Saturday, May 19, 2007

ON ACTING: The Past and the Present

What is the relationship of the past (where emotions are formed) to a character's present (where a character's objectives are striven for)?

Consider this: If our human past were perfect, humans would have need to fulfill present goals: everybody would already have everything they require; humans could just sit collectively on a mountain top in Tibet, harmoniously chant "....hhmmmmm!". It would be bliss...and very UNDRAMATIC and UNCOMEDIC.

Satisfied humans are boring to watch!

For me (and for characters in drama) the past has never been perfect. Gaps have been created in my factual and emotional experience that need present redress. The loss of a love-one creates in me the need for a new partner. The loss of a job requires new employment. Yesterday's digestion leaves me hungry today. (Dare I say that the sniff of death wants me to try to live forever...whether on earth or in heaven.)

In acting we often say "Where the character is coming from determines where he's/she's going." "The past dictates the present." "Know the past and you can understand the present." "Past is prelude to present (and by implication, future)." In effect: The present goal (objective, aim, etc.) of a character in a scene is a direct reflection of the character's non-fulfillments/denials/losses (and the emotional residue0 of their past. That's why in acting we want to know a character's 'Prior History', the 'Moment Before', old and new 'Relationships'--even a character's biological inheritance: genes aren't perfectly inherited from Mom and Dad to put you in blissful balance, either.

Exciting life (and therefore exciting drama) is a past-deprived, emotion-filled, objective-seeking teeter-totter. We enter the world (and continually experience it) with ass in the air, or pur 'bottom' hitting bottom, digging deeply into the earth...destined to spend the rest of our lives (and scenes) trying to get--and stay--in balance (through goal-seeking and the achievement of our multi-various aims!)


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