Monday, September 10, 2007

ON ACTING: The Value of Character 'Confusion'

Immediately after she had cold read and analyzed the scene in class, I asked the student whether her character was confused. She said: "No. My character is certain of her opinions." The moment she said it she cringed; she knew she was wrong.

If any character in a scene is absolutely certain in everything s/he says, s/he exists beyond change (and therefore is non-human?). If there is no doubt, there will be no possibility of negative consequences; the character will be unable to exhibit any dramatic possibilities of discovery, human enlightenment, character development and self-discovery--all striking elements of exciting drama.

If any character in a scene is absolutely certain, beyond confusion, the resolution of the scene is thereby automatically predetermined. The other character has no chance of winning...the drama is a fixed game; skewed to a predetermined result, aimed toward inevitably boring certainty.

The good student should always be reminded: every character in every successful acting performance starts confused, whether s/he will admit to it or not. She of course takes a mind stance; she fights for her position. But as no human being is beyond doubt (SEE the recent revelations of doubt in the great and saintly Mother Theresa), every human decision--and its resultant action to say, to do, to think--takes place in the arena of confusion.

Yin-yang co-exist. The character has a mind set fixed on a position, yet, being human, is susceptible to change. For each action there is an equal and opposite reaction(occurring simultaneously): Newton's Second Law. If the actor disobeys this law of physics; which of course is the basis of life and therefore the law of exciting real acting, s/he will be punished: by the yawns and shrugs in the audience.

Smart actors embrace confusion. It leads to profundity, contradiction and audience-compelling character complication.


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