Developing Intuition for the Contemporary Actor

*Micia De Wet
Development, Coventry University, United Kingdom

*Corresponding Author:
Micia De Wet
Development, Coventry University, United Kingdom

Published on: 2022-10-11


This article provides a critical analysis of intuition for actors and suggests how a proposed somatic practice may develop an actor’s intuition in order to facilitate intuitive behaviour in theatre performance. In this article, I discuss findings pertinent to my current original Practice as Research (PaR) PhD inquiry. I argue that intuition is an energetic sensitivity that produces a governing will and is experienced as a pre-cognitive interoception in the enteric nervous system (ENS). I give evidence to suggest the ENS and vagus nerve form the gut-brain axis involved in the biological process of intuition. I argue that intuition may be developable due to the body’s capacity for neuroplasticity. I hypothesise that an actor’s intuition may be a psychophysical state by considering the Flow and Absorption theory. I propose that an actor’s intuitive behaviour influences their thoughts and emotions, physical actions (gestures and movement), and vocalisations (language and sound) within a performance environment. I propose that intuitive behaviour for an actor is sensitive and responsive to space, time, and relationships.


Intuition, Actor, Somatic Practice, Theatre Performance, ENS, Vagus Nerve, Sensory Awareness


The history of intuition in a Western paradigm is marked by scientific and metaphysical discord [1]. Currently, intuition suffers from conceptual vulnerability in the respective disciplines it surfaces under [2]. Primarily, intuition is seen either as an emotionally driven reaction [3] or rapid-thinking tool [4]. In a theatre performance framework, resemblances of intuition are enmeshed in instinct [5], presence [6], creativity [7], influences [8], impulses [9,10] and inspiration [8,11]. Actor training pioneer Konstantin Stanislavksi, whose techniques largely remain the foundation for mainstream acting in Europe [12], aimed to cultivate a “creative mood” (p.461) for actors through “conscious psychotechniques”, replicating the power of intuition (p.342), himself believing intuition could not be consciously accessed or controlled [11]. In this investigation, I define intuition as an energetic sensitivity [13] which produces a governing will [14] that drives intuitive behaviour. I suggest that a governing will presents itself as a certainty of action for an actor that is shaped by a heightened awareness and sense of control over their behaviour. My interpretation is supported by theatre performer-practitioner Michael Chekhov, who positions the actor’s governing will as an energetic force that guides them [8]. Herein is the process of the actor’s intuition: energetic sensitivity fostered from an external and internal environment that produces a governing will which drives intuitive behaviour. I argue that an energetic sensitivity is created by a heightened sensory awareness of interoceptions, exteroceptions, and kinesthesia in space, time, and relationships. I refer to space here as both the performance and rehearsal environment, as well as the mise-en-scene. Within time, I include rhythm, tempo, and duration. With regards to relationship, I consider relationship with space, with the ensemble, and with self.

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