Monday, February 18, 2008

ON ACTING: Looking for a Cheap Victory; and Avoiding the Price of Truth

An honest (good) actor enters a scene wanting to win easily and cheaply; to 'steal' a victory, as it were, incurring as little emotional cost as possible. Following that line of logic, an honest scene (that is, a scene performed by good actors) is like an auction: the bidding starts by both chcaracters at a low price, both characters hoping and striving to drive the other bidder out of the game without incurring too great an emotional exposure, risking too much by making too high an unnecessary bid themselves. BUT: because the scene is constructed by the writer to entail a bidding war (a dramatic conflict in acting terms), where both sides are desparate to win and capable of paying a high price (but only when necessary), the bidding grows step by inexorable step, incremental increase by incremental increase, until one wins and one loses...and...

Why do characters want cheap victories? Because all too often the inevitable price of victory (in life and acting) is often the highest price of all: self-revelation, discovering the truth about ourselves. Does anyone really want to know the truth about themselves? "Ignornce is bliss," Alexander Pope counseled us. Little wonder honest actors enter a scene carefully, hopeful of an easy, cheap and quick victory, while maintaining their most precious of valuables, their life-sustaining and necessary self-deceptions.


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