Quotes on Acting… for Writers


Here are some quotes on acting from various theater actors and teachers which can also be applied toward creative writing

1.”Each action of the actor on the stage should be the visible concomitant of his thoughts. ” Sarah Bernhardt

2.  “He who is incapable of feeling strong passions, of being shaken by anger, of living in every sense of the word, will never be a good actor.”- Sarah Bernhardt

3.   “Permanent success cannot be achieved except by incessant intellectual labour, always inspired by the ideal. ” – Sarah Bernhardt

4. “There is all the difference in the world between departure from recognised rules by one who has learned to obey them, and neglect of them through want of training or want of skill or want of understanding. Before you can be eccentric you must know where the circle is.”- Ellen Terry

5.  “Imagination!  Imagination!  I put it first years ago, when I was asked what qualities I thought necessary for success on the stage.”- Ellen Terry

6.  “Vary the pace.  It is the foundation of all good acting.”- Ellen Terry

7.   “Imagination, industry, and intelligence — the three I s — are all indispensable to the actress, but of these three the greatest is, without doubt, imagination.”- Ellen Terry

8. ” “He never adheres to the first image that appears to him, because he knows that this is not necessarily the richest and more correct. He sacrifices one image for another more intense and expressive, and he does this repeatedly until new and unknown visions strike him with their revealing spell.” — Michael Chekhov

9.  “The inner life of the [imagination], and not the personal and tiny experiential resources of the actor, should be elaborated on the stage and shown to the audience. This life is rich and revealing for the audience as well as for the actor himself.” – Michael Chekhov

10.  “You have to get beyond your own precious inner experiences. The actor cannot afford to look only to his own life for all his material nor pull strictly from his own experience to find his acting choices and feelings. The ideas of the great playwrights are almost always larger than the experiences of even the best actors.” – Stella Adler

11.  “Whatever you decide is your motivation in the scene, the opposite of that is also true and should be in the scene.” – Michael Shurtleff

12.  “One way we can enliven the imagination is to push it toward the illogical. We’re not scientists. We don’t always have to make the logical, reasonable leap.” – Stella Adler

13.  “We don’t live for realities, but for the fantasies, the dreams of what might be. If we lived for reality, we’d be dead, every last one of us. Only dreams keep us going…When you are acting, don’t settle for anything less than the biggest dream for your character’s future.” – Michael Shurtleff

14.  “Work for the actor lies essentially in two areas: the ability to consistently create reality and the ability to express that reality.” – Lee Strasberg

15.  “Talent is an amalgam of high sensitivity; easy vulnerability; high sensory equipment (seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting intensely); a vivid imagination as well as a grip on reality; the desire to communicate one’s own experience and sensations, to make one’s self heard and seen.” – Uta Hagen

16.  “When an acting teacher tells a student ‘that wasn’t honest work’ or ‘that didn’t seem real,’ what does this mean? In life, we are rarely ‘truthful’ or ‘honest’ or ‘real’. And characters in plays are almost never ‘truthful’ or ‘honest’ or ‘real’. What exactly do teachers even mean by these words? A more useful question is: What is the story the actor was telling in their work? An actor is always telling a story. We all are telling stories, all the time. Story: that is what it is all about.”- Stella Adler

17.  “When an actor is completely absorbed by some profoundly moving objective so that he throws his whole being passionately into its execution, he reaches a state we call inspiration.”
– Stanislavski

18-  “Put life into the imagined circumstances and actions until you have completely satisfied your sense of truth and until you have awakened a sense of faith in the reality of your own sensations.”- Stanislavski

19.  “Acting is the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances.”- Sanford Meisner

20.  “Less is more!”- Sanford Meisner

21.  “Your talent is in your choice. “- Stella Adler


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15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It sounds like also a quote for not only writers but for life.
    I actually like many of the quotes

  2. Very cool. I particularly like #8, never a good idea to take the first idea that comes to mind. If it comes too easily, it’s probably occurred to scores of others as well, and become a cliche.

  3. Love the quotes. I think the very last one is my favourite.

  4. Excellent quote choices, Tasha. I love the Chekhov, but I would: I studied Chekhovian technique as an undergrad. Never used it after graduation until I was writing my first novel, 3 years later –and then suddenly everything I’d learned was incredibly relevant. Characterization, for me, is almost the same process in writing as it was in acting.

    This post made me so happy. 🙂

  5. Glad you like them, Starting Over! 🙂

  6. True, DD. And it gives you time to dig in deeper.

  7. Me too, Brownpaperbaggirl. A few words with a lot of meaning behind them.

  8. Amy, that’s so cool to hear. I owned an acting book by Chekhov, and three by Stanislavski. I’m not crazy about the Stanislavski method, but I think his exercises on sense memory and so forth would be great tools.

    I really wish I still had all those books.

    I definitely agree with you about the closeness in characterization in acting and writing.

  9. Love the quotes- going to put them into practice for my audition this weekend!

  10. Colby,

    Good luck with your audition!!

  11. To prove that I can dig through the multitude of quotes to find appropriate things just as well as anyone else, I present to you something The Shat pointed out:

    “Here’s something pompous – you take your day and artistically create it, so every moment has an artistic flavor.” William Shatner.

    More than his oft-quoted “get a life” piece on national TV, this is how I think of the man. He’s more than most people give him credit for being, and he manages to make me smile with each and every turn of his career.

    I love these types of posts. 😀

  12. I love that quote, Bigwords.

    I’ve always loved Shatner. He has a great sense of humor about himself.

    Once, I saw a bio on him, and was surprised to find out how much charity work he does. That was another thing that made me respect him: he just did the charity work for all these years, without seeking attention for himself for it.

  13. I must know where the circle is; I LIVE at eccentric. And that’s not the same as concentric, circularly speaking.

    (Add me to the list of folks fond of The Shat. He knows how to make the most of what he’s been given.)

  14. Amy Mullis,

    Eccentric is the only way to live. 😉

  15. LOVE these quotes 🙂 🙂 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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