Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chapter 41: How Actors See the World

How Actors See the World
A good actor not only believes in him or herself onstage, but also understands the specific level of belief that is relevant to the project at hand.

We (they sent us out in pairs, then) instinctively sense that there are issues, particularly when the director is making far too much of our presence. A battery of ready excuses is presented, suggesting that sickness, politics, misfortune, conspiracy or some other forces have taken action against the production, limiting the success of the result. (All of which may be, and probably are, true.) The director is certain, however, that trained adjudicators will see beyond the adversity to the quality of the initial vision. Somewhere in the background of this conversation linger issues of tenure as the director seeks something on paper to bear witness to the quality of his or her work, while the school is contemplating, perhaps, the opposite accumulation of evidence.

“I was just wondering if you could tell – you must have been able to tell – that there was one actor on that stage tonight who had lost all the joy of performing?”  
Um… I’m sorry?
“You must have seen – I mean, how could you not have seen – that there was one actor on stage who simply didn’t enjoy performing any more.”Well, there were, like, thirty-five people in the cast.
[Thirty-five people on a monster of a stage, which swallowed them up like ants on a hill.]
“Yes, but certainly you noticed that there was someone who just wasn’t enjoying himself up there.”
Do you mean… you?
“Yes, I mean, how could you not tell? I was completely bored and put off. I just don’t even actually know if I want to be a performer anymore.”
[I looked at him more intently. Some memory of our post-show discussion (in which this actor had been an active participant) clicked in the back of my head.]
You played… the dog.
“Exactly. Yes. I was the dog. You could tell. Couldn’t you?”
You were wearing… a dog suit.
“That’s right! That was me. So. You saw.
Um… the suit kind of covered you up from head to toe. There wasn’t any part of you that was actually showing.
“Yes, but certainly you could tell in the general… listlessness of my character, that all the excitement was gone.”
You know, given the fact that the suit pretty much covered you up… and most of your ‘lines’ were, like, barks and growls, I have to say that I wasn’t really reading that much into it. I mean, beyond a certain requisite level of… of friskiness, which, I must say, you performed beautifully, the general… malaise that you seem to be describing didn’t quite come across the footlights.

If you are not an actor, you may not get what’s so funny about this. If you are, you are laughing with recognition of a significant percentage of the people you have worked with.
A good actor not only believes in him or herself onstage, but also understands the specific level of belief that is relevant to the project at hand. The rules are different for children’s plays than they are for adult plays. They are different between musicals and dramas, between dramas and comedies, between farces and fantasies, and between lavish pageants and psychological explorations, and when you treat a fantasy as seriously as you would treat Anton Chekov, for instance, you are expending a lot of unnecessary, and probably counter-productive energy.

No comments:

Post a Comment