Constant Havoc

Yes, I thought about this stuff before I put it here.

Tag: Actor

Art

stairs

January 4, 1958

A work of art should not show. It should not teach.

IT SHOULD BE.

It should be like a fact that has many meanings, all as complex and mixed up as life itself, contradictory, unfathomable, mysterious. The meanings should be here. But the audience should feel — as they do in the presence of a work of nature, that they have to find them, dig them out, and interpret them for themselves, each putting on each his own meaning.

from Elia Kazan’s notebook for Face in the Crowd

as quoted in Kazan on Directing

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What is theatre that fits?

embracing

Life has dimensions. We are each of us just the right size, and knowing that size keeps us happy. When we lose sight of our size and begin to push out of or contract to less than what we naturally are, we experience discomfort. I am me, and I love me. I know just how far I extend, and I find everything I need to keep me happy easily within reach.

Art has dimensions, too. I believe art’s value lies in reminding each of us of our true dimensions. Many of us think ourselves very small. We are not. We are large and can grasp great chunks of life to fulfill ourselves and keep us happy. We need art to remind us how big we are.

I am a theatre artist. Others are dancers or musicians or painters or writers or a myriad other types of creators. I am happy they know their passions. Theatre gives me breath. When I am acting or directing or reading a play or studying the writing of other theatre artists, I am full. I know my dimensions, and I am very large.

I can touch you with my art. We can make contact. Magic happens in moments of contact.

Theatre is created in sequences. First, there is the urge. I have a desire to touch, and I begin to search for the vehicle that will allow that touch to reach me. I talk to friends about the theatre they are creating. I see theatre. I imagine the possibilities. I allow the urge to grow, and it forms a force that draws more creativity to me.

I begin to study. I feel what’s in the air. I pay attention to the sounds on the street. I listen. I hear. I contact people, other creators.

We are all creators.

I read. I see the words of playwrights, and I make contact with their intentions. Plays on paper are potentialities and promises. The words release themselves in me, and I feel their powers push me to remember how large I am. In my mind, I reach out to the possibilities.

I see forms. A vision shapes itself in me. Ideas are born. A vehicle to contact the spectators arrives.

I contact creators who help me fill my vision with life-giving air. I touch other creators, and they touch me. We are in contact. We share our gifts of creation.

There is some time that passes, during which we all concentrate on creating the vehicle to contact the spectators, and when the vehicle is ready, we call the spectators to help us give it birth.

The creation is born when it is viewed. It is given life when the spectators participate. In being seen, contact is created, and magic occurs.

I need to create magic. I need to contact. I can breathe when I create contact.

In his book, The Empty Space, Peter Brook writes,

The theatre is the arena where a living confrontation can take place.

Contact happens in living confrontation. I believe contact is sacred, and I strive to create sacred contact. When my creation touches another person, a space is created that fills us both. We are made whole. The spectator finishes me.

If I lose sight of the contact I strive for and make theatre for the sole purpose of showing, I cannot make contact. It is mere ego. It hides my soul from the spectator, and when I am hidden, contact is impossible. Magic is impossible. The sacred bond is impossible.

Art that fits creates sacred contact. Art that knows its dimensions can appear very small physically, but living confrontation is always the perfect size. It is just large enough to create a space where we can breathe.

Theatre that fits creates room for people to touch each other. There is magic in that sacred embrace.

Dimensions

I like creating theatre that fits.

Even More Thoughts on Acting

To bring an audience the revelation of the failings and aspirations, the dreams and desires, the negative and the positive aspects of human beings—this is what we should set as our goal as committed theater artists. Then we will be respected and have respect for ourselves and respect for acting! —

Uta Hagen, Respect for Acting

I have read both of Uta Hagen’s books about acting and admire each one. Besides the one quoted above, there is Challenge for the Actor, which I prefer.

Revelation. That word is miraculous. I go about my days meeting various people in many different walks of life, and it’s always astonishing to me to think about their lives. I wonder what the home is like for the cashier at the grocery store. What story has the doctor just been a part of before he comes in to take a look at my sore throat? What’s going on with the friend who isn’t returning calls? The individuals I meet on a daily basis are full of failings and aspirations. They have inner lives that I can imagine and gather occasional glimpses of.

The study of people around me assists me in building a character. My role in a play assumes that I know much more about my character’s thoughts and actions than simply when he’s speaking. I have to know what he’s thinking between the lines. More acting happens when I’m not speaking than when I am. I’ve been in long scenes on stage with only 5 lines of my own, but my character must exist the whole time I’m in front of the audience. While it might not be written down, I have to know what my character would say if suddenly called upon to speak.

To get to that level of character, I have to work. I relate that work to my own life as well. What are my motives for pursuing a certain goal? What are the dreams and desires behind it? Finally, what are my negative and positive aspects that I present to the world every day? Playing me takes full time. I never get to lay it down, take off the costume, or wash off the makeup. I’m aware that I perform everywhere I go.

A Few More Thoughts on Acting

Johnston Forbes Robertson as Hamlet, Lyceum Theatre, London, 1897.

Johnston Forbes Robertson as Hamlet, Lyceum Theatre, London, 1897.

Is acting a craft? Is it an art? How do we allow for such differences in the acting world as lie between the Little Rascals on the one hand and Meryl Streep on the other? What makes an actor?

Stanislavsky was the first who put in writing what came to be a widely accepted answer. It became so widely accepted that it is accorded the status of a proper noun and capitalized as the Method. He put on paper a formula for creating a character that still carries weight today and still engenders controversy. In the same interview in 1961 quoted previously, Mr. Jose Ferrer said:

By definition, how can Stanislavsky’s so-called Method, which was created for the period of 1890 in Russia, be valid today,…in a period that has television, has the atom bomb, has radio, and media of communication for actors that didn’t exist for him.

Indeed, why does the Method still matter and what is it? Mr. Ferrer went on to call it a kind of realism arising out of the Industrial Revolution and the political milieu of the time also evident in Impressionism in painting and music. I am just beginning to read Creating a Role and Building a Character, but I know a lot of what I’m going to find simply due to being in and around the theater and actors since I was six.

An actor is more than a shell. He brings experience and talent to a role. His body carries physical memories of emotions. His mind remembers mental images of events. He is a whole, and a good actor applies it all to his assignment. He takes his own inner life and uses bits and pieces to create a character for the audience to believe in. He uses it all to craft a being to live and breathe its hour on the stage.

Shakespeare had something to say on the subject of acting in Hamlet (III.2):

Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently: for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say,whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness…

Be not too tame neither; but let your own discretion be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature: for anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own image, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.

Shakespeare draws a line between using all gently and anything so overdone. Isn’t he calling for realism? While the words here concentrate on outward shows of action, won’t the inward feelings follow that give the Player the ability to cry for Hecuba? Or is it all bound up in talent? I don’t know the full answer to that yet, and I’m looking forward to the possibility of discovering it.

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