Sunday, February 18, 2007

ON ACTING: "Heightened Reality"

In a class scene, the student was doing some serious (over-energetic) bad acting--however well-intentioned. I stopped him; I asked him what he was doing. He said: "An old teacher of mine told me that acting was 'heightened reality', so I was trying to achieve that. "Ah ha," I said (perhaps with a tinge of sarcasm)...The class groaned in anticipation. Teacher-to-teacher ego was about to clash. Students love that kind of thing.

'No,' I thought: 'Next time.'

"Your teacher was right," I said. " failed to notice which word was the noun in the teacher's phrase and which word was the adjective. 'Heightened' is only the adjective. It is the secondary, or modifying word. The most important word is the noun, 'reality'! The word 'reality' was at the core of the suggestion: to achieve a 'heightened reality'.

"First--and throughout all your acting endeavors, remember--all good acting must always create 'reality'; it must be acting that is based in honest, real emotions; and only secondarily it should strive to create a heightened reality--and then only if the actor can possibly achieve it without destroying emotional reality.

"Unfortunately, in your present scene work, you were trying to indicate the presence of a 'heightened reality' by simple over-energetic, loud, face-paced unreality. You were not real-ly looking or listening or talking to the other actor, or really feeling--the bases of real acting--you were only 'feeling' like obeying what (you thought) your old teacher was saying and thereby impress the audience.

"Remember: Actor's energy that is removed from the impetus of character's feeling is not feeling--it is actor energy; something that falsely (improperly) originates outside the scene and is definitionally false to the real life inside the scene.

"Let's do the scene again--only this time really look at the other actor, really listen, and let their subsequent sound and sight stimuli allow you to really feel, and then let whatever real feeling/energy emotionally created thereby--as a corollary and an aspect of the reality of the scene--create any 'heightened reality' you might feel. The performance result may not be as 'heightened' as you would desire...but you will not have lost the more critical noun (reality) in the false stretch to create the adjective 'heightened'.

"But don't worry. As you continue studying, practicing and performing--as you get more accustomed to really feeling in a scene, you will find yourself slowly becoming passionately (and real-ly) 'heightened' at all times in all scenes. Then you--and your old teacher and I--will be happy."


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