Friday, June 09, 2006

Researching a Role

The student asked me: "Some professional actors say that they always research a role down to a fine detail. For example, if they are going to play a fireman, they visit the firehouse, talk with firemen, perhaps even go out on a firefighting trip with them. Is that necessary?

My answer: "Do as much--or as little--research as it takes to be brilliant!"

Actors aren't bureaucrats: simply following orders. There is no one rule, one method or way of working that works for everyone.

There are two basic obligations in acting: to be real and to be exciting...and one of the sub-obligations in being real is being logical to the outer and inner and life of a character. So if the character is required, for example, as scripted outer behavior to put out a fire, it would seem you should operate with some specifically well-researched knowledge of a firefighting technique would seem to be an almost absolute must. However, if the need is for defining the inner reality of a firefighter, 'feeling like a firefighter', as it were...firefighter feelings are much less definable--and unique to firefighters. And there are many more possibilities of emotional character for firefighters than there are firefighting teachniques.

So.....should one 'research' how firefighters feel? Maybe go down to the firehouse and asks firefighters how they feel? My answer: If it helps you to feel deeply in performance in general, do it. I never question a successful technique of becoming exciting in performance. that emotional research of inner firefighter's feelings absolutely necessary? Probably not. (Unless you want to sepecifically know how a firefighter feels about the death of a colleague in a fire. That is specific to firefighters much more so than in the population in general.) However, there is as broad a range of feelings in firefighters as there are in any other category of human feelings. I would let the script and dialogue determine the best appropriate feeling possibilities of your character than simply limiting yourself to researching firefighter feelings.

The guiding rule: do as little or as much detailed work as is necessary for YOU to be real (logical to character and script) and exciting as possible (experiencing deep, wide, complex feeling within elegant form) in performance.


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