Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Acting Method and Process

In a guest appearance on the television show Extras, Sir Ian McKellan asks "how do I ask so well?" While the question is not arrogance but part of the funny bit that follow, an interesting discussion on acting can come from it. "I pretend to be the person I'm portraying in the film or play... How do I know what to say? The words were written down for me in the script. How did I know where to stand? People told me."

While this may be an over simplification of an actor's process, it does accurately portray the point that actors, for the most part, are fairly helpless. I know this will not be a popular thought to all my friends out there, but they are asked to be chameleons for someone else's work. They have to say the lines that a writer wrote exactly as he wrote them. They wear the clothes that someone else picked out and designed for them. They follow the director's vision and blocking.

This is why it is always special when you find a group of artists who are able to lay ego aside and truly collaborate together to tell the story. This is often most effective when working on a new play and you have the ability to include the playwright in the whole process so that the script grows and breathes with the actors and the rehearsals. But there are ways to do this with an existing script as well.

The key ingredients are respect and trust. Every member of the team has to trust that the other members are well trained to do their job, are as completely devoted as you are, and won't let you down. It's like building a great big safety net. How do you do this? It is dependant mostly on finding the right people. Beyond that, all effects are ephemeral and will sometimes work and sometimes fail. But the difference is you know when it really works and it will show in the final product on-stage.

Happy Birthday: Alvina Kraus (1893-1981) & Vsevolod Meyerhold (1874-1940)

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