Saturday, September 24, 2011

ON ACTING: "I don't like the role!"

Why do certain actor's either consciously or unconsciously resist certain scripts.

The answers are varied.  (1) The script may be in truth a bad one. Period...and the actor is smart to avoid it. (2) The script may be good, but actor may have played that kind of character before in another script and finds the character/performance repetitiously unappealing. (3) Or...and this is my point in this mini-essay--sometimes the actor is threatened by the over-challenged emotional demands of a certain character, and blames the script for the undesirable (for him or her) character portrait. (We often do that in everyday life, don't we? Mischaracterize--negatively judge--a person who puts emotional demands on that we are uncomfortable in fulfilling?)

When an actor judges a character as unworthy of being acted--in effect, turning down the role-- I ask the actor the following question: is it possible you are uncomfortable with that particular aspect of your own character? Is the emotion demanded by the role one you generally do not wish to feel, onstage or off? Are you negatively and subjectively judging the emotion required in the characterization and projecting that onto your seeming "objective" analysis (and denigration) of the writing and character?

Good actors must be brave in their logical emotional evaluation of self. There is nothing wrong with avoiding a role one does not wish to play--or feel. We are free to decide what is good or preferable for our emotional comfortableness and/or needs. However, I think it is important for the actor to realize when they are turning down certain character demands--and worse through blaming the writer for a bad, unreal or "corny" script and rejecting it--and hence limiting the range of roles available to them; in most instances they are rationalizing away their fear rather than honestly admitting a limitation.

When the latter reason--fear of the emotional demands of the role--for rejecting a role occurs in class I try to cajole actors into trying the role anyway, trying to expand their emotional range into previously avoided places. As encouragement I offer them FDR's statement: "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself;" class is a safe place, and what one initial fear becomes, with hard work, less frightening--and perhaps, hopefully, eventually, exciting to deal with; like turning one's fear of heights into the exciting thrill of mountain climbing. The fear remains; but it has been transformed into the joy and excitment of testing and overcoming that particlar arena of fear,

Ironically, more often than not, on those wonderful occasions when a previously frightened actor ventures into the emotion that they had up to then avoided, and taps into that aspect of themselves, they sometimes find a performance treasure.

Are not diamonds carbon transformed by pressure? Similarly, when an emotional arena of oneself has been kept under severe 'wraps' or pressure (repression) within oneself for years (eons, in an individual's experienciong of repressed everyday life), and is finally dug up and experienced and revealed in performance, one more often than not finds that that repressed emotion has become  the actor's field of diamonds--to be gathered and formed into the new core of one's performance excellence.


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