Emotional Fluency Training for the Actor (EFTA) was established in 2020 to create a comprehensive approach to the safe and ethical use of emotion within contemporary acting technique.
The EFTA model was developed over years of experience teaching Alba Emoting™ and the Emotional Body® method, which uses the Emotional Effector Patterns (EEP) as a somatic approach to the stimulation and regulation of emotion. Further research specifically targeting the use of the EEP in the acting process was conducted through rigorous study of the current literature in emotion science and in a SSHRC funded research project titled Utilizing BOS Emotional Effector Patterns as a Mechanism for Emotion Control in Contemporary Acting.
Our research and experience clearly demonstrated that integrating the elements of the EEP’s somatic approach to the stimulation and regulation of emotion into existing acting techniques, combined with a comprehensive understanding of emotion, and restorative practice, could provide the actor with a safe and balanced approach to the creation of character that considers the actors’ agency, individual sensitivities, the demands of the specific production, and the stylistic diversities within the contemporary performance environment.
These assertions have formed the basis of the Emotional Fluency Training for the Actor (EFTA) model. Since 2020 the EFTA model has been taught in live and on-line workshops with actors, directors, coaches and educators from Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
EFTA Workshops are designed to meet the needs of a specific group and can be delivered online, in-person or in combination. Optimum group size is 12-16 participants - but smaller or larger numbers can be accommodated. The length of the workshops will vary depending on the participants’ level of acting experience, the size of the group, and whether the workshop is on-line or in-person. In all cases the trajectory of the training is as follows:
Our experience is that participants who have completed the trainings will have a comprehensive understanding of the use of emotion in theatre, an increased range of expression, a stronger sense of connection to their partners, an ability to cleanly enter and exit an emotion, and an awareness of personal limitations and strategies for self-care. Additionally, the participants will have gained enough experience in the use of the EEP to continue refining the work on their own.
How Emotional Fluency Training Works
The EFTA model recommends incorporating new approaches into existing acting methodologies to specifically address the safe use of emotion in the acting process, including:
It is not the EFTA’s intention to replace the actor’s existing acting techniques but to supplement and integrate the EEP into the actor’s current process.
EFTA addresses the acting process looking through the lens of four general processes or sources: intellect, emotion, imagination, and the senses. These interconnected processes are responsible for the way in which we perceive, interpret, and respond to the world and are essential in achieving what is arguably common to all theatre practice— embodied theatrical expression. Looking at the acting process through these four sources can offer the actor a practical and accessible framework to understand and explore embodiment and to approach integrating the EFTA into their existing theatre practice.
What is important for the actor to recognize about these sources is that:
As we move through everyday life, we remain largely unaware of the sources informing our actions. What is extraordinary about life on the stage is the degree to which the actor can exert conscious and willful control over these sources. Whereas most acting techniques focus on the intellectual and/or imaginative into emotion, EFTA takes a purely somatic approach which begins with the sensual source into emotion and then into imagination. This establishes a strong awareness and control of emergent affect which is a key component in emotion regulation. In more advanced applications, the actor will be able to enter a state of theatrical expression from any one of the sources while retaining the ability to monitor, control and contextualize their emotional experience without blurring the distinctions between character and self.
In directly addressing emotion, EFTA uses the Emotional Effector Patterns (EEP) as a system to identify, categorize, and regulate emotion. One of the key features of the EEP is somatic sensing, or scanning.
Scanning and Sources
Scanning is simply focusing our attention or awareness on our moment-to-moment sensory experience. Developing the ability to link cognition to our moment-to-moment somatic experience (the senses) is an essential component in learning a new skill; identifying and going beyond habitual patterns of behaviour; expanding range of expression; and emotion regulation.
In terms of the four sources (intellect, emotion, imagination, senses), the act of scanning enables the actor to connect the intellectual source to their sensual experience and ultimately to their emotional and imaginative responses as they manifest in the body. Drawing these sources into consciousness is fundamental in developing the extraordinary control actors exhibit over the processes involved in expressive behaviour and placing them in the service of artistic pursuits.
As the ability to follow the flow of awareness through the sources deepens the actor’s focus becomes more refined and detailed. This level of scanning is important to the actor in several ways:
Over time, as with any technique, scanning requires less effort and becomes part of the actors’ general stage presence.
Why Emotional Effector Patterns?
EFTA utilizes the EEP for a number of reasons. Emotions function as a system of communication. They tell us how we feel in response to a given situation, shape our actions, and inform others about our internal states and feelings. As a system of communication, emotions form a language, and as such, they have a vocabulary. Understanding and mastering this vocabulary is key to the actor’s success and, like any language we begin with basic vocabulary or basic emotions.
The EEP are an extremely efficient and effective way to learn and experience basic emotion. It is important to mention that EFTA does not take a position regarding any debate between Discrete Emotion theories and Constructivist theories. What is important for us is the actor’s ability to identify and regulate affect. Depending on the theory and method of investigation, researchers have categorized and codified the vocabulary of basic emotion into numbers ranging from two to twenty-seven. The EEP use six basic emotions, each consisting of three elements: facial expression, breath, and postural attitude. What we find to be particularly effective and practical about the EEP for actors is that:
When asked about his acting technique, in a televised interview the great British actor Sir Ian McKellen stated, “I’ve read a lot of acting books ... and I agree with them all.” Most actors, depending on the specific content, style, and direction of a given production, will vary their approach to their process and performance. Just as there is no singular approach to a performance, the need and approach to emotion regulation will vary from actor to actor and production to production. The important thing is that the actor has agency and a methodology to address emotional stress. EFTA is one way an actor can supplement and strengthen their existing practice with a practical and efficient methodology to mitigate negative emotional experiences in their practice and in doing so, raise the standard of safe practice within the theatre and film community.
In an age where there is a growing sensitivity to emotional well-being and mental health, integrating new techniques into our acting practice will help to ensure our actors can work freely, courageously, and safely in the creation of great performances.
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