Nothing Wrong with the Right or Left

It’s been long accepted as fact that left-brained people are better equipped for more logical and analytical pursuits, like science and math, while their right-brained counterparts are more intuitive and creative, perfect for work in the arts. Regardless of where your perceived brain strengths lie, the truth of the matter is that successful actors should work to be mentally ambidextrous. Which of the following approaches to performing best describes you?

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The Analyst: So-called left-brained actors tend to take a more structured approach to their craft. Scripts are read with a meticulous attention to detail, allowing the performer to map out the world in which their character exists, what moves them through it, and what traits define them. Actors in this category deliver measured, consistent performances (certainly good things), but the downside of this style is a lack of spontaneity; the ability to live in the moment and improvise can electrify an audience and transform a mediocre story into powerfully moving one.

The Free Spirit: Right-brained actors are all about emotions. You look for ways to tap into the feelings that drive your characters and aren’t afraid to let yourself get carried away by them, all in the name of creating a truthful and memorable performance. And while there’s no shortage of spontaneity in this approach, too much of a good thing can lead your performance (and the production as a whole) off course. Plus, maintaining an overly high level of emotion is not only taxing for the actor, but it can wear thin on audiences as well.

Regardless of which hemisphere dominates your performing efforts, the good news is that you don’t need to be pigeonholed into either category. Acting is a craft, and you can incorporate the strengths of both sides through hard work and commitment. 

Finally, I’ll let you in on a little secret. The left brain/right brain concept is a myth that persists even though it was debunked by science some time ago. The truth is much more complex, but it’s no cause for panic. What it means for actors is what it means for anyone: life is a balancing act, and it’s up to you to go with your strengths AND be willing to embrace, understand, and improve on your weaknesses. That’s where you find success.