Sunday, September 26, 2010

ON ACTING: More on Funny

For the writer, actor and/or director, the task in comedy is to make the incredible credible, the outlandish possible and the buffoonish all-too-human.

Without comedy's ties to the emotionally real, comedy spins off into comment, superiority and an unsuccessful poke-in-the ribs. As anyone knows who has tried to tell a successful joke, the audience laughs less if the joke teller is telling the audience--either before or during the telling of the joke--that the joke is going to be a laugh-filled riot. Audiences will generally laugh more if the teller (or writer, director and/or actor) is having the joke happen by surprise.

A general rule: the less funny and more seriously or outlandishly real the situation and/or the joke is to the teller (or writer, director and/or actor), the funnier it will be to the audience.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ON ACTING: Funny is What Funny Does

When you are preparing a character which you think is inherently funny, don't overlook the inherent part of that viewpoint. Inherent implies potential; that is, a character is potentially funny. They have the inherent capacity to be funny; but they are funny best IF AND WHEN...and this is the important part...the character is realized by their reaction to a situation. REACTIONS... reacting whether emotionally, facially or in dialogue "characteristically" to a situation (or to other people) is what makes characters truly and lastingly funny.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

ON ACTING: Really Listening and Looking

An audience can tell the difference when an actor is really looking at and listening and not just aiming his eyes and face at the other actor(s) in a scene. They can hear it in the actor’s voice: it is richer, fuller when being activated by specifically stimulated emotion; and see it in the actor’s eyes: they are focused when the actor is really looking.

Eyes are called the “windows to the soul” for good reason. They are an infinitely complex and startling composite of millions of cells. When they engage in specific visual perception, there occurs real and discernible changes in eye composition. And these cellular changes in composition cannot be controlled by an actor’s voluntary nervous system; an actor cannot pretend to be looking; he cannot choose to make them appear like he is seeing when he is not.

Therefore, a good actor, to ensure audience belief through enacted reality, must really look and listen to the other actors, must really read the newspaper on the table, truly scan photograph in their hands. When an actor does not, the actor’s eyes will have that glazed look, that ‘inner focus’ look; and the voice that comes from an actor not really listening and looking and therefore not emotionally stimulated by reality; it will lack complexity and resonance.

The audience may not have the courage to live life on stage according to the precise demands of acting, but they know life. They live it every day, and can recognize real life when it happens. And will be only fully stimulated and moved when that real life occurs.

Monday, September 13, 2010

ON ACTING: Martinet (Controlling) Directors

A martinet director who demands precise exact, pre-determined performance actions should be treated respectfully in the following manner: the actor should nod sweetly to the misguided director, tell the director they will do exactly as the director asked; then, after the line is said or movement is done in performance by the actor according to the actor’s sense of reality and not the director’s martinet requirements, if the director is left unsatisfied and feels forced to re-iterate the demand in another performance--the actor should reply: “Didn’t I do it the way you wanted?! Let me try again.”

Martinet directors wear out sooner or later.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

ON ACTING: Imagining the Unimaginable

In order for an actor to be exciting, and therefore wildly popular (that is, after all, what we all want), they must take the audience on an emotional trip beyond the everyday. Just as audiences enjoy outer space movies, they also demand inner space movies.

Great performances demand actors take themselves beyond the conventional explorations of their own inner emotions, to travel beyond the known universe of feelings, beyond the superficial and conventional, to universal feelings they (both the actor and audience) have rarely experienced.

They say there are as many molecules in the human form as there are stars in the universe. Well, exciting actors take the audience beyond the know inner stars, beyond the known inner solar system, to far unimagined inner places.

To prepare for that exciting emotional journey, the actor must prepare herself: by first imagining the personal unimaginable; the sudden death of a favorite child, the murdering of a colleague, the death of oneself. To play Oedipus, who slept with his mother, killed his father and tore his own eyes out, the actor must first imagine such seeming unimaginable deeds, and be prepared to feel the deep. complex emotions which precipitate such actions.

Is it possible? Yes. Is it easy? No. Must it be done? Most certainly. In order to deeply touch many hearts, one must first deeply touch one's own.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

ON ACTING: Exciting Reality

The student-actor had made an "choice" how to play a moment in the scene. I watched him, later said I didn't think it was a very good choice. The actor haughtily said to me "It's the way I'd do it in my everyday real life." I said "Maybe; but I doubted I'd be willing to for a $10.50 a ticket (or a $100 on Broadway) to see you in your everyday life. What I'd like to see are the choices you'd make if you were brave and exciting in your everyday life."

Sometimes a teacher has to be cruel to be kind!

A good actor knows that any acting choice must not only be real (i.e., logical to life) but must also be exciting. That's what training and experience are for: to teach and encourage actors not only to seek for reality in their performances, but to bravely seek moments of exciting reality.

"The person that pays the piper calls the tune." The paying audiences knows "real"; they experience it everyday life in their lives. They come to the theater to experience--and they often pay highly for--"exciting" reality. The actor's obligation is to provide it. Period.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

ON ACTING: For the Love of It

Do you know that the root work of amateur is "love of"? It comes from the Latin amo, amas, love. It suggests that actors, both professional and amateur, think of acting as "for the love of it", a chance to be intimately and intensely involved with another human being (and/or set of human beings) in a safe environment.

To act is to be able to the throw away life's fears and constraints, and to safely and deeply engage other human beings; to love, to hate, to be made sad by and to be made joyful with, other people without the danger of any long-term consequences: The scene'll only hurt--or confuse you or turn you on--for a little while. Then it's "Cut," or curtain close, and off to the dressing room and home.
What a wonderful life...if you willingly, actively and bravely love it.