Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chords of Character

It is up to the actor to compose the music of his feelings to the text of his part and learn how to sing those feelings in words.

I'll tune me fiddle and I'll rosin me bow
And I'll have music wheriver I go.
A few days ago I wrote about a student in an acting class I once gave, who found great meaning in a speech she didn't know was there. Here is another acting lesson.

The actor in this case was an intelligent, middle aged woman with talent and strength of character. She had prepared a soliloquy from Shakespeare. She knew the speech very well and when she was comfortable with it delivered it with depth and spirit.

Her problem was that she had a very hard time beginning. She would fuss around and waste a lot of time preparing to start. And once she had begun she would stop at difficult places and have to regain her momentum. In other words, the speech didn't flow.

In spite of a few gentle reprimands from me she was still having a hard time with the speech. One never knows, especially with older actors, what personal, internal things they have to deal with when performing a role. Associations and relationships are brought out, memories are touched which are not relevant to the speech. So I was giving her the chance to work those things out if it was necessary.

After a while, when she was still having trouble with it I got a crazy idea. I knew she was a classical music lover so I gave her a conductor's baton and told her that she was on a podium facing an entire symphony orchestra waiting for her to conduct them. I told her to envision the entire orchestra, the strings, the brass, the winds and the percussion section as clearly as she could. Then I told her to conduct the speech instead of speaking it. To bring the strings sweeping in, to add the spice of the clarinets and flutes, to let the trumpets play and even add the kettle drum where it was needed. In other words she was to turn all the thoughts and feelings of the speech into silent music.

She took the baton, stepped up and began. She was completely focused on that invisible orchestra. It was beautiful to watch.

After that she never had a problem beginning a scene or keeping the flow. She must have always carried with her the vision of that orchestra waiting for her downbeat.

I think it was Einstein who said that logic will take you from A to B, but imagination will take you everywhere.

DB - The Vagabond
Announcements: (1) As a result of losing my Internet Connection all the answers to the Autumn Quiz were lost. Pity. But Winter is on the way (yes it is) and so I'm open to suggestions for a question to pose to you and everyone for the Winter Quiz.

(2) Since there were no apparent attempts at solving the Weekend Puzzle, because you were all out buying things for the holiday (or else you were sleeping it off, which is okay) I will hold it and pose it for the next Weekend Puzzle.
May the Bird of Joy leave footprints in your snow.


Big Mark 243 said...

And we all know how brilliant Einstein was ..!

I have kept close to me since I was a child the phrase, 'What a person can concieve, they can also achieve!' So once you help the actress 'concieve' what she needed to do, she was able to achieve it!!

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

The conductor method was brilliant. I think we all have things we connect with that sooth us and allow us to then trully perform :o)