Each of us plays many roles in a day. We might be parents, lovers, employees, business owners, volunteers, artists, have hobbies, etc. Throughout this day, we put on various personalities or personality forms. They are called archetypes.
These same characters that we shift in and out of, without effort or awareness, are the same characters found in the stories people tell, the stories they have always told. The archetypes that are the casts of characters of movies, novels, fables, fairy tales, short stories, etc. are the same ones that our within us. All of these characters are qualities of the human condition. Each person has each of these archetypes within them, the potential for each.
At some point, we have all been mentors. A mentor in this case is someone who shares knowledge with another, who knows less than them. Each of us has, no doubt, played Care Giver. Each of us has both the potential for good and bad. We each have a light side and a dark side. Each of us has potential of the Shadow.
Your life is a story and when you are gone, people may tell about your life story. It has a beginning, middle and end and is filled with drama, just like any good tale. You are the hero of this story. After all, who else would be? We are talking about your life.
Every other person is living their life story. As we interact with each other, we assume these archetypal roles for each other. Strangers are enacting archetypes in your daily life, just as you are doing in their lives.
This is a great example of art and life truly imitating each other. People watching stories that mirror the experience of their existence, which they created. Again and again.
As archetypes are present in stories and plays, an understanding of these archetypes can help one better understand how to tell a story or act in one, in the case of theatre or film. A traditional actors’ job is to help effectively tell the story of the author. Each character in a well written piece is a function in the telling of the story. Their character and circumstance exist, as they help further the storyline–whether aiding the hero or steering them off course.
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts…”
“Schopenhauer, in his splendid essay called “On an Apparent Intention in the Fate of the Individual,” points out that when you reach an advanced age and look back over your lifetime, it can seem to have had a consistent order and plan, as though composed by some novelist. Events that when they occurred had seemed accidental and of little moment turn out to have been indispensable factors in the composition of a consistent plot. So who composed that plot? Schopenhauer suggests that just as your dreams are composed by an aspect of yourself of which your consciousness is unaware, so, too, your whole life is composed by the will within you. And just as people whom you will have met apparently by mere chance became leading agents in the structuring of your life, so, too, will you have served unknowingly as an agent, giving meaning to the lives of others, The whole thing gears together like one big symphony, with everything unconsciously structuring everything else”.
As art does mirror life and vice versa, this makes for a great tool in the process of creating art.
Knowing that certain experiences are universal, that certain qualities and characters will resonate with nearly all, it makes sense that to create with this in mind, one’s art might have a universal appeal.
In terms of acting technique, if one has a deep understanding of archetypes, one can act a play more effectively. They will know their character’s function and play it well. They will understand what their archetype is and, consequently, its typical fears, desires and potential for transformation. As a result, their experience in building a character can possess great depth. This technique is part of The Hart Technique.
For more on archetypes, CLICK HERE.
Jim Hart is the founder and Owner of The International Theatre Academy Norway, in Oslo, Norway.