Friday, October 10, 2008

ON ACTING: Feeling; then Plot

Most people, when confronted with a new task…and the inevitable insecurity a new task stimulates…move to their personal strength to deal with it. So when an actor is given a new script, he logically goes where he is most psychologically comfortable: feeling over fact, character over plot. Most actors choose a career in acting because they are initially pre-disposed toward feeling. They enter the field anticipating that emotion is the primary requirement in the actor’s art, and they respond accordingly.
Modernity reinforces this tendency. The Twentieth Century has sometimes been called the “Age of Psychology”. Sigmund Freud sat next to Einstein, Hitler, Churchill, Gandhi, Stalin and Marx and the other giants in the pantheon of Twentieth Century Gods (in polytheism, not all Gods are good Gods…some are mischievous; some outright mean). That century’s orientation toward the psychological past, ferreting out present truth from past experience, discovering what made us who and what we are, focusing on the repositories of our prior life, the events and people which have formed, molded and guided our present behavior, is central in modern thought.
And American actors are nothing if they are not ‘of today’. They are as caught up as their contemporaries with Western society’s preoccupation with the personal past: human life as an emotional storehouse’s of prior experience, a result of ‘what Mommy and Daddy did to me’. Humans are self-viewed as helplessly if not hopelessly waiting to be molded by the press and pressure of past and present events to a pre-programmed future. It is a deterministic expression of will-less-ness...and inevitably leads the actor to face feeling first, then plot.


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