Thursday, December 29, 2005

ON ACTING: "Pursuing Character Objectives: 'Selfish vs. Unselfish' "

Actors often find defining and pursuing objectives in a scene a very difficult task to accomplish. More than a few say "I don't like the concept of and ever-present 'objective'; it makes the characters I play seem so selfish."

I advise them: Self-servingness is the essence of all human life. There is no organ, cell or other part of the human anatomy (including emotion) which is not tied to an objective: at the most fundamental level, human survival. A character or actring performance that is not tied to self-serving-ness is unnatural, unreal, false to the material logic of life.

To encourage actors to develop a more cogent insight into purposes, needs, goals and objectives in a scene, allow me to draw a distinction between self-serving-ness and selfishness. Self-serving-ness can be considered selfish when it benefits us exclusively. However, when it benefits others as well as us--when the cost of an action is primarily to us and not to the others--we can call the action unselfish. The key point in either case, whether an action is selfish or unselfish, self-servinhg-ness is at the core of both selfish and unselfish actions.

I recommend an actor acquire and perfect this ability to define self-serving scene objectives by spending the rest of her/his life looking honestly and courageously at self-serving-ness in her/his own everyday life. (After all, all knowledge proceeds from self-knowledge; and life's/art's cheapest and most ever-ready textbook is one's own everyday behavior, isn't it?) Every day, three times a day, the actor should ponder a recent completed event or human interaction, and say: What did I want from that person. For what purpose did I do what I did? Why did I say what I said? Why did I feel what I felt? What was the purpose, or fundamental objective, behind all my activities?

Difficulty with objectives most often arises with from an actor's unconscious desire to deny and onfuscate the inevitable self-serving-ness in their own everyday behavior.


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