Published on November 30th, 2013 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: Shea Hampton – Author of “TRUST: Acting From Source”
Shea Hampton is the author of TRUST: Acting From Source.
We spoke with Shea to learn more about the book, the importance of truth in the acting process, and her successful career.
Please tell us a little bit about TRUST: Acting from Source and what actors can expect to gain from reading it.
TRUST is about an acting process that has developed over the past 23 years and become Acting from Source. The basic roots go back to the legendary Charles Conrad. It has been challenging to explain something so intangible and intuitive in a way that will allow readers to easily grasp the philosophy. I’m describing a way of being in the work that is all about truth and being present, moment to moment. Because everyone is unique, the process works with each individual in a way that is understandable and personal to them.
When actors read this book I hope they will realize that there are options available to them other than the prevalent analytical approach. I hope they will be inspired to stop thinking their work to death and begin to feel their way through. Learning to trust the innate truth of their instrument.
What can you share about your creative process in developing the book from start to finish?
This is my first book and so there was no format in place. It simply evolved over a ten-year period. I began writing in spurts when I felt the inspiration and the absolute need to put something down before it was lost. My office became littered with post-its and scraps of paper on the things I must include. Eventually I started repeating myself and realized that I had all I needed to complete the book. The process of putting all the pieces together took a very long time. Lots of procrastination and soul searching. Although I can write formally, finding the manner in which I would write a book so important to me was difficult. In the beginning formality won out and everything sounded very pretentious. There were many discarded attempts. Eventually I learnt to write as I would speak and that felt right for me. My actors say they can hear my voice, as though I’m there in the room with them, when they read it. I guess it worked.
Why is truth so important in the acting process?
Truth is the core of what I teach. It’s as important in the acting process as it is in life because ultimately the two are one. The body resonates to truth! It yearns to be in that open and pure state in which it entered the world. If an actor learns to remain present and connected, the emotional truth and life force of the character will play through their instrument, with consistency.
How did you get started in the industry to begin with and how has it changed the most since that time?
I was a late starter. I grew up in England and survival was the driving force. I was an artist in a family that simply could not understand or support any creative ambitions. Canada allowed me the opportunity to be free and finally, at 33, I was able to follow my dreams. I took every course available in Vancouver and it was all theatre oriented. I moved to Toronto to study further and when I returned to Vancouver four years later, a film industry was emerging. Because I’d become a good theatre actor I naively thought I could just take a weekend workshop on acting for film and I’d be ready to go. I was awful! Once the shock wore off I realized it was a totally different medium and I needed to retrain for it. For the next four years I focused on film. I went to L.A. and was so very fortunate to work with Charles Conrad prior to his retirement. Over a ten-year period I studied virtually every methodology existing. Although I dropped most of it, I am glad of the experience because it allows me to understand where actors are coming from.
When I did finally audition it was quite different than it is today. Your agent would call and, as there was no e-mail, you would have to go to their office to pick up sides (if it was a big part) or go ten minutes early and pick them up at the audition. All sessions were producer/director. You were expected to be familiar with the role and to read for the part. No-one memorized as they do here today.
The greatest changes have been in the tremendous advances in technology. Actors are not so dependent on others for their work or opportunities. They are now able to create their own films and web-series, allowing their voices to be heard. Auditions may now be recorded and sent anywhere in the world, in an instant.
What were the biggest challenges for you in creating this book and how did you deal with them?
Probably the biggest challenges were personal ones. At the core of most actors is a wealth of insecurity and I am no different. The whole process of writing a book and presenting it to the world triggered many old issues. I have always taken the time to go inside and work on understanding them, then removing or at least, diluting them. It’s so important to be as clear as possible. If you don’t know who you are, you’re not going to be much good to anyone else. But that’s another process too, one of enlightenment. All my life I have relied upon meditation and the insight I receive to keep me moving forward.
Are there any specific books or authors that have been influential to you so far in your creative journey?
The book that had the greatest impact upon me was The Mystic in the Theatre by Eva Le Gallienne. It’s the story of Eleanora Duse, a truly great theatre actress at the turn of the last century. Duse regarded herself as the instrument through which the creative was channeled. She mastered letting go of self and allowing the character. This book and this woman resonated very deeply with me.
Besides TRUST: Acting from Source, what other projects are you working on these days that you would like to highlight and where can we find out more about you?
I am planning to continue my “Spirit in the Work” one-day workshops next year. This is a day that combines meditation and walking the labyrinth, along with cold reads and camera work. It’s essentially to teach the actor what it feels like to be centred and to go deeper before they do creative work. I am also considering workshops in other cities.
For more information on me and how I work go to my website: SheaHampton.com