Monday, October 13, 2008

Veritable Viewpoint 10/14/08

A man who is "of sound mind"
is one who keeps the inner madman
under lock and key.

Paul Valery

I am always amused and slightly irate when I read in a crossword puzzle that they want a five letter word for "to act" and the answer is "emote" as if acting was emoting and only actors "emote." Serious actors do NOT go around the stage emoting. Any one who is reading this entry should know forth with and forever more that acting is not "emoting." Acting is what the dictionary says it is. It is doing something. An actor is someone who does something. An action is something that is done. Got it?

I used to advise young people who asked me about their acting to take charge of whatever scene they were in. Even if they were only playing Third Guard. If there was nothing that required their participation, then to stay still. But to always be alert and ready to step in and do something if the Third Guard was needed.
Any serious actor will tell you that emotion is the sauce on the steak. The sauce without the steak is what unprofessional actors try to do. But what is the steak? What is AT steak?

The character that is being played has a desire and a goal: to make something happen or to prevent something from happening. He wants her, she doesn't want him. There's a conflict, and it's the conflict that brings on the feelings. The more vigorously he pursue her and the more insistently she rejects him the stronger the actions and hence the stronger the emotions. It's not real life. But it will convincingly resemble real life if it is artistically done and believed in by the actors. Their emotions will come with the steak.

Sometimes an actor has to play a character whose desire and actions are so villainous, extreme or self-consuming that he draws on actions that produce a strong passion about something, and at other times no passion at all. Shakespeare's King Richard the Third seems to be completely unemotional about all the heads he's chopping off. There are certain roles that require the actor to unlock the madman inside and let him out. But, since it's done through art, he can do it and still be of "sound mind."

It is the actor's good fortune to know both the nobility and the villainy that dwell in all of us otherwise sound minded people. And that is what we get to portray.

So the next time your crossword puzzle says "to act" you can write in "doing" if you want to, but I don't advise it. It won't fit. So write in "emote" and chuckle along with me at the silliness of it.

DB - the Vagabond


Dannelle said...

No emotes here! You should go on lecture tours- I think people would like to hear you speak on your career and knowledge. Dannelle

Beth said...

Very interesting. But what happens to those actors who invest too much of themselves into the darker roles? Wouldn't it be easy to be consumed by that "inner madman?"


Big Mark 243 said...

Beth brought up a good point, about the 'inner madman' -- mine has been brought into live through the words of Nikolai Golgol ('Diary of a Madman') and in Richard Wright's Cross Damon ('The Outsider'). I was taken how Jack Nicholson said he consueled Heath Ledger in regards to becoming the chaotic Joker in his reprise of the role.

Very little about life is inherently 'passive'. I lean towards your definition of acting, and reject the 'emote'. To emote is a passive feeling, something that does nothing on its own, and relies upon some outer force to give it meaning.

When actors talk, the good ones IMO, can speak of 'being' in the person they are playing. They are the person trying to find their way through a situation. Anywho, I have ran on ... it reminded me of why I tell folks boxing IS the sweet science, and compare it to the martial arts, because it IS a martial art.

Joyce said...

As usual your writing in interesting and informative. I agree with Dannelle... What about teaching? You would be a great teacher of the arts.
Hugs, Joyce

Lisa said...

I've often wondered about actors taking on the role of a madman. I wondered if parts of that character didn't remain with them in some small way.

I'll never use the word emote again without thinking of you. Not that I use that word too often ;)