Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Mask of Character

Character is a fictional mask, where the actor's playing of character becomes an indirect means of freely exploring oneself behind the mask; beneath the mask of character lies the actor's true face, conveniently hidden.

Think of centuries centuries past: the joy of attending masked balls was the freedom to pursue one's own pleasure and desire, anger and venom, all made possible beneath an anonymous face.

Masking creates license, permission and possibility. So does acting. The joy of acting a a similar subterfuge. "It wasn't me kissing him or her, honey was the character!" "My character hates men, not me!" "My character loves wittily reducing fools to their naked folly, not me!" All such acting statements are masks.

The audience grants us that masked freedom. They attribute all of an actor's acts, of inner emotions and outer results, to the character. "The script made him/her (their actor) do it."

The actor is granted the audience's amnesty from responsibility. Evil (or goodness) reflects not on the actor, but on the character.

The logic of such license : How else could the audience feel the full range of its own desired emotions, sexuality, love, fear, thrills, rage if the actor is not given a corresponding a freedom--behind the mask--to explore those particulars human feeling in themselves in performance?

To choose a role is to don its mask; to play a character is to be granted by the audience all societal exception. All acts are permissible. More than permissible, they are demanded. Audience and actor alike attend a masked ball. All character consequences are only immediately consequential; they end with "Cut!" or the curtains fall. A performance is thereby a consummate 'one night stand'. Little wonder actors choose such a freeing and feeling art?


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