact.
I am interested in a curriculum of new naturalism, an effective training for the new naturalistic actor, an alternative to the dreadful night class and weekend courses that leave them disappointed and woefully unprepared for the professional acting world, stil largely dominated by the traditional thespian. Your thoughts are welcome.