Tuesday, January 24, 2012

ON ACTING: Revealing Sub-Text

The initial surface of an enacted character rarely reveals the truth. People  lie...to themselves, to others. (And good writers, knowing that, write their dialogue and other actions accordingly).

How often in life (which drama must imitate) does one really know or understand the deepest emotional strands of their character?

Aristotle said the ultimate moment of life (and therefore of drama) is the character's moment of self-recognition and discovery. That means, if he is right, and I think he is, that all that all character-sought images prior to that final moment are like the character peering into foggy mirrors, distorting the true face of character from their own--and therefore the audience's--clear recognition.

The essential self of character is there from the beginning of the drama, but it has been obfuscated in the fog of self-denial and other-evasions.

It is only at the end of the learning process that the character (and the audience) discovers who and what the character REALLY is. Only--finally--does the true nature of the character--bubble (from the sub-text) to the surface (the text), only after the conflicts of life rub the character raw of self-evasions and lies.

So the good actor, when confronting the dialogue and other actions of the piece must realize that what he or she says and does prior to that ultimate self-revealing  point is often only the glittering and beguiling surface of their character. They must accept that in their performance, while beneath those earlier lines and evasions of their character, must simultaneously swim the tortured currents of desire, longing, fears and denials--the truths--appropriate to the character's past...BUT IT MUST REMAIN HIDDEN.

A properly enacted character enters the scene like a fully-formed but-only-beheld-from-the-surface geological strata--layered sediments of emotion, set down by the storms and winds of everyday reality--only to be revealed finally, ultimately, layer by layer, by the jackhammer of events during the scene. To repeat: in the beginning of the scene only the surface of the character (like the earth) is apparent to the audience. Then the problems and vicissitudes of the character's story rubs him raw, obly finally and slowly revealing the sediments of character.

All great drama, and great acting, is a mystery, a series of hidden plots and some-half-but-mostly-hidden character truths (sub-texts) to be solved and revealed over the course of the story.


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