Sunday, May 02, 2010

ON ACTING: The Simultaneity of Emotion

An actor who ‘plays’ emotional moments one after another as if they are discrete occurrences, plays falsely. Emotions are like pistons, all part of a single entity. Perhaps one emotion may be dominant at a particular moment, coming to the top of the engine’s (actor's) actions, but the others are co-existent, susceptible of rising to the top at any other moment. As in life, one emotion does not end, and another begins. They overlap in real time. Like playing the piano with a depressed foot pedal, there is a blending of subsequent sounds over time.

Think of driving a car. At first the driver is driving straight ahead, the whole body headed in a forward momentum. Then, when the driver makes a turn to the left, her whole body does not make a full turn. Part of the driver’s body still maintains forward direction. Suddenly the driver turns right. Now part of the body is going right, part is still going left, and part straight ahead. (Try it sometimes…carefully, on a deserted street…please.) Forward momentum mixed with left turn and right turn dynamics; the body is now going in all three directions at once.

So actors beware: The audience, as I have repeated again and again in these blogs, knows life (without even consciously knowing they know it). They recognize the falseness of discrete emotions and the truth of simultaneous emotions. They ‘know’ emotional changes in life are not discrete events, with one emotion stopping before another begins. They have driven many emotional cars in their lives, So when they see an actor’s false performance such as we have described--discrete emotion following discrete emotion--they know the actor has removed herself from real life, and the audience--as they always do when presented by an actor's unreal emotional life--ceases to identify with the actor’s performance.


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