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Actors often hear how important it is to be authentic and to give authentic performances. As we’re always busy going about the world seemingly being ourselves, how is it that we need a lesson on authenticity? With the daily bombardment of television, film, music, book and magazine influences, as well as our adaptation to social norms and perhaps emotional scars from the past, it’s actually easy to be swept away from our unique selves.

So how do we clear away the distractions and tap into our true, unadulterated selves? Here are some clues from master acting instructors on authenticity, speaking abstractly, what it looks like and what it does not.

Sanford Meisner

“Your acting will not be good until it is only yours. That’s true of music, acting, anything creative. You work until finally nobody is acting like you.”

“The truth of ourselves is the root of our acting.”

“The greatest piece of acting or music or sculpture or what-have-you always has its roots in the truth of human emotion.”

“The truth of your instincts is the root of your foundation.”

“One can use standard principles and textbooks in educating people for law, medicine, architecture, chemistry or almost any other profession—but not for the theater. For, in most professions, every practitioner uses the same tools and techniques, while the actor’s chief instrument is himself. And since no two persons are alike, no universal rule is applicable to any two actors in exactly the same way.”

Constantin Stanislavski

“The person you are is a thousand times more interesting than the best actor you could ever hope to be.”

“Never allow yourself externally to portray anything that you have not inwardly experienced and which is not even interesting to you.”

“What is important to me is not the truth outside myself, but the truth within myself.”

“Love the art in yourself; not yourself in the art.”

“You’ll never see any two good actors approach a role in the same way.”

“Create your own method. Don’t depend slavishly on mine. Make up something that will work for you! But keep breaking traditions, I beg you.”

Stella Adler

“You have to understand your best. Your best isn’t Barrymore’s best or Olivier’s best or my best, but your own. Every person has his norm. And in that norm every person is a star. Olivier could stand on his head and still not be you. Only you can be you. What a privilege! Nobody can reach what you can if you do it. So do it. We need your best, your voice, your body. We don’t need for you to imitate anybody, because that would be second best. And second best is no better than your worst.”

“Actors today think that being true is being nice, or being some other ‘set’ thing. That is not the truth. That is your miserable habit of boring everybody to death.”

“Actors need a kind of aggression, a kind of inner force. Don’t be only one-sided, sweet, nice, good. Get rid of being average. Find the killer in you.”

“By taking elements you observe in life, you can develop qualities in your acting life that you don’t ordinarily call upon in your personal life.”

Uta Hagen

“We must overcome the notion that we must be regular. It robs you of the chance to be extraordinary and leads you to the mediocre.”

Viola Spolin

“Through spontaneity we are re-formed into ourselves.”

Roy London

One of London’s students, actress Lydia Nicole, studied with him for nine years. “Roy would tell actors all the time: ‘Learn how to be the best vegetable you could be and stop trying to be the whole salad,’” she recalls. “He would always say, ‘Just be the carrot or pick a vegetable. Be that vegetable. And then they’re going to want that vegetable all kinds of ways. But you’ve got to be that vegetable.’”

Moni Yakim

“I would like you to look at your total personality as if it were a jewel. Each facet is necessary to the structure of the polished stone, if the full potential of the gem is to be revealed.”

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