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Truth: Personas, Needs, and Flaws in Building Actors and Creating Characters

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Overview

Like all great performers, Nicole Kidman approached her role in The Hours as a creative collaboration. Kidman knew that portraying Virginia Woolf on screen required a truth that she as the actor and Wolff as the character shared. Enter acting "alchemist" and "technician of the spirit" (The New Yorker) Susan Batson. Batson's process gave Kidman the tools to find that truth and honed her performance from the inside out. She won an Oscar® for her work.

In Truth, the most sought after acting guru in Hollywood and on Broadway distills her half century's experience as an actor, teacher, and personal coach into a step by step process for creating a character from first read–through to final performance.

Debunking a century's worth of myths about "method acting," Batson identifies the unifying forces of Need, Public Persona, and Tragic Flaw to unite the actor with his or her character. Need is the primal, unfulfilled desire that a character's Public Persona hides. Tragic Flaw is the confrontational dramatic behavior that erupts when the character's Need and Public Persona clash. Truth shows how actively defining and understanding these three principals leads to the most truthful performances possible.

A must-read for beginning actors, a wake-up call for working actors, and an indispensable reference for writers, Truth reveals the inner game of telling stories and creating vivid, three–dimensional life out of words.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590710531
  • Publisher: Rugged Land, LLC
  • Publication date: 2/6/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 301
  • Product dimensions: 6.45 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Batson and her New York and Los Angeles based Black Nexxus acting school have been profiled in the New Yorker, the New York Times, Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, and Backstage. A protégé of theater legends Joe Papp and Harold Clurman, Batson is a member of the Actor's Studio. Her work on stage was recognized with a New York Drama Critics Award, an LA Drama Critics Award, and an Obie.

As a coach, Susan Batson has consulted with actors Nicole Kidman, Juliet Binoche, Tom Cruise, Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Connolly, Liv Tyler, and director Spike Lee. She was a producer of the hugely successful Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun, starring Sean Combs.

Susan Batson was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts and now makes her home in Manhattan.

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Table of Contents


Introduction   Nicole Kidman
Prologue
The Need, Public Persona, and Tragic Flaw
The Circle     01
The Face     09
The Public Persona     13
The Need     17
The Tragic Flaw     21
The Actor
The Instrument     32
Child's Play     45
The Journey of the Need     51
Sense Memory     75
Personalization     85
The Sensory Condition     95
The Fourth Wall     101
Objects: Lost and Found     115
The Private Moment     121
The Character
The Character History     131
The Character Private Moment     143
The Character Phone Call     151
The Animal     159
Place of Defeat     169
The Character Interview     179
The Script
The "Classic CS"     193
The Script Breakdown     207
The Sides     215
The Life
On Improvisation     233
The Real World     237
Gold Dust     245
Ex-Er Actor     257
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 3, 2008

    No More Acting Gurus Please!

    I wonder what Adele Thane would think of Ms Batson's combination of psychotherapy and "laying on of hands"? (I was in Miss Thane's theatre too). Note Batson's stable of stars: Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise, Chris Rock, Madonna, and Sean Combs--among other worthies. Imagine any of them in a play? Try hard--people went to see Nicole Kidman take off her clothes on stage in "The Blue Room"; Sean Combs almost single-handed dragged down all the other performances in the stage revival of "Raisin in the Sun." Madonna in "Speed the Plow"? --if you sat beyond the second row you wouldn't have known she was in the scene. Ms Batson talks about the dreaded "personality"--hmm what do all of her charges have in common? Could they be Hollywood STARS? She retails the anecdote about the hours of "the work" she and Nicole Kidman put into a multi-page monologue during "Eyes Wide Shut." After the crew applauded, Kubrick said "great--wrong movie." In short, all that "work" was irrelevant to the performance. Not to Kidman, of course, to her it was vital. This sums up the speciousness of this whole approach. This self-indulgent, internalized, aesthetic masturbation matters only to the cult of true believers who write checks to their guru and then feel better about themselves-as-artists. Of course it also matters to the guru who cashes the checks and then reigns over the "artist." Really though, this is not much different from what a personal trainer does, or dietician, or any other of the hangers-on who latch on to movie folk. Batson claims that she is more necessary than ever because filmmakers have no time for rehearsal--that's because movie makers know what they are doing and what they are working with--a product made by an industry. Stop and think dear reader: this is a disquisition on the art of acting from a coach who prides herself on having helped Chris Rock achieve his performance in "I Love My Wife." I do not mean to imply that it is easy to perform such roles or to say that these performers do not do good work. I only ask that we recognize that there are only two things that matter in a performance: can the audience see it and can they hear it. To talk about any kind of internal craft with screen acting is nonsense. Pudovkin demonstrated that in the first and to date only valid study of film acting technique--back in the silent era. He famously demonstrated that an actor's facial expression could be made irrelevant when the director cuts away from the actor and contextualizes the actor's emoting. Batson's own proud rehearsal of Nicole Kidman's "work" on her monologue in "Eyes Wide Shut" demonstrates Pudovkin's point too. One doesn't have to bring up Shakespeare or Sophocles to reveal the theatrical worthlessness of all this regurgitation of Strasberg. Read what David Mamet has to say about trying to perform a "role" as if it were a person. A playwright does not create a human being; a playwright creates a function of the play's plot or theme. Madonna no doubt felt wonderful after she was "putty" in Batson's hands and that is wonderful for Madonna. It means nothing to the script she was performing or the audience who had to watch her. Batson's book is irrelevant to the theatre and to art, but rates FIVE-STARS as a self-esteem manual.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2007

    Truth: Personas, Needs, and Flaws in Building Actors and Creating Characters

    Susan Batson's book 'Truth' is amazing! It is the best book on acting available today. Ms. Batson follows a long line of prodigious acting teachers, Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meisner, breaching today's world with an amazing grasp of the technique of acting and its history. Her mastery of the craft of acting is genius. She is the ONE modern teacher to follow if your dream is to work in the world today as an actor. This book is a revelation on the craft of acting and creating characters. Susan is a master teacher with a firm hold on the jugular of today's film world. Susan is behind some of modern cinema's most truthful performances. She is the creative force behind a power house acting studio, Black Nexxus, located in LA and New York. Buy it and change your life!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2007

    Truth: Personas, Needs, and Flaws in Building Actors and Creating Characters

    Susan Batson's book 'Truth' is amazing! It is the best book on acting available today. Ms. Batson follows a long line of prodigious acting teachers, Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meisner, breaching today's world with an amazing grasp of the technique of acting and its history. Her mastery of the craft of acting is genius. She is the ONE modern teacher to follow if your dream is to work in the world today as an actor. This book is a revelation on the craft of acting and creating characters. Susan is a master teacher with a firm hold on the jugular of today's film world. Susan is behind some of modern cinema's most truthful performances. She is the creative force behind a power house acting studio, Black Nexxus, located in LA and New York. Buy it and change your life!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2007

    will transform you, your actor and your life dramatically

    This book written by the master of the acting craft is a true work of art in itself. Susan Batson, in her extraordinary brilliance and insight clearly and boldly breaks down her deep, intimate, and powerful process that can guide readers to the highest levels of the craft and most truthful performance possible. IT IS A MUST FOR ALL AS IT HAS BEEN FOR COUNTLESS CELEBRITIES-- LEADING THEM TO THE OSCAR PODIUM! Susan's wisdom radically enlightens the spirit and subsequently enables a depth and richness unimaginable in your acting work.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2007

    The Best Acting Book Available

    Finally a book on acting that emphasizes finding truth in your work based on an inward journey and discovery of the human condition and emotional spectrum. The focus here is on detailed preparation and knowledge about one's self, the foundations of building a character and not purely 'acting' on stage or on film, but of bringing life to your work! This book encompasses how to go about finding every aspect of what you, the actor, can bring to the table, along with easy to follow yet detailed guidelines for building a real life character and dissecting a script. Susan Batson has provided anyone concerned with the human condition an irreplaceable addition to their bookshelf.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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