In the past, acting education would have you go into your past to dredge up the appropriate emotion and substitution (Strasberg), go into your imagination to create emotion (Adler), endow objects with emotional weight (Hagen), etc. I find that if it works out for you, then have at it.
Old master painters also used to spend months and weeks on almost photo-realistic paintings. Writers would labor intensely to find just the exact word or phrase. Dancers would spend years at the barre and musicians would cut their teeth on the most challenging classical compositions. All well and good and admirable.
Modern Art, Modern Dance and Rock and Roll seems to have changed the urgency and immediacy that we want from our art.
I have always found that the Universe, or Spirit, tends to give me roles that directly correspond to where I am at any given moment in my life. Looking back over my scene work as an actor and my professional acting work – I can now see how the roles that I was working on directly corresponded to where I was in my life.
I feel that part of our job as actors is to see what we are working out physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually with each opportunity that we have to work – whether it be an audition, a class scene or a movie/television/stage job. What can you heal in yourself? If we, as an audience witness you REALLY working your process; we can’t help to be healed vicariously. Be a detective. Explore, look inside and ask Spirit – why was I given this opportunity today. Right now. In this moment. What is present for me? What are my issues? How can I use this character to heal myself? What have I got to substitute for this event? Some days I feel like chocolate ice cream. Sometimes, only peach will do.