Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hiding Harvest 3/17/09

No one wants to know how clever you are. They don't want an insight into your mind, thrilling as it may be. They want an insight into their own.

Mark Haddon
Top o' the mornin' to you.
Aeschylus, if you don't know him, was an ancient Greek playwright. He wrote great tragedies filled with poetry and drama. The world is blessed that some of his plays survive. Many years ago there was a cartoon in The New Yorker of two men in togas at an ancient theatre, standing and talking during intermission. And one says to the other "Oh, Aeschylus is all right, I suppose, but I go to the theatre to relax."

There are many reasons why people go to the theatre or to a concert or an art museum or read a novel. Relaxation may be one of them, but the really great works of art will make you think, maybe not at the moment, but eventually. A true artist knows he has to leave something for the audience member, the viewer, the listener, the reader, to do. When I first started painting I thought I had to completely fill up the canvas with details, until I saw some of the more interesting works by artists like Picasso and Braque. As a viewer I was being asked, no told, to supply information that seemed to be missing. In bookkeeping and other such precision tasks one has to dot every I and cross every T, but not in art.

A good story will leave it up to you to decide certain things from your own knowledge and imagination, if you've been following the story. There is more to the music than the musician plays.

In theatre there is something called "mysteries," but not mysteries in the detective story sense. The playwright doesn't tell the actor everything about the character. It is up to the actor, from his imagination and knowledge of acting and of the play, to fill in details. And at the same time we, as actors, don't give you all the details. We withhold some thoughts, feelings and expressions. We give you 75 to 90%, depending on the play, and let you construct the rest. Next time you see a film or TV drama notice if you are wondering what some character is thinking or feeling. If it's a good performance, with a good script you may not be told. Watch Marlon Brando in almost any film but particularly Mutiny On The Bounty. Every time I watch the film I'm fascinated by what his character is thinking and how he arrives at the decisions he makes.

Look at some delicate Japanese art. There may be a tree and a bridge with a mountain in the background. How you get from the bridge to the mountain is up to you.

Shakespeare, the great and unfathomable, sometimes invites you in to build the drama for yourself. In Henry the Fifth one character says to the audience "Think when we talk of horses that you see them printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth." He tells us to participate in the performance. There will be no horses on the stage, so we had better supply them.

Good artists will not hit every note, write every word nor paint every blade of grass. So you may go to the theatre to relax but if it's any good you'll go home thinking.

DB - Vagabond
Oi'll toon me fiddle and oi'll rosin me bow
And oi'll have music wheriver oi go.


Zhao Jinxing said...

Hello DB, Thank you very much for visiting my blog and the guestbook, I enjoy your blog, hope that we become true friends.

Gerry said...

I could not help but think of all the actors there are in real life who play a role which is not really them, and then you have actors who also only give you veiled coy hints about what their character is really about. I cannot help but think of "One Eyed Jacks" when you spoke of Brando which I have come to think is his most significant movie since it was the story he wanted to tell. I saw it not long ago and thought it revealed a great deal about Brando that he did want you to figure out. That movie fascinated me. I thought he was the one eyed Jack and Karl Malden who takes the money they stole and leaves him for dead represents the destroyer of his other eye. The relationship between the two partners in crime is abrasive and unpleasant and dominating. That ooor little Mexican girl who played his love seemed so totally innocent she could only take in a little part of the story. Marlon looks his most magnificent best in this movie, but he couldn't bring himself to reveal enough to make this the immortal classic it could have been.

Ally Lifewithally said...

Top o' the morning to you ~ Happy St. Patricks Day ~
I love going to the theatre ~ but I do love to listen to plays on the Radio ~ as you can build your own picture in your mind ~ Ally x

Joyce said...

The reason I love to read (other than it is relaxing) is that you can use your own imagination to form the characters and places in the book. Happy St. Patty's Day DB.
Hugs, Joyce

Selchie said...

What an interesting post,thank you for your insight into viewing, I will definitely watch with a different eye.)

Beth said...

One of the things that intrigues me most about books, art, what have you, is when it makes me go "Hmm." I love it best when it "fires my imagination," as the Stones said. :)

Hugs, Beth

Linda S. Socha said...

Great post DB Enjoyed reaeding it

judith ellis said...

"As a viewer I was being asked, no told, to supply information that seemed to be missing."

So true. Such is the case for life generally. With each encounter or in each conversation we do not give to others all that we are.

This is a wonderful post. Thank you, DB.