Physics believes that at the root of all matter is energy.
That means we are energy.
Like the bars of a cellphone, our energy goes up and it goes down.
We know when we have it and when we don’t.
We can manipulate our energy with chemicals. Ex. nicotine, coffee, alcohol, etc.
And we can manipulate it with our thoughts.
We can focus our energy to accomplish goals and can focus it to exert specific force.
Emotions are a form of energy. We feel the energy of emotion.
Joseph Campbell, the famed mythologist, was in his classroom at Sarah Lawrence College. He was put to the task to explain consciousness. He paused in thought. He looked up, supposing to find inspiration and he found it–there in the lights. He said that you can look at that light and say, “the light is on”, meaning the bulb itself, the vehicle of the illumination. Or you can say that “the light is on”, meaning the illumination itself.
Which are you? Do you identify yourself with the body or the illumination, the energy?
Acting is a very specific release and exchange of energy.
While acting, I need something and I am trying to effect the other person on stage to get what I want. I am releasing my energy onto the other person so that they are impacted by it, so that they feel it. They, hopefully, are allowing themselves to be vulnerable to this energy and be impacted by it. In turn, they transfer release of their own energy, effecting the first person. When actors are feeding and sending energy back and forth like this, this is called threading. This makes up part of good acting.
Let’s say there are 100 people in the audience. They are each coming from different experiences, having each lived their individual day. Some are feeling good, others perhaps a little ill. Some people are excited and bubbly. Their energy shifts with their thoughts. They are probably thinking about their own lives or others. Each of these audience members sit together.
When they enter, they are varied energies. With a good performance, they can become a unified or collective energy. This is the reason, I believe, that most go to plays, films and sports games. They want to experience and feel together, a unified body of people, of energy, if only for a short period of time.
Acting and Audience Intersection:
The actors are backstage. They might imagine what happened just before the scene they are about to enter. They think about who they are communicating with and what they need from them. They think of consequences. What happens if I don’t get what I need? Something bad, no doubt.
In this process, this actor is shaping their energy. When done very effectively, they can walk on stage and give the illusion of being in another time and space and the audience will suspend disbelief.
It is the actors’ jobs to take the sporadic and individual energies of the audience and then collect them into a unit, a whole. When the master performers say laugh, the audience does so. When they say cry, the collective feels together.
Want to experience your energy?
A Game: Clap your hands in a vigorous fashion for about a minute. Next cup them over one another, as though an invisible golf ball were between your hands. Slowly begin to pull your hands apart.
What do you feel? Likely, you feel heat. What is heat? Energy.
Clap your hands again for another minute. Cup them again in the same way as before. Focus your mind on the space between your palms and slowly pull your hands apart. Then bring them back together, very slowly at first. Bounce your hands as though the golfball were between them.
What do you feel?
Very often, when one does this, they will feel a sort of magnetic pull, as though two magnets were pushing away from each other. They might feel a ball of heat between their hands.
If you are able to feel this sensation, very, very slowly enlarge the ball. Keep your mind’s eye focused on the center point of energy between your hands.
This is your chi.
Your chi is your life energy.
This energy can be better understood and developed.
Jim Hart is the founder and Rektor of The International Theatre Academy Norway.