Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Getting It Right

The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity.

Harlan Ellison
If anyone who is not in show business, and some that are, really understood what a good actor does, they would be super impressed by the artistry of the great ones. As an actor I will go to the theatre or a film and watch actors working. That gives me a different point of view about the piece than most people have, maybe even a broader point of view. I can enjoy both the play and the players.

There are some great actors, some very good ones and some very bad ones whose careers seem endless. Sloppy work in any enterprise is bad and should not be allowed. I used to be one of those sloppy actors, I'm ashamed to say. But one day, early in my career, that changed for good.

I was playing Casio in Shakespeare's "Othello" at a theatre in New England. Casio has a speech to Desdamona asking for her help. Late in the rehearsal period, when we all knew our lines, the stage manager, who was a very benign, quiet and polite fellow, came to me with a sheet of paper. He said "I think you should know the difference between the way you are speaking this speech and the way Shakespeare wrote it." I took the paper and thanked him. Back home I looked it over and was stunned to see how much I had turned Shakespeare's golden verbiage into pedestrian muck. I immediately rememorized the speech and went through the rest of the role making sure I had the words right.

That was a greet lesson and blessing for me. From that day on I was always conscientious about getting the lines the way the author wrote them. I wish I could say the same for others.

Years later I was stage manager for a production of "Godspell." You may remember it, a musical loosely based on the Bible. I frankly wondered how some of the people in this production got cast. The actor playing the John the Baptist character was a phoney. But the one playing Jesus was worse. He was a poster boy for self-importance. He played everything facing the audience so they could see how good looking he was, he spoke over his shoulder to any character that was speaking to him and he had little respect for the script.

That character has a famous quote from the Bible about overcoming temptation, "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." You've probably heard that quote often. Well, he persisted in gestating it wrong no matter how many times I corrected him. He was offended at being corrected by me and didn't think it was important. Only he was important.

And so for many performances he went on stage and said "The flesh is willing but the spirit is weak." He made it sound as if that messiah needed some viagra.

There is no reason or excuse in our lives for that kind of stupidity. Can you imagine an actor playing Hamlet who says "Not to be or to be, that's the dilemma"? Hisses would resound.

Do I wonder what ever happened to that actor? I don't. I don't wish him any harm, but he is not important. People like that take up time, space and roles that other actors could play better.

I hark back to an old saying "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well." We can't do everything there is to do, but whatever we have to do we should do correctly. If nothing else it allows us to have a good night's sleep.

DB - The Vagabond
(This is not a contest.)

Who are the 2 (two) most important people alive today? Why?

Only 7 responses so far. Summer is about to close her gates. Get with it. Don't be left out in the heat.

Thank you.


Big Mark 243 said...

Maybe the amendment should be "... if you can't do it well, then at least do it correctly."

I have seen many people because of their lack of any talent who simply do things 'correctly' who achieve levels of skill that the more talent never attain.

Jus' sayin'...

Nance said...

Acting is an excellent metaphor for life, and this post is tone perfect. There are a lot of people out there quoting things they haven't read or don't care to study carefully. Like the Jesus-hack, they actually think it's all about them and no one else.

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

Some times doing it "my way" is absolutely wrong.