Book Review by Sapphire Ng
The Power of the Actor: The Chubbuck Technique – The 12-Step Acting Technique That Will Take You from Script to a Living, Breathing, Dynamic Character
by Ivana Chubbuck
Copyright August 2005
Paperback, 400 Pages
The Power of the Actor is an absolutely divine text explicating the magnificent Chubbuck Technique. This utterly educational reference is a godsend for impassioned actors devoted to perfecting, and dedicated to further their understanding and appreciation of, their craft. This book adopts a highly effective and systemic approach to explicating the intricacies and subtleties of the acting technique, and is ideal for both the amateur and more advanced actor.
Acting lessons and exercises in the book are creatively and flexibly devised by the author. In another testament to the expertise of Chubbuck, her authority and credibility on the subject matter, along with her extensive experience in the industry both as an actor and as an acting coach, she aptly inserted in the book an abundance of incredibly illustrative, and excellently and contextually explained, examples, involving prominent actors she had coached including Brad Pitt, Jim Carrey, Jessica Biel, Halle Berry, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Michelle Stafford. It is surely a definite bonus that the book is also highly entertaining.
Each step in the Chubbuck Technique is clearly elucidated and covered in meticulous detail—the pivotal Overall Objective, the compelling Obstacles, the strategic Substitution, the imperative Beats and Actions, the essential Moment Before, the indispensable Doings, the immense applicability of the Inner Monologue, and more.
The book is effectively structured in such a manner as to optimize the actor’s learning; the intricacies of the technique are consistently and progressively drilled throughout the book. Amongst the eclectic range of valuable tools and lessons the reader will learn and internalize include the significance of Personalization as applicable in a diverse range of acting situations; the importance of the concept of paralleling in both emotional and psychological contexts; the cardinal notion of emotion and degree of emotionality in terms of making decisions pertaining to acting choices; and of fully exploiting the power of, and maximizing the benefits of, incorporating the imperative human element in one’s acting work.
Each section of the book effectively serves its function; both Part II and III beautifully and strategically complement and supplement the content in the first part of the book. Part II in particular is incredibly intriguing; illuminating behavioral formulas are furnished, some accompanied with profound psychological and emotional lessons. The actor will learn ways to induce organic feelings of a cocaine, or crystal methedrine high, a psychedelic high, a marijuana high, to feel withdrawal symptoms for heroin, or to feel pregnant or drunk.
In terms of highly workable and effective, meaningful—they allow the actor to engage in self-discovery—and also fun, exercises, examples include the activity of compiling one’s Emotional Diary or Fear List. The latter being an intermediate step employed as part of the technique of generating organic fear—“the most difficult feeling for an actor to re-create.” In another instance, the actor will learn exercises designed for him or her to create emotional or sexual connection with another actor.
The material in Part III of the book notably exceeds one’s expectations. The section provides a comprehensive demonstration of the Chubbuck Technique as applicable to a select script. The acting student yet again will be bestowed another opportunity to witness and thus further internalize and assimilate the technique as contextualized in a separate frame of reference.
Certainly, the book also contains memorable and inspirational morsels of advice and wisdom. One can only imagine the tremendous influence it will have on the actor advised to make “high-stakes” acting choices and script analysis decisions that will potentially and greatly enhance his or her performance. Or the actor reminded time and again to avoid for example, clichéd or commonplace interpretations of a certain plot or character that otherwise would only guarantee him or her being lost amidst the monumental competition in the industry.
The book is almost flawless. Chapter 20 however felt unwarrantedly brief. The material covered on coaching the actor to organically feel like a paraplegic or quadriplegic ought to have been fascinating, the cursory coverage however potentially leaves the reader feeling unsatisfied and even inadequate; the brevity of content appears at worst incapable of instilling in the actor sufficient foundational material to confidently play such a part. At the very least, one illuminating and interesting acting example, or some practical tips as well, could have been furnished.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated to the publisher nor the author of the book. This book review is the result of my personal reading and honest opinion.