What in the world is the Magic "If"?
The Magi... (okay that rainbow thing is just getting annoying...) The Magic "If" is an acting tool devised by Constantin Stanislavsky, the great grand-daddy of modern acting technique, as a trick to get inside of the world of the play and the head of the character. It basically goes like this: the actor asks himself the question, "What If I were in this situation?" This leads to other questions, "How would it make me feel?" "How would I react?" By asking himself these questions the actor is placing himself into the world of the play and the current situation. This idea may seem very simple, but it is that very simplicity that makes it so effective.
But Mike, who cares how "I" would react? I'm playing a character remember?
Yes imaginary student I made up to ask that question, you are completely correct! When students first explore the Magic "If" we ask them to use themselves as the character because it is much simpler to imagine, once the actor gets comfortable with this technique they can add a second layer. "What If I were this character, in this situation?" Now the important thing to remember here is that the "I" is still included. Every character you play, no matter how different they are from you should have some piece of you in them. This is a requirement to making believable characters, even for the best character actors who seem to lose themselves completely in their performances the core still has to come from the actor himself.
The Magic "If" is a great tool for both the new and experienced actor to place themselves in the world of the play, and in the shoes of their character. It is a wonderful starting point for any exploration of a role and should be in every actor's bag of tricks.
Well, that's it for this week, stop in next Sunday for another Weekly Acting Tip!