Tuesday, March 13, 2007

ON ACTING: Irresolution

The actress came to me with a problem. She said she liked certainty: black and white; yes and no; up or down. She didn't like the 'vulnerability [her word]' of not knowing. Her performances showed it. Her acting was clean, precise, strong, but lacking in emotion; the key ingredient in any audience caring or identification. She was, by choice, a battling automaton; without feeling...unless you want to call unadulterated anger feeling.

As an exercise, I asked her to prepare a list of the elements in her life she had no certainty of, situations that had no definite answers. I was trying to get her to explore the endless greys between black and white, the maybes lurking between yes and no, the emotional netherworld between up and down. I have found deep emotion lies in just such places.

To learn to act (emotionally) is to learn to live in irresolution. In every scene, both characters live unknowingly and without certainty as they they move through their unresolved conflict; that is, both characters in a scene are seeking answers, a goal, an objective, a solution or resolution (from the other) that would settle the unsettling elements in their respective personal lives. To act is to live in irresolution and uncertainty: one character lives 100% in unfavorable irresolution (the eventual loser in the scene); the other character lives 99% in unfavorable irresolution (the eventual winner) and 1% in favorable resolution. The point being that two characters (and the actors playing them) must live 199% of any scene in irresolution.

If an actor does not like the (emotional) challenge of this constant facing the unresolved, the deep emotional shocks attendant on being indefinitely 'vulnerable', willing to be susceptible to deep, unexpected feelings, three things (all bad in acting) will happen: (1) s/he will fake act---thereby avoiding the whole issue; (2) s/he will really act but avoid fighting toward a solution of his dilemma; s/he will not try to win but rather will simply try NOT to lose, like a closed armadillo ball, precluding emotional commitment; or (3) will really act, really fight to win, but closed off from any emotional battle costs or vulnerabilities in the pursuit of that victory: an Achilles waging war without the 'heel', a self-perpetuating robot without humanity...no drama there, only the mechanics of cold-blooded and unfeeling engaged warrior-ing.

Feelings, emotions, are the measures our successes and failures in achieving our desires. In a world of certainty we have need of no emotional registering. In that certain world, all is known. In that kind of already resolved world, their would be no risk of emotional 'vulnerability'; in that world feeling would an unnecessary appendix, a vestigial organ subject to removal if inflamed. The only problem with living in such a resolved world is, in removing feeling, we remove life. In removing emotion, we remove the possibility of audience identification.

The end of feeling is beginning of death. On screen, onstage or off.


Post a Comment

<< Home