Sunday, November 11, 2007

ON ACTING: 'Warming-up'; Part I

The actor gave a wonderful performance in class, filled with emotional depth and texture. A few minutes later, I asked her to do it again. She did. It wasn't quite as wonderful. I asked her why she felt there was such a difference. She said she didn't know; but she admitted she felt 'flatter' the second time. I asked her if she did the same emotional preparation before the second take as she did the first. She said no; she assumed the preparation she did for the first take was sufficient. I said perhaps that was the answer: perhaps in the few minutes between takes, her body/emotions had shut down--albeit ever so slightly--but enough to create an unfavorable difference between the power of take one and take two.

Professional and competitive body builders 'pump a little iron' backstage between onstage demonstrations; baseball pitchers to throw a few warm-up pitches before each and every inning, even before the late innings of a game. Musical orchestra members must pluck or blow through their instruments--checking the sound, adjusting when the perfect pitch is off--before every new number, and lawyers often check their notes before examining the next witness. All fine professionals stay finely tuned prior to any effort. They warm up prior to all renewed efforts--whether in acting, body building or pitching a baseball, or any other endeavor--before each and every performance.

An intense emotional experience--like exciting acting--is an unnatural event. The body--where emotions reside; in fact, are part of--prefers a modulated existence, average, calm. If a human being lived at 'performance level' intensity day in and day out, that unnatural profligacy level of feeling would lead to burn-out at best, physical illness and disintegration at worst. So the body--including the emotions--has earned to relax, to soften its emotional muscles, to 'shut-down' between events; to conserves energy for the next absolutely necessary burst of mandatory use.

To counter that innate, natural and everyday healthy modulation of human emotion, the good actor, who wishes to perform at exciting, sustained and repeating levels of emotional involvement during actual performance, must prepare his/her instrument constantly and repetitively before and between each performance...otherwise natural atrophy will take place before...or else a slack performance will very often result.


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