Saturday, July 26, 2008

ON ACTING: Risky Behavior

In acting, do all the risky, impulsive things you would not do in your everyday life. In good, exciting acting, a well played character has little insurance; all is debt: s/he spends the money s/he doesn't even have.

Acting jargon often refers to that is "heightening the stakes".

The other night in class, after the scene, the student said: I had the impulse to kiss him, to play the sex card to keep him from leaving me, but I squelched it.

I said I'd probably approve of that carefulness in life: why kiss the bastard and create the possibility of more pain, a heightened rejection? But in acting, take the chance, run the risk, increase the stakes. After all, the kiss and the possible pain will only go on for a few minutes, until "cut", or the curtain descends. Great acting moments are born from such behavior.

Courage (and it's 'kissin' cousins, impulsiveness, short-sightedness, even illogical stupidity) rules the acting day. Without courage, and the resultant mistakes the courageous make, there is no drama; and there can be no great acting.

Monday, July 21, 2008

ON ACTING: Character Development

Character Development" is a common phrase in acting theory; it is the idea that there should be a developing 'arc', or transformation, in the life of a character during a scene, play or film: what is known about (and by) the character in the beginning of the performance expands into a greater self-revelation and change by the end. Character development is the beginning, middle and end of a character's emotional reality, a change brought on by the challenging exigencies and pressures of the character's story. As the conflict forces progressively exposed self-discoveries on the part of the character, and the character is forced to accept and/or act on those discoveries, that 'arc', as s/he works their way through the travails of the plot, can be said to be the character development over the span of the scene, play or film.

"Character Development" is a generally required element in a great performance.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

ON ACTING: The Actor's Skill

I was reading a series of Mystery Writer's of America short stories, and came upon a quote from Eric Ambler concerning liars, and I thought it might apply equally as well to good actors.

All words between [ ] are mine:

"Now the only thing that makes a liar [the way the general public perceives an actor] tolerable is innocence. No matter how outrageous the fairy tale [scene or story], she or he [the actor] must believe it at the time.The game of make-believe is then possible. The rules are tacitly accepted by both parties [the actor and the audience]. The element of calculation is almost non-existent. To find, suddenly, then, that not merely has all the make-believe been on your [the audience's] side, but that you have been listening like a fool to someone [the actor] skillfully pretending [?] to be a pathological liar, is a shattering experience. What sort of mind is it that can contrive such a disguise? And what is it that has to be hidden?"

Saturday, July 12, 2008

ON ACTING: Creating More Energy/Intensity in a Scene

If you want more (energy, intensity) in a scene, make sure that the emotion creating that energy arise from deeper within you.

For example: When I was a child, I loved to play with my yellow plastic ducks in the bathtub. My favorite game was to submerge and hold the ducks underwater, then release them, and squeal with delight when they popped (jumped) out of the water.

It was a physics dynamic I remember very vividly all these years: the deeper the submerged ducks were in the water at the point of release, the higher the ducks jumped in the air when they surfaced.

The same holds in acting: when the events of a scene emotionally stimulate us, the deeper, richer, fuller the level of that emotional stimulation occurs within us, the greater will be the intensity or 'build' outward when those emotions are released.

Like shooting an arrow: the further back (in our case, in) the point of release, the greater will be the subsequent 'throw'.

Friday, July 11, 2008

ON ACTING: Ted Koppel RE Choices

As recorded in the LA Times on July 7th, Ted Koppel had been speaking about his approach to journalism; and I thought it might as well apply to an actor's (or for that matter, a writer's or director's) criteria for making artistic choices:

"I may be one of the last television journalists left, together with Tom Bettag and our team, who believes that our responsibility is not just to cater to the lowest common denominator of what people think they want to watch, but every once in a while, to try to give them, in as entertaining a fashion as we can, something we think they ought to watch [italics mine]."