Saturday, June 09, 2012

ON ACTING: The Child Within You

Children are a bundle of emotions, initially much freer with their feelings than their emotional adult counterparts.

But, in order to prepare children for their eventual life-away-from-the-protected-household future, they are taught to constrain those emotions; to act "appropriately in public." Adults teach them (or they learn "the hard way") which emotions can lead to negative consequences in life, and then to stifle, or at least minimize, the free flow of those negative-consequence producing emotions in their everyday activity. In many ways, one can view the process of turning children into successfully mature adults as one of teaching children to be emotionally careful.

But to become good actors, the opposite task is required: keeping the child alive within. Actors nust learn and accept that there are no inappropriate emotions (on-stage or onscreen)--except those illogical to the character you are playing. To successfully act (and to please an audience) often requires (in the role) the killer in you made manifest; or the whore; or the silly fool; or the depressed intellectual.

Audiences can be defined as a cluster of emotionally needy people who feel at that point of time (when they enter the theater) that too much of their own  childhood emotional freedom has been lost--or at least over-constrained--and so they seek the child within them once again, at least for the duration of a play or film. So to achieve that they seek out the company of actors, who, in their trained, professional child-like emotionally-free performances can guide them for a brief time to their own (the audience's) wide-ranging-but-not-suppressed childhood/childlike natures.

A readily accessible childlike nature is an actor's professional requirement. It is what you are paid to deeply access in your role in drama, tragedy or comedy: you must always keep the childlike emotional nature always alive, nearby, ready for professional use...while hopefully you will also live a mature, adult, careful life offatge and offscreen. (Ah, and therein lies the challenge!)


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