Saturday, June 28, 2008

ON ACTING: Theater versus Film

"To me, the theater is like standing on top of the mountain and shouting your confession," he explained. "And film is like being in the confessional, whispering, 'I have done this, I have done that.'"
--Raul Julia

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

ON ACTING: A Question of Personal Obstacles

She wrote: "How do I start working to overcome personal obstacles that inhibit my craft?"

Let's start by defining 'craft'. What do you mean by craft (I assume acting 'craft')? The craft of doing what; what are you trying to accomplish as an actor? What is the job of an actor? What is the purpose of acting itself?

Perhaps if we define the purpose of acting (moving an audience to the deepest fullest experience of itself) through our ability to perform excitingly ('really', 'conflictingly' and 'passionately') onstage or onscreen, then 'craft' becomes the best means of our achieving that.

I believe that all people have the inherent capacity to live excitingly, to live passionately in conflict, but most of us have allowed that capacity to be dulled in everyday life for personal protective purposes.

The central issue then becomes in "overcoming personal obstacles that inhibit our craft" our ability to analyze, define, accept and attack the personal inhibitions that keep us from acting excitingly, cautions we have picked up along the way in our lives.

HOW and WHY have we become inhibited (or frightened)? And WHERE are those inhibitory fears located in our memory structure? What caused them? How can we eradicate them--or at least put them aside long enough to perform excitingly when we act.

There are several approaches: (1) visits to a psychiatrist; (2) acting scene experience (confronting the fear head on); finding out in practice that we can survive the real, conflictual and passionate life of a scene--and perhaps actually learn to enjoy life head on; (3) emotional exercises and techniques that started for the most part with the great teacher Stanislavsky, and move on to the few great emotional teachers today; (4) an honest self-evaluation of one's past--identifying the sources of our fears. We must recall in detail the origins of those fears, and the events and people who gave them birth. We must learn to accept that those events are past: our father will never hit us again, that boyfriend we loved will never leave us again, our grandmother cannot die again, etc. We must believe the past is past; and when we do, onstage or onscreen, the present becomes a more exciting possibility.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Deep feelings plus elegance, always in the pursuit of pursuit of purpose, makes for a beautiful scene.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

ON ACTING: Activating Emotions Before A Scene

How do I make my emotions more deeply felt during a scene?

Part of an actor's work in preparing for a scene (or for that matter a career of scenes) is to emotionally exercise, to encourage oneself through practice and mental effort to feel during performance feelings (1) that are exciting to an audience, and (2) that the everyday person (which includes the actor in everyday life) would rather not be feeling: rage, lust, extreme sadness and loneliness, etc.

Remember: our job as actors is to feel more deeply than the audience so the audience can then feel more deeply though us. We lead the audience to the deepest part of themselves by our example.

Human beings, actors and non-actors alike, are great caverns, repositories, of feeling, great rooms of stored emotional experience carved by the events of our lives. But over time, most of us fill up those caverns through and with fear, and insensitivity, forgetfulness--all the elements that enable us live (logically enogh) stable, balanced, quiet lives.

And we should be glad for our balance--glad to reduce emotional intensity and imbalance that, if not modulated, would exhaust us; imagine if we lived with great, unending, exciting emotional intensity 24/7/365; we would wear out.

But we do sometimes miss the highs (and lows) that a rich emotionally exciting life provides. So, rather than throw ourselves into real everyday emotionally activating experiences that might have on us deleterious long term real consequences, we go to the theater (such a safe, nice non-judgemental place!!!) to experience in, as I say, a safe controlled situation, and at a time and duration of our choosing, and with friends and lovers, those theatrically heightened special experiences of sexuality, flowing tears, or side-splitting laughter.

The chore, as actors, is to achieve that susceptibility to extreme emotional activation, to carve out--prior to the scene, and anew--those vast filled-up caverns of our experiences, to rid ourselves of the fears and doubts and insensitivity that have filled them up protectively in the interim. We do that by recalling fully and honestly our lives, confronting our old fears, challenging them, recalling the tactile memory of our past, cease forgetting the facts of our emotional existence.

It 'may hurt (in performance, again) for a little while'--as the song goes--but it will only last as long as the scene(s) lasts; oh, perhaps a short time after that, but our full caverns must be open throughout the performance in order to resonate with the full rich and reverberating echo of our emotions that acting requires, as the facts of the performed scene create their initiating sounds in us-as-actors.

Not to worry: after performance we will forget again, become dull again, desensitized, our caverns filled once again to a needed level of stable closure, once the scene is over. Long term survival as human beings--as well as actors--dictates nothing less.

Then, before the next scene, the process is repeated...and on and on.