Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Acting and Science: A Correlation

cdivo39's picture

Acting/the work of an actor or actress, which is a person in the theater, television, film, or any of the storytelling mediums who tells the story by portraying a character and usually speaking or singing the written text or play.

Science/a systematic enterprise of gathering knowledge about nature and organizing and condensing that knowledge into testable laws and theories.

As a teacher and actor, I never once thought of the correlations between acting and science until this institute.  I know that acting is a form of communication as is all of the theater arts, but having gone down this inquiry based road for the past three weeks, I'm seeing things in a different light.  Communication stems from many things.

Science tells a story and in that story there isn't any truth, there is a summary of observations that keeps changing.  Unlike acting which also tells a story, but in this case a truth has to be reached in order to bring the audience to an emotional peak.  Of course we have to remember that acting is creative and a form of art where many liberties are taken which will not always correlate and agree with science.  I tell my students to always think about what they are doing until they are unconsciously doing something else that I didn't tell them.  In other words, I'm just now realizing that all of the input that I, the playwright, or any outside source has provided them with, should become 'natural' output which to my mind equals truth. And since 'input' is ambiguous and subject to multiple interpretations, we could say that any type of input wherever it may come from could be thought of as a form of 'technique' for the actor.

Since there are many schools of acting such as The Method and the Stanislavski technique, each of these techniques requires various inputs in order to ascertain certain outputs. For example: the Method requires that one use past life experiences in order to bring forth the required emotions one needs for a character.  Past life experiences could be various inputs one has acquired throughout many years.  These inputs should according to the Method bring about the output or 'truth' needed for the character.  I don't subscribe to all of these techniques. I've always told my students that talent is innate and something that one is born with. The more you use your talent the better you will become with it if your lucky (inquiry activity).  There are certain techniques used in science and acting.  Some may be helpful and some may not.

Acting requires conversation and dialogue.  It is ever changing and sometimes improvised.  It's planning goes right and many times goes wrong.  An actor is also an Empirical inquirer; he can learn by interacting with the outside world and his fellow actors. He doesn't always think, but is many times, random in his speech and movement, ergo, science. Here is, I think an example of a few of the subjects we've discussed in this institute ( inner dialogue, storytelling, optical illusions, the nervous system).

Science and acting are ongoing processes. I tell my student's young and old that in order to create believable characters, one has to understand themselves and the human psyche.  What is the human psyche but the conscious and the unconscious battling it out! There is a book entitled The Science of Acting by Sam Kogan in which he poses the question: How can an actor understand a character if he doesn't understand himself?  He uses the relationship between neuroscience, his theories, and psychology to answer this questions.  Also he presents the reader with an understanding of the subconscious and how it can be applied to acting.  Here is an example of the conscious and the unconscious communicating.


In acting, as in science, actors are constantly evolving, making new observations, and trying things out without knowing whether they will work or not.  Isn't this a a type of reflective learning?  When an actor has a revelatory moment of truth we can look at that as a 'aaahhhhaaaaa' moment. These are examples of  two 'aaahhhhhaaa' moments that were unscripted.


Acting affects theater and theater affects culture and vice versa.  Science is a process of creating a new understanding.  Actors as storytellers have the power to do that also.  Science is not objective but creative, like acting.  Both are ever changing - new ideas, thoughts, theories and processes are constantly taking place and creating new stories.  This is very much the case watching an actor give several performances in a play.  No one performance is the same as another. The story is told but in a different way every night.



There are many correlations between acting and science that are visible to me now that weren't before.  Hopefully, I can take back to my students everything that I have learned in this institute about communication/conversation and all of it's brothers and sisters and apply it to their talents as actors and as individuals.  After all Shakespeare said it best when he said, "All the world's a stage and the men and women in it merely players."