Tuesday, June 30, 2009

ON ACTING: Character Self-Awareness

The following is an instruction/illumination/offering to (bad) actors who want to perform a character with total awareness of the meaning and significance of everything the do on stage (dialogue, movement, etc) in advance of events occurring. May I add, since I quote Aristotle, who wrote about drama in the late 4th Century BC, that we still read Aristotle 2400 years later; I doubt anyone will watch totally self-aware actors anywhere near as long.

Aristotle, the great Greek drama theoretician, said the climax or resolution of a drama is the moment of the central character’s self-recognition, or discovery. By that he meant most heroes in drama spend three acts blundering through the agon(y) of the play unaware, wrestling moment by moment toward the resolution of some fundamental unknown objective (good ones and bad ones, productive ones and unproductive ones included), unaware of the purposefulness of their actions much less their eventual outcome and meaning…until the final epiphany (awareness) or resolution.

The truth of self-awareness is only realized then, at the end of the piece; and it is realized either soon enough to be saved from (a happy ending); or, if too late, and tragedy occurs, as a total, and until then, unawares, surprise.

No one, including characters, know their fate. To act with foreknowledge of our destiny, is illogical, false to life...and bad acting.

A great performance is a series of onstage discoveries.


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