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LIFE: An Acting 101 Primer - Acting 101f: Playing the Ending


By Chris McGahan

Ooooeeee, child! It’s fall. That seems like a perfect time of year to talk about the next acting life section: Playing the Ending.

Playing the Ending is when an actor comes onto the playing space already in the emotional state of/or reacting to the world as if we are already at the end of the story. If Juliet already knew she was going to die. If Neo already behaved like he was the One. If Bill and Ted already knew their next journey was going to be Bogus. It changes the world of the play, and you lose your audience. They won’t be invested in a character that isn’t journeying anywhere and you deprive them of the chance to really see you plumb your emotional depths!

On stage and screen, Playing the Ending is death. True story! No good production comes out of an actor telegraphing their ending emotional state. If I walk into a love scene angry, you know there’s going to be a fight. If you start the play already sad about your cat dying at the end of it, the audience has no journey to go on with you. I can’t stress it enough- this ruins plays before they are out of the gate.

But you’re not reading this for me to teach you acting- you want to know about lifey businessy stuff.

In life, Playing the Ending is at it’s most obvious when we get self-defeating and riding the “woe-is-me” train all the way to self-sabotage. So many artists walk into meetings or auditions already “knowing” it is going to go poorly and they let that limiting belief end their audition before it’s even begun. The industry professional you are meeting with isn’t going to want to go on an emotional journey with you if you are already at the end of it, just like the audience doesn’t.

This doesn’t just rear it’s head in meetings and in moments- Playing an Ending of failure can stop even the most talented and capable actor from going out and taking risks.

Now! This ending works in the opposite way too, so be wary of arrogance! By playing an ending of absolute success, artists have just as much potential sabotage along their paths. This hubris can cause you to take preparation and the time to build a business plan far too lightly, leaving you looking amateurish and unprofessional.

So be prepared. And be open. Be in the now, not in the then.

Worried you might already be playing the end of a situation? Schedule a 20 Minute Session with me.  Let’s work together to get you back to the place you actually are!



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