Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Acting = Free Range

My Blogspot profile used to read, "I'm learning to act not by pretending to be someone else but by becoming more myself," and then I changed it about a year ago, as I approached graduating with my MFA.  I'd been criticized by at least one colleague for that description, whom it seemed to annoy.  For the first few years I'd been doing this, that was the starting point of my work, however.  "Becoming more myself" was a goal, and a motto, that grounded me without restricting me too much.  It helped me to personalize material and, when in doubt, or when I lacked technique, gave me somewhere to go.  Then, as I approached graduation, I came to realize that training had given me a much larger tool kit as well as the security to realize that in acting I couldn't help "becoming more myself" and could let the mantra go.  I began to relish the idea of turning into other people and that was a lot more fun and interesting.  I came to understand better my colleague's annoyance, (though he still knows far less about acting than he thinks he does.)

Of course, "becoming more myself" and "turning into other people" are analytical tools, starting points for imagining and organizing my entry into embodying action, not ends in themselves (I prefer to think in terms of 'action' rather than 'character,' which feels too static, too assertoric.  If I think too much about "character," I hear Aristotle's pronouncement that "character is our fate" and feel numbed, not liberated.)  They're not at all descriptions of fact, since I'm not Marlon Brando or Kate Blanchett.  Of course, as I "become other people," I feel like "more myself," because one's "self" is so much more pulsating with potentiality than most of us remember, or wish to realize.  When I walk down the street and look around at passersby I often find myself startled by how 'locked in' to a way of behaving that most people seem.  Their postures, gaits, ways of gazing, carrying a briefcase or backpack, or conversing with friends feel both blindly habitual and very much like an ACT, but an act with a limited tool box or act of imagination to shape it.  Most people look hemmed in, herding themselves from home to work place, like cattle moving sedately from barn to salt lick and back.

Now my profile reads "on stage and off," which is all the motto I need.  I like living free range.

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