An actor and a friend whom I've been coaching for over a decade, Cyril Guei, once shared a profound insight that continues to resonate with me to this day. He commended my willingness to admit, "I don't know," emphasising how it fosters an environment where I am receptive to each actor's unique approach to acting.
For me, embracing the unknown has been a personal journey filled with challenges. During my time in drama school, my acting teacher and spiritual mentor Nellie Karra passionately rebuked me for my inclination to draw premature conclusions. Breaking free from this conditioning was not easy, as my mind was accustomed to analysing based on what I had observed, leading to fixed conclusions.
Nevertheless, with persistence, I discovered the delight that unfolds when I surrender to the unknown. Both as a human being and a coach, I found profound vulnerability in this state. This vulnerability allowed me to delve into meaningful questions about myself, life, and the communities I engage with.
Embracing the conscious state of "I don't know" creates an open space that welcomes the new, the fresh, and the unimaginable. By acknowledging "I don't know," we unlock a world of possibilities, enriching our craft and our existence.
Over my years of experience, I have witnessed the profound beauty and unexpected insights that emerge when we dare to consciously dive into the unknown. These responses, ideas, and impulses often originate from a deeper place within us. And when it comes to acting, I have witnessed incredible performances from actors who find the strength and peace required to be fully present and free with themselves, allowing their acting to emanate from this liberated state. Indeed, this is when subconscious activity comes into play.
The invitation here is to embark on an experimental journey, embracing the state of "I don't know." And to explore observing what unfolds when we approach situations in acting and in life with curiosity, rather than rushing to make conclusions or responding prematurely. Here is one golden tip that has saved me a lot of time and tones of unnecessary tension: When uncertainty arises in conversations with colleagues, friends, or partners, we can always ask, "What do you mean?", and we can be present with our inner stillness and with their response, rather than rushing to respond or imposing our opinions.
The state of "I don't know" has been a guiding principle throughout the recent two-week residency I just completed in Crete with a wonderful group of international actors. In my next article, I will share the second part of my diary, focusing on the insights and experiences from the residency.
Until then, I don’t know..