Monday, January 3, 2011

Seals And Monkeys

Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.

During my career I have often been disgusted to learn what some young students have been taught by one dim acting teacher or another from their various drama departments. I heard one girl say her teacher told her the way to do comedy was to always keep her elbows up. I tried playing a scene with a boy who wouldn't look at me or listen to me because his teacher told him to always play to the audience.

One summer day I was with a few youngsters fresh out of college with degrees in Acting. It was a field trip of sorts to which I was invited as a resource. We went to the Central Park Zoo in New York City.

Just inside the entrance there is a large stone pit filled with water. There is a foot bridge over the water to a small island in the middle. Swimming around in the water are seals. Periodically a zoo keeper will walk out to the center and hold out fish. The seals will jump out of the water to grab the fish. They are trained to do that and it is quite amusing.

But as we entered the zoo I said to the group I was with "Remember. All the animals we see will be acting, except for the seals." They gave me very strange looks, probably doubting my sanity.

We saw the penguins, standing up flapping their wings, or swimming like bullets through the water. We saw the polar bears, one stretched out in an undignified posture sunning himself on the rocks, the other swimming back and forth. We saw the tree snakes oozing their way from one twig to another.

Then we came to large tree filled area with some very hairy black and white monkeys. The monkeys were chasing each other around from one tree to another, swinging on branches and chattering away. They were having a hell of a good time and it was very entertaining.

One of the girls turned to me and said "Now I see what you mean. These monkeys are doing what they naturally do. They're not playing for us, they're playing for each other."

"That's right" I said.

"I'll never look at animals the same way again."

"Or people."

"Or people?"

"Yes. Who are the natural monkeys and who are the trained seals."

I don't know if any of the other kids got it, but she sure did. And to know she could translate that knowledge into the performing art gave her a flame that would never go out. To know to rely on natural behavior and to play with the other actors and not to the audience was the beginning of her training as an actor. And it had nothing to do with elbows.

DB - The Vagabond
(This is not a contest)

What was the most significant event that happened in 2010?

I await your answer.


bakelite buffoon said...

As Shakespeare penned "All the world's a stage ..." and your blog not only addresses the art of acting, but the art of living as well. Have a good one!

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

BP Oil Spill