Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Physical situations and emotional responses
What follows is an edited email I received from one of my protgees. His word are in regular face and my replies are in bold face. I have a couple of questions about what to do when the script tells you to do something that you at that moment are not feeling. When the script calls for you to be drunk, It would of course be helpful to the actor to have experienced that or have observed that so he could imagine what the physical situations reactions are. obviously you will not drink before the performance and if you pretend to be drunk it is not really reacting truthfully as yourself but as the playwright's character Here is the point. Being drunk is a medical condition like having a cold. We know what the symptoms are in our imaginations and we react physically with these symptoms in our imaginations. If I imagine I have a cold, I have honest physical reactions to that. I don't have a cold but I cough and speak as though my nose is stuffy.Or if you have to trip on something or fall, you must fake it to avoid injury.No, you learn how to fall and you really fall, but you automatically employ those techniques you have learned. Both of these previous examples are not the same thing as emotional reactions, they are physical situations. You may have emotional reactions to these physical things. Neither being drunk nor falling is an emotional response. Also in a script if it calls for you to laugh or cry but the situation in real life but a play is not real life would not actually make you laugh or cry and you have to fake it,sorry, I don't buy this as a valid situation. No faking the emotional reactions. The situation is that of the play, not of real life. The mistake many acting teachers make is that they insist that 'real life' is where the actor must find his 'truth'. But the real deal is that films and plays and not real life and actually have little to do with real life. Thus, the actor's 'truth' is based in the script rather than in reality. (see Tony Barr's defininition of action in The Tao and the Art of Acting) isn't this also not reacting truthfully, or must you learn to open yourself up to all types of humor and sadness(for lack of a better word), so that you will be able to relate with every kind of character? As an actor you have to be open to all stimuli and react within the imaginary circumstances (the play) You are not reacting to similar situations in real life. There is one caveat, and that is one of the paradoxes of acting which requires that you react fully and honestly yet that you as the actor must always be in control so that you do not injure yourself or others. So you must me both the character and the actor at the same time. And sometimes you just have to do the physical thing irregardless of the possibility of injuring yourself. In my first speaking role in a TV series, they expected me to actually dive for my rifle, leap for it off my feet, and land on the ground near the rifle without regard to injuring myself (which was minimal--I skinned my knuckles). Do so see the difference between being drunk or falling and laughing? The later is an emotional reaction, the first two are not. Our emotional reactions remain truthful, our physical situations (which are actually shaping the vessel that holds the character) remain truthful as reactions to our imaginations in the first place and is a truthful physical representation in the second place.