Monday, August 10, 2009

ON ACTING: The Centrality of Actors in the Theatrical Experience; Part I

Audiences come to film and theater to watch actors act.

My writer friends would argue that story is the central and necessary ingredient in a theatrical experience. Although a writer myself (and “some of my best friends are”), I would still argue: if story was sufficient, audiences would go the theater, buy the script and take it home to read it. If an audience wants to be moved by words and plot alone, they could buy a novel. What makes theatre special and effective is the living presence of the actors. It is not the story per se, but the living reality of the actors’ performance within that story, on stage or captured on film that is the catalytic element in awakening audience passion.

The story and dialogue are only the means of conveying that living acting experience; it is not the living experience itself. We watch a film over and over again even though we know the story by heart, even though we can predict each and every plot turn, even though we can sometimes recite most of the main dialogue along with the actors because the audience is mesmerized by the living, present (albeit a recorded present tense) experience of the actors' performances. The performances remain catalytic element--spontaneous, alive, real and perpetually indefinable--to the audience's enjoyment.

I repeat: Audiences come to a theater primarily to watch actors act.


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