“All of our acts, even the simplest, which are so familiar to us in everyday life, become strained when we appear behind the footlights before a public of a thousand people.” Stanislavsky
It was Stanislavsky who first introduced the concept of Public Solitude as a means to free the actor from the debilitating effect of a large audience. Through the practice of Public Solitude, the actor can learn to express themselves naturally on stage, no longer inhibited by self-conciousness. With time and practice, actors can deepen this ability to live truthfully in imaginary circumstances, freely following their impulses.
Public solitude is one of the concepts that can apply not only to actors, but to anyone struggling with shyness. The struggle of how to live comfortably in the world without the effect of self-conciousness.
What is it that the self-conscious actor or the shy person battles with? They battle with a state of mind. You might know that mind. The mind that gauges how you fit in, how you rate, how you fall short, how others are so much better, how others are so much worse. It’s the mind that’s wrapped up in the world of comparison. It’s the mind that objectifies and categorizes yourself, figuring out how you fit in, comparing yourself to others instead of looking at the world freely from your own experience, it
The goal of public solitude is to leave that mind behind; rather than live in comparison to others, discover how to live your own experience, with your own point of view. Public solitude is inherently part of the training from Foundations I through Scene Study and it was public solitude that inspired the Supernaturally Shy Acting Program. Public solitude teaches you how to live freely with the ability to express yourself truthfully in each moment. It teaches you how to actually enact the phrase ‘be yourself’.
But, you don’t need a class to practice public solitude. You can start practicing now. In fact, just think of the words “public solitude”. It means you are alone in the company of others. Just those words themselves may start leading you there.
To practice being alone in the company of others, those comparative thoughts need to be relegated to the background of your attention, and instead focus on your breath or some other internal physical sensation. Notice the reality of your your natural ‘aloneness’. Draw an imaginary circle around you, and determine that inside that circle you are by yourself. Once you connect with that feeling, practice that solitude even when you are in the company of others. Even if you are very shy, if you allow yourself to deepen that experience over time, interactions in public settings will start to become more comfortable and eventually become truly enjoyable.
Some people associate the words “public solitude” with loneliness, thinking that training in public solitude will create a lonely existence. But it’s the opposite. The comparative mind creates loneliness. Trying to live up to perceived expectations creates loneliness because you’re interacting with your projections, not with people. But practicing public solitude allows you to fully become yourself. So instead of interacting with your projections, you’re interacting with people. People will be meeting you instead of your idea of how you should be.
It takes practice, but as you get stronger, opportunities and relationships will appear because you’re interacting directly with the world around you. So the next time you walk into a room full of people, just before you open that door, and just before you put that mask on… Stop.
Focus on your breath. Be by yourself. In your circle of solitude. And then … open the door. Greet the world.
– Michelle Meyrink