Sunday, November 15, 2009

ON ACTING: Relationships; Past and Present

Past experience may color my "relationships," color my experience with people, but the past is merely a modifier; the present objective quest is the main determinant of my present emotional "relationship"; and therefore in the most fundamental ways is the prime determinant of my emotion-sourcing of my actions and reactions. Therefore, as a guide to actors, when enacting “relationships”, consider the present as primary noun and verb, the past mere adjectival and adverbial.

For example, when Hamlet’s father appears onstage in Act I of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, he and Hamlet obviously have a lot of past, they are father and son, after all--and they initially relate accordingly--but the father’s and son's primary relationship in the scene is based on the Ghost wanting something from Hamlet in the present. In fact that’s why he appears to Hamlet at that particular point of time and place. That’s why he talks to him. Their primary and basic "relationship" in the scene is based on the King's desire to convince his son to enact revenge on Claudius, the usurping King! And Hamlet wants something from the King: "Go away! Don’t burden me with old guilt and old love, with a new severe responsibility of regicide. Be a dead father and not a demanding present one. Return to the netherworld. Let me remain happily a student."

That is what the whole scene (and play) is about: Will Hamlet fulfill his father’s present need for revenge, or will Hamlet find an excuse to shirk his filial obligation? The conflict of the scene becomes the King’s present need for revenge set against Hamlet’s need to maintain and enjoy his youthful innocence.

The past relationship (father and son; and the attendant emotions) is prelude to this essential present relationship, that of revenge-seeking father versus equivocating son. Past may be texture on the present, but the real drama, the real "relationship" governing the scene's primary feelings (and actions and dialogue) is whether The Ghost-father will get Hamlet to kill Claudius.

Their present father-son relationship is based on that. It trumps any past feelings they may have/had for one another.


Blogger Eddy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:39 PM  
Blogger Minou said...

Hi Cliff,

I love reading your blog! Everytime I find something inspirational in your posts. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.

Building relationships is an interesting theme. Maybe you know Mark Travis? He created a wonderful technique for actors and directors to jump right into the characters and their relationship to each other. I love acting with that technique. Maybe it's also interesting for you to know?

All the best,
here is the link:

4:00 AM  
Blogger Emme Toaye said...

Hi Cliff,
I enjoyed reading your blog regarding acting techniques and actors in general, your writing keeps on wanting more of the subject.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Cliff Osmond said...

Thank you Eddy, Minou and Emme and others. Your positive responses keeps me eager to write!

11:56 AM  
Blogger Annie said...

Hi Mr.Osmond,
I am not an actress(nor do I want to be one) I am just a fan.
I often read your blog and find a" daily affirmation" within your writings.
I found what you said about Hamlet very enlightening.
I have only thought of Hamlet from the point of view that it is a story about "Unresolved greif issues".
(Yes, I have therapy after the loss of my father.)
Although I have no aspirations of acting I could possibly do a great take on Ophelia.
Sorry for paraphrasing "could the young maids wits be as mortal as the life of an old man"
The next time I get the chance to watch Hamlet I will notice the revenge aspect as I watch.
Thanks for the enlightenment.
Annie A

2:16 PM  
Blogger Eddy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:01 PM  
Blogger Eddy said...

Hi, I liked your post, was useful. I came across this post through a Google search and your post was relevant. Thanks. Check out this link. I think that you might enjoy it.


2:09 AM  

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