Monday, December 15, 2008

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Holidays

Forgive: blog postings will be intermittant until the new year.)

Monday, December 08, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: "Cadillac Records"

It's a nice picture. A bit soapy, but...I loved the music. I'm still waiting to figure out the story: a bio-pic that means what?

The supporting cast acting is wonderful. More than wonderful. Columbus Short is spectacular. Gabrielle Union is very, very good. Mos Def is excellent as Chuck Berry. Beyonce Knowles sings wonderfully, looks creamy, and I'm sure helped raise a lot of money for the film.

Jeffrey Wright is fine as one of the stars. The other is Adrien Brody, 'Mr. Mournful', he of the pursed eyebrows and ever-anguished countenance. He and Ralph Finnes, the other great pained and wounded actor of our time, must be brothers.

I'm sorry. I just don't understand or fully appreciate Mr. Brody's acting. Nothing wrong; he just doesn't do...something...for me...I can't even find the adjective. He underwhelms me that much.

Ms. Darnell Martin wrote and directed. The less experienced writer in her did not do justice to the more experienced director in her.

See the film, however. Rock n' Roll at its finest.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

ON ACTING: External and Internal Acting Techniques

When I was a young actor, we were often trained in what is called ‘external to internal’ technique: we started mastering the expressive form of the dialogue, and through that technique worked back to emotional substance, searching for emotional substance through form. I remember working on a play by George Bernard Shaw. Shaw was a great music critic before he became an accomplished dramatist. He wrote characters and their dialogue according to their ‘voices’, as if he were writing a musical score: tenor, bass, soprano.

In rehearsing Shaw we were instructed to vocally ride the flow of Shaw’s character’s dialogue; allow the rhythm and cadence of the prose to dictate our speaking style; as one would do with a song. The point of that formal approach was that the spoken dialogue--the rhythm, accent, pitch, pace, etc. would lead you to ‘finding the emotional essence of the character’. Inner emotion would be activated by the verbal, grammatical and syntactical shape and configuration of the dialogue. Speak like the character, feel like the character; Speak like a Frenchman, feel like a Frenchman. Speak like a gentleman, feel like a gentleman. Speak like a Fascist, feel like a Fascist. Form follows function.

Working ‘backwards’ in this way, from form to substance, from the external characteristics of dialogue to inner emotional life of the character, continues to be one of the major traditions of acting training for the British stage.

It creates their exquisite of expressive technique: for once they have reached substance in that way, the well-honed form encasing that substance remains.

American acting training on the other hand generally follows the opposite tradition: function (emotion) proceeds outward to form (physical expressiveness). When properly executed both approaches wed form to function into good acting. As always, good acting is circular; it matters little at what point one enters or exits it (form to substance; substance to form), as long as the circle is complete in final performance.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

ON ACTING: Two Sets of 'Choices'

Actors often talk about "choices", those desired/desirable performance emotions and behaviors consciously pre-selected ad established in rehearsal--and chosen to be attempted/enacted/lived during performance.

I would like to consider another body of acting decisions, another body of acting "choices"--ones that are no less deserving of the word "choices" than those consciously pre-determined in rehearsal: those are the emotions and behaviors that unconsciously and often unexpectedly arise ("inner", spontaneously chosen?) during performance.

In a sense, they are the most 'creative' aspect of performance; emotions and behaviors which (in a true sense) have never occurred before (in that they have not been experienced and pre-selected in the rehearsal process; prior to performance birth, they have merely been swimming around in the actor's unconsciousness, not even considered as possibilities; unconscious 'perhaps-es', beyond the realm of pre-consideration, only to be given their first truth, form and reality to and from the actor when they are discovered and created anew during performance.

Some argue that these spontaneous "choices" are often the most profound performance "choices" of an actor, since they initially exist beyond the grasp of the actor's conscious knowledge of his/her behavior. They exist deeply within the actor's unconscious, beyond even the actor's self-knowledge, and will only be discovered fresh only as they are born and formulated in the moment. By definition, the actor is as surprised during performance by these "choices" as the audience.