Friday, August 31, 2007

ON ACTING: A 'Cool' Style

The student told me he wanted to act the scene with a muted style: soft spoken, with restricted body and facial gestures. "Understated", he said; "restrained". I said, "Fine. I love understatement."

He performed in his his desired/chosen manner. When we looked at the tape re-run of his performance, I said I thought it was majorly unremarkable. He agreed with my assessment.

"What went wrong?" he asked.

"You forgot the 'statement' in the under-statement. When seeking a restrained performance, the essential emotional reality within/under an understated style has to be a large. You can simply put a lid on your pressure cooker and expect a meal to be well-cooked without having heat underneath."

"Cool" is a style of handling something 'hot'.

There is a term that often used by directors (to actors) asking for an understated acting moment: they say " throw it away"; meaning: don't emphasize the line or the moment. However, in the subsequent performance translation, the actor has to remember is that he is throwing away the emotional equivalent of a thousand dollar bill and not a quarter coin.


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