Wednesday, November 14, 2007

ON ACTING: 'Warming-up'; Part II

As an example how insidious the body is in 'taking a break' from constant and renewed emotional intensity--in modulating the body from a full constant emotional performance--I will reach back into my own past to offer an example.

As a young actor, I discovered through much trial and error effort that whenever I wished to 'prepare' myself for a highly sensitized condition of sadness, for example, to become susceptible to be made sad by the events of a subsequent scene, I could recall the specifics of my mother's death before performance...and most especially the specific event of walking into the funeral parlor on a cold, winter day and seeing her face thought the door window for the first time as she lay in the coffin in the inner viewing room.

That image invariable made me sad.

So, as an actor, immediately before the scene, to prepare for the scene (which called for great sadness) I would remember the stillness of her profile...and I would invariably become in heightened state of sadness when entering the scene. (I did not enter the scene wanting to be sad, of course--that would be illogical to human nature, and therby erroneous to the logic of character and good acting in general--nobody enters a situation in life wanting to be sad..only actors; human being are made susceptible to sadness by prior events...and then try logically and mightily to contain it). I used my mother's image as 'preparation' for sadness, I became more capable of being made sad by the actions and people in the subsequent scene. Success.

However...and herein lees the repeated and following performances or film 'takes', however, when I wanted to be susceptible to sadness again, I found the use of the same image of my mothers face would not work! I would think/imaging seeing my mother's face through the funeral parlor door's window befor the sene...and nothing would happen!! What!? Why? Why was I suddenly now inured--desensitized--to sadness over my mother's death as revisited in that image? Had I finally run out of love for my mother?

It took me many years to discover the answer...why I could successfully get sad the first time I used her image, and then, in spite of the exactly same duplicated act of memory, my emotional response would suddenly die, disappear, melt into nothing: The truth was my body had said to me (after the first use of the image): "You (the actor preparing) are not going to fool me (Cliff, and his emotional system) again! I'm going to protect you from sadness of that image if it happens again". Therefore, that same image used a second time invariably failed in eliciting a condition of susceptibility because my body--which is built for survival...which includes protecting me from the enervating condition of sadness...led me to discover a antidote to my 'preparation': no more sad reactions to repeated sadness from that image! Forewarned is forearmed! I promise you, Cliff!!

But, I was an actor who wanted to defeat in subseqent 'preparation' that antidote to sadness. So...I decided I had to fool it again prior to a subsequent performance/take! So the next time I used the image, I had to see her through the window...AND ALSO WALK THROUGH THE DOOR AND TOWARD THE COFFIN...AND SEE HER BLUE EYES...AND...AND...there it is...I can feel it again; the same worked. The more specific detailed and progressive the image I used made me surprised, overcame the antidote, made me susceptible once again to a renewable condition of sadness!!

RULE: Each time the actor prepares for any emotional condition, the actor must proceed further into his/her detailed imagining/recalling of the image on each subsequent use of the image, so as to overcomes the body's brilliant survival technique of adaptation and desensitization. In other words, the actor must fool his/her own emotional system each time s/he prepares...and before each performance--by further penetration into the specificity of the image--to produce the desired and renewed emotional susceptibility.


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5:22 PM  

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