Thursday, October 07, 2010

ON ACTING: To Disturb to Find a Greater Peace

According to the New Yorker magazine, it was a cardinal belief of the great music composer Arnold Schoenberg that "music should exercise a critical function, disturbing rather than comforting the listener."

Could the same be said of acting?

Yes. And no.

An actor's performance should disturb an audience...deeply, intensely and with troubling complexity, but only to comfort them at the end of the drama; churn up the muddy waters of emotional experience so that it may settle more placidly and solidly in the long run. Throughout the performance, the actor-as-character should be so 'disturbed' by the events of the ongoing drama that the audience, in identifying with the actor-as-character throughout the piece, has its own 'peace' disturbed. However, and here Schoenberg and I might disagree, the drama--and the actor-as-character--should return the audience to a greater peace by the drama's resolution. Think of engaging in a military 'disturbance' to attain a greater peace; or to visit a psychiatrist, to revisit old wounds to attain a greater healing.

My hearing of Schoenberg has always been that he would perhaps argue for perpetual warfare, or, in musical terms, dissonance.


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