Wednesday, March 12, 2008

OD #1: Next question, please?

(This one's for the actors, or those who have studied it in their time, or those who use such technique at some point.
Or for liars.)

Okay, guys: I think periodically I will ask a question here and look to all of you answer it, because I think a strength of a good blog is to engage in or introduce a discussion. Hopefully this will work. This is something that came up during my interview for the Classical course at Central. I was posed this question during my interview:

"What do you do when you act?"

For the actors, you'll be thinking, "I'm focusing, I'm saying lines, I'm listening to my partner, I'm putting myself into the circumstances of the character," etc. Well, you're wrong. Every answer I gave of that ilk garnered the response, "Yes, but what are you Doing?" An example of the interaction:

"Well, I'm staying present."
"Yes, but how do you Do that?"
"With my body, with my breath, with my voice...?"

I had no idea. I was exasperated and so was my auditor, who assured me, perhaps in an attempt to cut off the conversation, that there were loads of answers. I just didn't have one. He wanted something beyond Stanislavsky, and I could only really call out technique. I just didn't have an answer.

I thought about it a long time after--the rest of the day the question followed me: backstage at my performance of
Much Ado About Nothing, and later into the audience of Conversations in Tusculum, which is where, while watching Aidan Quinn stand against a column, an answer occurred to me.

Here's what I came up with.
I think the answer is that you breathe. According to my yogiraj, breath is one of the three things that make up life (the other two being light and love). Breath has been known to control our rate of thinking, the pace of our dialogue, our action. It keeps us present, calms us down, speeds us up, and is the thing we live on. All of these things are happening when we act and affecting how we act, what's going on in the moment, so I think that's my answer.

My roommate, Heidi, another Central acceptee this year for dramaturgy, who I had repeated the question to later, came home with an answer to days later. She had seen a documentary made about mounting
Mother Courage at the Public in 2006, where Meryl Streep was basically asked the same question. She said something to the affect of being a translator; that she was both Brecht and herself, both 1939 and 2006, embodying this story and making it coherent for an audience of today, singing the songs of old so they not be forgot.

So Meryl Streep translates, and I breathe. What is it you do?

Lying, lying liars: feel free to comment as well.


Dani said...

I wonder why the boys in the cast don't show any interest in making out with me. Well, except Chris Raucci. God. I think this is why I stopped acting after high school. The inability to take it to the next step, that is, not CR.

TREVOR said...

I'm not breathing, not trying to remember, not acting, essentially not doing. All that is taken up in preproduction and technique; your character study is technique. When you are onstage you do nothing.

Lea Maria said...

Friend and castmate Vanessa Gibbens sent this "link," but it didn't post, or she didn't post it, or maybe she can't because she doesn't have a google account...anyway, she sent this:

"Acting is listening. If an actor truly listens then the response is truthful. I think it's something we actors forget once we've learned our lines and learned the way we say them. We may think about what line is next, instead of being present and listening. Try it next time. Listen."

Except: I totally tried that one! And it didn't count! I also tried "acting is reacting." That didn't count either. Or maybe these are all acceptable answers, and the British man had just heard them all before and was looking for something else.

Sky said...

I do. I do think. I do breathe. I do listen. I do react. I do remember. I do nothing. I do blocking. I do mess up. I do forget. I do remember. I do wait. I do trip. I do choke. I do sweat. I do wander. I do focus. I do. I do I do I do I DO!

Clayton said...

as one who often acts by himself (discounting the piano behind me in this case), and often in foreign languages, i'm most tempted to concur with ms. streep. i do feel that translation is key to acting, but i find COMMUNICATION to be of even more importance. when thinking about acting, it seems far too easy to think of what we do physically and mentally, but this really is everything we do to PREPARE for the's not the acting itself.

i know that when i'm finished with a performance, i want to know what the audience thought. did they get what i was saying? did they understand the story and emotions i was trying to portray? if they didn't, i don't feel as if i've done my job. i didn't communicate, therefore i didn't ACT. in the end, while we may act for ourselves, or for the sake of art, or for some greater good, or WHATEVER, i think communication needs to happen regardless. if not, why bother?

greedygreen said...

I have a sneaking suspicion that I am the lying lying liar to which you refer.

My initial reaction to this post is: "Aww hells no!, I don't act or know anything about acting. I belong behind the scenes or in the audience."

But of course I act, sort of. I lie (although I maintain that withholding the truth is the more accurate descriptor of events.)

I act all the time, for many different audiences. I want some people to think I'm smarter than I am, others to think I'm dumber. I want to appear empathetic when, at times, I don't give a rat's rear side. This may sound conniving, but even the most vocal advocate of "Being Yourself" admits we all do it. It's not a honed craft, but it is crafty:

I pretend. I hide. I think ahead to my next projection of identity. I'm aware when facial expressions don't match verbal cues, and ammend accordingly. I improvise. I backpeddle when I fuck up. I pay attention to my poses and posture. I help others save face and struggle to save my own. I'm aware.