Saturday, July 15, 2006

Theater = Therapy = Theology

Update to the post below, "My Physical Instrument:" The main thrust of this post is that our physical instrument is highly empathetic. I first realized this over the winter, doing vocal work at Shakespeare & Company, when Linklater work we were doing focused on the soft palette, which reacts finely and quickly to other people; e.g., if other actors are dropping their soft palette--which creates a dark, muffled tone in their voice--you can find yourself dropping it too, until you consciously raise it. The 'incident' to which I refer in the post below highlights the empathetic nature of our physical being more than it complains about the incident itself.

I love the increased physical awareness I get by working to develop a craft of acting, which, somewhat to my surprise, has grown into the closest thing to a 'spiritual practice' I've ever had (for me, 'spirituality' is about feeling wholly connected to myself--emotions to intellect; physical to mental; self to others; self to natural world). But, any moment in the development of my awareness is a subtler experience than other actors might imagine for themselves, and so the very act of talking about it can seem strange and overly dramatic, gives it too much weight, over defines it, or is just plain 'too much information.' Insofar as my growth in awareness is a personal, spiritual matter--as well as an aspect of artistic craft--it can seem like something so personal that it shouldn't be talked about in public, like one's sex life, or other private grievances (though hopefully, one's sex life isn't a grievance). For many actors--especially those who come to it with open instincts and natural gifts, as does the actress with whom I talked about this yesterday--this discussion may both be uncomfortable and beside the point. I get that, and actually feel the same way about something else I do, which comes more naturally to me and which I'm better at than acting, i.e., writing. I write a lot, but I don't write a lot about writing.

Shakespeare & Company focused issues for me. One thing we talked about a lot, when I was there, was the tight relationship between modes of action we tend to classify distinctly as "therapeutic" and "theatrical." We don't often think of "therapy" and "theater" in the same breath. But, Sweetheart: are they so distinct? We do one in private and the other in public, just as we may pray in private, one moment, and in public, the next. Theater. Therapy. Theology. For me, this means that drawing hard, bright lines between the artistic endeavor of acting and spiritual endeavor of my personal life would diminish my accounts of both (because I don't draw hard lines between them, I found myself bemused by the long thread of comments on an earlier post, about whether acting is "lying" or not. Is praying--be it in supplication or thanksgiving--lying?) As deeply personal as this blog gets--on a regular basis--I hope it to be delving into the pools of common experience where the apparently separate streams of our artistic and personal lives eventually meet. Even if I swim up one stream or the other, in a given post, I do so always with the intent of getting a better idea of what is getting dumped in the pond below, where we all gotta swim (I promise not to pee in the water.)

Does that make any sense?

p.s. Again, I recommend reading Peter Brooks (or other theater artists whom I don't know, such as Grotowski) or nosing around the work done by Tina Packer and Shakespeare & Company.


Signore Direttore said...

Let's face it, everybody pees in the pool.

erin said...

I recommend reading David Mamet's True and False.