WHAT IS BEATTM
Beck Emotional Access Technique (or BEAT for short) is a method acting approach to training actors developed by founder and director of the Actors Door Studio, Fay Beck.
Combined with her academic background in philosophy and psychology, Fay used what she had learnt to develop a more nuanced, more integrated and thus truly unique approach to character acting. While holding the techniques of Meisner in high regard, she felt there was room to further expand the boundaries of characterisation she felt were implicit in her own training as an actress.
BEAT is a holistic approach to teaching acting that aims to disengage the actor’s emotional connection to ‘things’ in their own world thus freeing them up to attach those emotions to ‘things’ in the character’s world. By ‘things’ we mean circumstances, objects, places and people. Fay’s technique allows the actor to access emotions that are intrinsic to them, and gives them the tools to apply those emotions to character for the purpose of delivering the story. The technique, while it uses some common exercises in the Meisner Technique, is distinct and foundationally different from it, particularly its understanding of character, emotions, action and purpose.
Instinct begins when technique ends – Fay Beck
BEAT is a fully developed, dynamic and integrated approach to training actors that feels more like a spiritual awakening rather than a method of acting. BEAT actors are able to ‘enter’ character instinctively. This is after-all the goal of the technique. BEAT actors are trained to feel, think, move, sound and feel like the character they seek to embody.
While the approach is based on the pragmatic approach developed by Sanford Meisner, Fay has pioneered a method of acting distinct from that of Meisner’s. BEAT is informed by her studies and research into Neuroscience, Psychology, Philosophy and Psychoanalysis. Certain exercises that one may be familiar with from Meisner’s method, are extended and used differently in BEAT, and for different aims. In a nut-shell, the aim of BEAT is not to train actors so that they regress to an instinctively self, wherefrom they may presumably be able to act truthfully/instinctively. In BEAT the aim is twofold. Firstly to train actors to disengage their instincts and emotions from themselves and the objects that are meaningful to them. Secondly, to train actors to warp, amend, twist and change emotions in a way that is in line with a particular character.
BEAT utilises a set of exercises that are unique such as:
- Repetition with Doings
- ‘Evil’ Repetition
- ‘Twisty’ Repetition
- Character Embodiment
- Guided Emotional Journeys
- Highly specified and complex doings
Ultimately, all you will ever have to do is just learn your lines – Fay Beck
The ultimate aim of the technique is to arrive at ‘mindful instinctiveness’. BEAT trains actors to be able to be able to mindfully harness their emotions just as they experience them. For mindfulness not to interfere with the experience of emotion, both the body (the feeling entity) and the mind (the controlling entity) need to be present. This is a highly advanced skill and requires time to teach and to learn.
To understand what this means in practice, think of the stand-up comedian’s work as they ‘read the room’ during a performance. If the comedian’s previous joke failed to ‘land’, they need to think about how to place the next joke differently so as to avert a disastrous performance. Unlike the stand-up comedian though, the mindful actor will need to do this, just as they remain purely open to feel and react in the moment (on instinctive).
When done right, the acting should appear as seamless as real life, as opposed to performative (unless of course it is required by the style of performance).