Tuesday, March 09, 2010

ON ACTING: The Simultaneity of Emotion

In a complex acting performance, as in great classical music, there are many notes played simultaneously. Actors who are untrained or self-indulgent always want to play the emotional notes of their performance one at a time: first anger, then sadness, then confusion, as if they can’t experience more than one thing at a time. In doing so such actors are playing falsely. Life is a multi-dimensioned reality in both time and space.

Audiences who leave a satisfying performance in the theatre leave not aware of every single note played, but having experienced the music, the overall sum of the parts.

So an actor who ‘plays’ emotional moments as if they are discrete occurrences plays falsely. The audience, who, I repeat, knows life (without even in the theatre consciously knowing they know it) recognize truth from falseness in performance. They ‘know’ emotional changes in life are not discrete events, with one emotion stopping before another begins, with the notes of a musical staff played individually rather than all at once, so when they see an actor’s performance such as we have described it, they cease to identify with the actor-as-character, or his performance.


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