Friday, October 1, 2010

Week 3: Entry 2: Why, oh why, is acting so hard???

Last night's rehearsal included a run-through, with some of the actual pieces of the set and a few new props. I've been rehearsing the play now for nearly three working weeks, so I'm familiar with the mise-en-scene. (This is my preferred term for 'blocking' which, I'm afraid, is a word from which I flee. 'Blocking' does exactly what it says: it blocks the actor from any true flow, connection, dynamic listening. Added to which it comes from the practice of directors working out how they are going to stage a play by using blocks of wood to position the actors. To be honest, this was how the director of my first job after drama school stated that she directed. She used chess pieces to work everything out in advance, before she'd even seen the whole cast working together and connecting organically...)

However, I digress...

I'm familiar with the mise-en-scene for Tilly No-Body, I've been working with the costumes, most of the props have been in place, and yet just having a few new bits and pieces last night significantly affected my 'dual consciousness'.

This Stanislavskian term - dual consciousness - allows for the actor's utter engagement in the script's action whilst also acknowledging that there's an audience or a camera witnessing the events. Most actors are aware of the fine juggling of consciousness in performance - and how the slightest thing can tip the balance one way or another. Last night, a new set of steps, an adjustment of one of the props, a sound cue just a little too low for me to hear, and I found myself 'going through the motions'. The words were coming out of my mouth (most of the time), but I was finding it very hard to really hear and connect with what I was saying or with the given circumstances of each scene. The run was 2 minutes longer than usual, and I was totally bored with myself in certain places.

So, imagine my surprise, when at the end of the run, Miles, Reed and Sabba said how much improvement there was...

I sometimes don't get this acting business. I remember one of my Russian 'masters' - Albert Filozov - saying that it doesn't matter how little or how much the actor cries or laughs: their job is to make the audience cry or laugh. And the irony of the acting process is that, sometimes, our least 'felt' performances are the most effective as far as the audience is concerned. We don't have to 'experience' what the character is experiencing: we have to tell the story in the most appropriate manner to the style of the play, and take the audience on the right journey.

I understand why many actors are reluctant to talk about the art of acting and articulate what they're doing. There is a mystery to it. Of course there is a system and a technique as well: it's not pure intuition and inspiration. For me, the mystery is how little we understand sometimes the difference between what we experience on the stage and its reception by the audience. So don't tell me it's just about learning the lines and not bumping into the furniture...

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