Tuesday, May 06, 2008

ON ACTING: Indulging Pain: Another Form of Bad Acting

When I see an actor "acting up a storm", acting in an emotionally self-indulgent manner--for example, delivering a long speech, or even a line of dialogue, in a 'painful', unremittingly, constant, agonizing emotional manner (while emitting vocally a long, one-note cry of pain and anguish--what Shakespeare refers to, critically, I might add, as "tearing a passion to tatters"), I am always reminded of one of my all-night 'advisory' or 'comforting' session in coffee houses with a tortured, troubled friend. I would sit with the sufferer with great sympatico, offering comfort, understanding and balm, often until 3 AM, thereby forgoing a good night or two sleep, until, at a certain point, a night or two later, I would grow weary of his bewailing fate. I would finally say: "Look, if it were that bad, you'd do something about it. You'd leave your husband (or quit the job, get a face lift, etc)." My pity had snapped . I became a cold-hearted advocate of the logic of survival: create positive action to deal with ongoing pain.

The human system is structured to take remedial action when pain is very bad; even more when the pain lingers and becomes unremitting. (Even a state of shock, which is the body moving into sensory obliviousness, is an attempt at solution. The in-shock body, in its survival mode, is actively sending off electrical signals and chemical impulses to program the body's receptors and neurons to block the registering of pain: i.e., tune out the normal stimulus/synapse/response system. Catatonia is a positive problem-solving action to deal with pain!)

So when no solving action is undertaken in performance by the actor-as-character under the obviously felt (or at least expressed) pain, when there is no tactical change in his flow of agonized vocal emotion, one could reasonably assume the the system (the actor's system, which is expressing pain without any attempt at solution) has decided pain is tolerable; or worse, enjoyable; or worse the actor is manifesting the erroneous idea that proper acting is a noun-state, a statically emotional state rather than a dynamic verb, an active condition of doing (at least trying to do) something positive, productive, about one's aggrieving emotional life.

To return to a mantra cited earlier in these blog postings: An actor, when in pain, should try to end the pain: "Don't suffer, solve; don't whine, win; don't complain, convince." Otherwise the audience will grow as impatient as I did with my moaning late-night friends.


Post a Comment

<< Home