"Know thyself" was written on the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Legend tells that the 7 sages of ancient Greece, philosophers, statesmen and lawgivers, who laid the foundation for western culture, gathered in Delphi to inscribe it at the entrance to its sacred oracle.
But "can one know oneself?" questioned the French poet George Sand.
The simple answer is, of course, yes. However, a more pertinent question may be how can I do it or even why should I?
We will consider the how in a subsequent blog but for the moment let's look a little at the why. Why is it significant for actors to discover their true identity?
The answer is split in two parts:
to benefit the actor as a person
True self knowledge and acceptance of who you are begets control and breeds confidence. On a practical level, it establishes a foundation upon which you can pinpoint the type of roles you want to play and the medium in which you want to play them, and in the process shape a 'successful' and fulfilling career.
The work becomes about the work itself and not about impressing people or dreaming of the Hollywood sign while in the middle of a take. The business side of show business becomes more natural.
By identifying and accepting who you are, you will maintain your integrity and save a lot of money on plastic surgery to boot!
to enable an unencumbered exploration of character
If you clearly know yourself there is an obstacle free playing field upon which you can play. It becomes easier to relate to and associate and identify with the strengths and weaknesses of the characters.
Once the similarities are clear you can then determine the characteristics you don't possess and work on them. For example, when playing Napoleon, Cleopatra or Norman Bates you may readily associate with some of their inner life; such as a deep love, an overwhelming sense of duty or hidden secrets fears and doubts. You can then identify and add any which you don't instantly relate to; such as domination of others, megalomania or engaging in extreme violence.
By knowing and being yourself and freely commiting to the excitement of discovering complex characters you will stand out from the crowd because, after all, there is no one else in the world like you!
"'Know thyself' was written over the portal of the antique world," said Oscar Wilde, "over the portal of the New World, 'Be Thyself' shall be written".