Monday, November 26, 2007

ON ACTING: "Edge-iness"

After the class scene, the actress asked me what I thought of her work in the scene. I told her her work was solid; it was real, 'crafty' (in the sense that it exhibited experienced acting craft...a knowledge-and application--of plot and character elements; it also exhibited reality and spontaneity). But "it lacked the power of art." As an explanatory criticism, I offered a common jargon/cliche term: "Her performance lacked "edge-iness".

What did I mean by that? "Edge-iness" in a performance is a sense the audience gets (because it is true) that the actor-as-character is living on the edge of her emotional experience. S/he is barely in control...every movement and action of the plot is an attempt to gain, and maintain, control. During an 'edgy' performance, the actor-as-character's emotional existence is threatening to spin out of control. At any moment of the plot, if the actor-as-character fails at achieving objective control, they will fall off the edge. (A good actor lives almost every moment of stage near the edge of a cliff; an excellent actor lives at the edge. A great actor lives with ten toes dangling...with the wind at their back.)

The purpose of all emotional preparation, for a role and/or throughout a career of training, is to develop the ability to move quickly and on demand from the everyday safety of one's life (living life far enough away from the edge of one's emotional precariousness to have a reasonable, sane and emotionally healthy existence), to a position of emotional fragility, susceptibility and danger ("edgy-ness") when working, appropriate to character and potential audience excitement.

Actors are paid for the amount of emotional danger they are willing the experience during a performance. So the the safety of their seats in a darkened theater...can be brought--through a process called "identification"--to the edge of their emotional existence by the actor's willingness, as the character, to live the plot of the story at the edge of emotional experience.

I told the actress our chore (hers as actress; mine as teacher) was to encourage and train her how to achieve performance 'edge-iness'.


Blogger funny girl said...

I found your blog today and I'm thoroughly enjoying reading through your "On Acting" posts.

I'm presently in rehearsals for a character who is extremely "in control" - in fact that's her biggest how do I show that but keep it edgy at the same time??

(BTW, my blog can be found at

2:15 PM  

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