Sunday, March 6, 2011

Don't Fake It

The secret of success is to strive to express not seek to impress.

Dana Bate
Cute, pithy little remark, Bate, but what does it mean? It means you can usually tell when someone is an amateur at what he's doing if instead of really doing it he is trying to make an effect on someone. That is his first objective.

There's a well known theatre story about a famous husband and wife couple who were both actors. They were doing a comedy, and in one scene she asks for a cup of tea. I don't know the play or the plot but for some reason it was a very funny moment. The audience always gave it a big laugh.

Then one day, much to the actresses surprise, they didn't laugh. For the next few performances they also were silent. Distraught, she asked her husband to watch and see what was wrong. He did and he said to her "You are asking for the laugh. Go back to asking for the tea." She did and the laughter returned.

It's a simple trap many very excellent actors can fall victim to. Actors know they are supposed to concentrate on the story, the scene and the person they are portraying. But a good audience reaction can seduce that actor away from sticking to business.

Early in the rehearsal process with a director I was wary of, I asked if we were really going to do the play or to do it as if we were doing it. She didn't understand, so I explained. Were we going for the realities of the play or were we saying that if we were going to do it we might do it sort of like this? She still didn't understand so I realized any creation of realities was going to be up to the cast with the burden of the director to get around.

I did a recording session for a large insurance company. The session was directed by a woman who didn't know what she was doing. I think she was aware if her inability because she was dictatorial, insulting and rude with everyone. That sort of behavior is sheer buffoonery and it's clear to almost anyone.

In a Hollywood film when there is fake acting they usually surround it with music, so you don't notice it. They can't do that on the stage. So it's important to focus on the instant objective of the character in every scene and not on what the audience might think of it.

This is a great life lesson in any enterprise, from the simplest to the grandest. With an open mind and open eyes one can see the fraudulent behavior of many of our public figures. When a person is trying to impress me with their intelligence, wit, solid reasoning or theories of this or that, I can always recognize it as being hollow if it is. It's one of the benefits of having been an actor for my working life. A real thinker doesn't have to impress. He only needs to express.

Go for the cause, not the effect.

DB - The Vagabond

Weekend Puzzle

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Safe Landing


Beth said...

Very sound advice! I think most of us can spot a phony pretty quickly. I always find them rather pitiful and laughable. I don't think that's the effect they're going for...!

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

I have no tolerance for fakes. I believe that if you are real, and have a lick of intelligence, we will get along fine.

Lisa said...

I hate it when people try too hard. I always begin to feel sorry for them since I know everyone else knows they are trying too hard as well.