Roach Creative

Media & Film Production

Desperate Identities

It’s entertaining to attend a character party of actors in training. Several years ago a master Meisner coach held a party of 100 plus actors of various skill levels just after Halloween. She brought mastery from her own studies with the legend in New York, which she refined on the West Coast before landing in Austin, Texas.

Every year her students are assigned a character to eventually inhabit from a common theme that changes from year to year. One year it could be movie starts from the 1940’s. Another year it might be writers from the 1950-60’s. The Meisner method involves deep study of the “target’s” life, physical traits, dress, speech, mannerisms, attitudes, biases, significant life events, relationship patterns, etc. Then the process is to improv scenes in character in circumstances loosely defined with other actors. The duration of the improv work is a month, which is typically 4-5 classes plus at least that many rehearsals. A dedicated student spends 10-20 hours a week in self examination to differentiate themself from the target character they’ve been assigned. The final step of this process is to bring the character to life in contrived circumstances of a script with some direction from the master coach during the second month.

So when you see these actors show up at a character party, have a few drinks, eat, socialize, fight, hit on each other and then often get involved in some kind of group activity under the loose guidance of the master, it’s something to behold. If you know the people well, you can see their accomplishments in their craft as well as the failures of actors to close gaps between them and the intended character.

One of the key observations of those who are successful is that they forget who they are supposed to be. They have the ability to relax and be confident in their preparation and let it happen. There’s no, “don’t you know who I am” or force in their vibe. There’s no “you should be doing this or that”, i.e. efforts to exert control over others to validate their own portrayals.

Now in life, any time a group forms, characters assume certain roles naturally. The factors are multifaceted. When the members are new artists, wounded or needing healing, seekers or just bored with their life outside the group, they are extremely suggestible. I’ve seen introductory theater classes where the instructor assigns animals to each student. It’s fascinating to watch new, or even experienced actors with “bad habits”, portray an elephant or a lion or a bear or a snake or a fish. But I believe those who do try should be acknowledged. There is a real risk involved that’s commendable and elicits my empathy. There’s an element of vulnerability and some looseness with their own self identity that’s apparent in such a choice.

Ultimately there are at least four aspects of character: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. I say at least four, because we are constantly evolving and there’s a wide range of human beings on the planet today. That one limited system fits all is simply ludicrous. There’s also the element of maturity. The person who’s been paying attention has learned to pick up on sensations after 30 years of living versus when they were 15 years old.

Systems of optimizing behavior like Dale Carnegie, Anthony Robbins, even Human Design and others, may assign roles and encourage certain behaviors. I’ve even seen Gurdjieff groups do some of this as they evolve over time, interact with each other, even morph occasionally into gaslighting each other. Assigning identities to others and creating a set of “should be rules” for the group, creating an external authority, is the simplifying and natural order.

Having worked intimately with several hundred seekers, artists, actors and even more as an authority, leader in tech/business, my counsel and warning has evolved simply to be aware of your inner talk. The secret is that as soon as you say one of the rules or labels of the system to yourself, you are not operating organically. You are not aligned with who you are. Most likely some shadow work needs to be done. It may take some time.

A saddening disappointment was in discovering that the Robert Allan Krakower system that was rolled out in the 1990’s featured only one of the four components deliberately. Now it might have taken more time and collaboration to bring those other aspects into the system. There were certainly financial pressures and who am I to say? Oversimplifying creates quick sell and appeals to the masses.

However, it does create a primal polarity among those attempting to portray one of the four or five possible roles they are assigned. When the individuals interact from those assignments in social media or even more exposed in groups, inevitably I’ve had people come back to me asking for help to understand what’s missing.

In the absence of the essential components of the complete, mature model of the human being – people do feel pain in these encounters. They’ve often committed to be a lion, for example, when the fact of the matter is they are much more than that. They are in fact a human being with uniqueness, divinity and access to more potential than typically demonstrated by our masses. If you look deeply into the matter, you’ll learn Krakower admitted “The Voice” suggested these additional components were necessary for our full vitality and development.

Now the good news is to use and observe the nature of your frustration from your efforts to use these systems to evolve your highest potential. Those notes will guide you, help you snake your way into and beyond your shadow, overcome the petty competitiveness driven my a shallow effort to assume an external identity. The power is free to rise in you when you relax and allow, master the operation of remembering deeply who you are as a human being.


Mark Roach Avatar

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