Sunday, August 21, 2011

No Rules

The artist needs to be possessed of a good disposition as well as a moment of inspiration, because whatever is made according to instructions and rules turns out to be spiritless.

Immanuel Kant
I used to say, half jokingly, half seriously, that I reinvent that art of acting with every role I get.

One of the best directors I ever had the privilege of working with is Charles Hensley. He came into rehearsal the first day of the first play I did with him wearing a button which read "There are no rules." Immediately I knew there was a man I could work with. He is a director who understands one of the basic principles of good theatre and how to achieve it: "Direct the Play, Not the Players."

I have known too many actors and other artists who waste their time (and other people's) looking for a path of instruction, a list of duties, in short, rules. When they find them, or make them up, their work becomes assembly line and uninspired.

The making of rules to work by, for an artist or anyone, is just as dangerous as doing something a certain way because "we've always done it that way." I used to know a world class flutist who told me that he once played with an orchestra whose conductor had a strict method for playing the music and would allow for no originality. He didn't play with that orchestra again.

The creative experience is just that, an experience. It isn't something the artist makes up. It exists in the mental realm of imagination, appreciation and discovery. Inspiration, when it comes, is a gift. But the artist must put himself in the way of it by an openness which doesn't come out of a rule book.

In my opinion, which I will defend with unarguable facts, any time, any where, 2 of the worst things a director can do to mess up the rehearsal process are 1 demand a performance level at the first rehearsal and 2 ask for improvisations before anyone knows the story. I've been through both and can attest how just plain stupid they are. In both cases they delay the creative process instead of adding to it.

I have a friend who is right now involved in a production of a Shakespearean comedy. At the first rehearsal the director wanted the actors to be up on their feet, walking around, speaking up, speeding up and relating to each other. In other words he wanted a performance. It doesn't work that way.

I was in an Off Broadway show where the director wanted the cast to improvise before we had a chance to investigate the script. As a result we improvised ourselves off into a fog. It doesn't work that way either.

On the other hand the actor who was trying to give the director a performance on the first day directed me in a Chekhov play. We spent a long time sitting around, reading and discussing it, learning about Chekhov and about life in Russia during the time of the play. Rich, excellent background work. When we got up on our feet the cast knew their parts very well. Then one day the director asked us to improvise the first act. That was one of the best experiences I ever had in the theatre. I faced and solved acting problems I might have just walked through, without knowing it, using only the Chekhovian dialogue.

And the aforementioned Charles Hensley, the "no rules" man, directed me in a Shakespearean comedy. We spent many days sitting around a table reading and talking about the play. By the time we got up to move around we were a tight ensemble company. Charley trusted us. And the performance that emerged was one of the best I've ever had the pleasure of being in. It was fresh, original, unforced, liberated, exciting and I reinvented myself again.

DB - Vagabond Journeys
Never give up.


Summer is moving along, people.

It's a long, hot, sticky summer, so here's a hot, sticky question for you.

Same sex marriage. Should it be legal or not? If so, why? If not, why not?

15 answers so far.

You have until the last day of summer, but don't dally.
I eagerly await your answer.


1 comment:

Mr.Mischief said...

The best drawings and paintings I've ever done were always the result of ignoring what I thought the rules were, and just winging it, doing what felt right...might be why I didn't make it in art college 20 years ago-too many rules to follow, I just wanted to go with what my hands and heart felt was right, not what was given as rules to follow.