Monday, March 16, 2009

Hinds and Harts in the Dark

Hind: Old school word for doe
Hart: Really old school word for stag

Art imitates life. Life imitates art. Pick one. They're both right.
This evening's discussion - Art imitates life.

This sort of goes back to what I mentioned some posts ago, about observation and such. Everything you live in your life is a tool to use as an actor. Let me repeat myself.

Everything in your life is an acting tool.

Every experience you have and every feeling you feel gets stored away in your little brain as a memory, and since it really happened to you, it's a rather real memory. Use them. No one can see inside your head while you're onstage - acting is an illusion; the better the illusion, the better of an actor you are. If character A is grieving the loss of a family member - most people know what grieving the loss of someone or something close to them feels like, even if it isn't exactly what the script is dictating. Don't play grief - feel grief. You know what these feelings are, so find them and use them.

That means that you have to start being aware of yourself. Notice what pain feels like (this might sound a little masochistic and fucked up, so PLEASE NOTE I'm not saying go freaking cut yourself in the name of your art), notice how you walk when your knee is bruised, notice the flood of adrenaline when the car you're riding in slams on the brake, try and notice what you look at first as you trip and fall. Little things, big things - just stash them away in your head for later use.

Par example, mes amis -

In my acting class I'm currently doing a monologue about a woman who was just at the funeral of her best friend and dance partner. Through a series of unfortunate events, she winds up staying the night at this strange family's house, and the room she is staying in is covered in pinned up butterflies, and, alas, they are alive when she wakes up. Morbid, no?

What does this have to do with paying attention to experiences? No, I was not at a funeral this weekend! No, I was not surrounded by half dead insects beating themselves to death against the walls of a strange room! Yes, I had a horrifying and nauseating brush with death!

Aha. New vocab word: substitution. Replacing an event or memory you have not experienced with one that is similar and you can manipulate to suit your needs.

I can delve into my mind and pull out some form of terror and misery and lump it into the text and get a decent emotion and action for the part where she relives the butterfly incident, sure, sure, can't we all? But I was lucky (what a horrid twist of that word) enough to be able to experience trauma, horror, nausea, shock and misery this morning, and I got to shelve that experience and keep it in my mental files for later use. On my way back to campus, dad and I hit a deer this morning, and all I want to do is forget it, but each second and each reaction is important to me as an actor. I can take apart the moments and use them again (and I'm sure this isn't healthy, but this is the sacrifice we make for our art), so instead of mentally seeing butterflies I've never known, I can substitute them with the glowing flash of one huge deer eye and the broad tawny side of a doe just before that heart stopping thud and crash. Simple and yet complex enough to bring a beautiful sense of realism to my character's muted anguish.

Of course you can shelve non-traumatic experiences too (e.g. my frustration at the internet being down again this afternoon), but this was a very detailed example and I wanted to share it. I'm also not sleeping well for many reasons, that being one of them.

I'm auditioning for a CPTV something on Thursday. I'll fill you in on the details as I find them out.

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