Thursday, January 05, 2006

ON ACTING: "Being private in public"

A student once asked me: "Stanislavski, the great Russian teacher, is reputed to have said that the good actor must learn to be 'private in public'; how can one be private in public? Isn't that a contradiction in terms?"

No; good acting requires nothing more than what we do in our everyday lives, only better, fuller, more precisely and on demand. All human beings, at one time or another in their everyday lives, have experienced intense 'private-in-public' moments (perhaps not in front of a million people, but thousands, certainly): standing up and cheering at a football game, or yelling at the kids in a crowded department store. Or getting so involved in a heated conversation on a crowded train that we aren't even aware that the people sitting next to us, much less the ninety other commuters, are avidly listening and watching us. Or engaging in an intimate discussion in a restaurant without any awareness that the restaurant closed a half hour ago, we are the only remaining customers, and the waiters are running vacuum cleaners at our feet.

Granted, it takes training and practice to choose to act in front of people elegantly fully, precisely and on demand, and to remain sublimely unselfconscious when everyone (in a theater or before a future film audience) have gathered together for one purpose: to watch us talk, or walk, or cry or kiss. But once again, as in all acting--in this case, being 'private-in-public'--the difference between acting as a professional or acting in real everyday life is one of quantity not quality, of numbers (of audience members) and not logical lifelike possibility.


Post a Comment

<< Home