Language, Culture and Movement
I was recently invited to audition for a Chinese telemovie. The moment I tapped into my Chinese speaking language, my mannerism changed to become more demure, softer, like that chinese stereotype of a girl. Often so many minutiae characteristics of a person/character are subconsciously written into the script. There is a reason why a character speaks a certain way. We often forget that writers write from living breathing images, and translate that onto words on a page. Our job as actors is to bring them out, though our own inspiration, that is breath - we breathe the words in and we breathe out our images.
Honesty, Truth, Presence.
There seems to be a place within ourselves we can fall into - tap into - a place of full presence, as we speak from our truth, and are completely honest.
Reading List: The Actor, Image, and Action : Acting and Cognitive Neuroscience by Rhonda Blair
The Actor, Image and Action is a 'new generation' approach to the craft of acting; the first full-length study of actor training using the insights of cognitive neuroscience. In a brilliant reassessment of both the practice and theory of acting, Rhonda Blair examines the physiological relationship between bodily action and emotional experience. In doing so she provides the latest step in Stanislavsky's attempts to help the actor 'reach the unconscious by conscious means'. Recent developments in scientific thinking about the connections between biology and cognition require new ways of understanding many elements of human activity, including: imagination emotion memory physicality reason. The Actor, Image and Action looks at how these are in fact inseparable in the brain's structure and function, and their crucial importance to an actor s engagement with a role. The book vastly improves our understanding of the actor's process and is a must for any actor or student of acting."
It is easy to receive a script and judge it. No doubt, there is a lot of "bad" writing out there. If it is THAT BAD - you have a choice - don't take it. No one is putting a gun to your head.
I think many things about our first instincts can be very accurate and be trusted. However, it is also very easy to gloss over a new piece of writing with criticisms and judgement. However, what possibilities can we find if we change our attitude? - What if we tell ourselves - there are no bad scripts, only bad actors? What if we enter into the challenges and possibilities instead of playing the blame-game of the ego? What possibilities could we find?
Say we find a script very "ridiculous" or "out of this world" - you say "no one would ever do such a thing", well, what if somebody, somewhere, sometime did? what if they were desperate enough?
Then our job as the actor is to make our performance BELIEVABLE regardless of the structure given to us by the writer. Our job is to ground our characters in believable, HONEST realities - to maintain/ guard the integrity and honesty of the character while working within the given circumstances.
An actor's honesty can make "ridiculous" writing believable, or even more powerful than if it wasn't that "ridiculous". As my teacher Adam Marple always says, "could be elephant fall from the sky" - ridiculous extremes are fertile soil for arresting theatre.
Perhaps criticising the writing is just our way of salvaging our actor egos when we get stuck with new material.
So whose job is it? I choose to day "it's my job!" because when I take ownership of it - I choose possibility and discovery.
Every actor, at some point in his or her career, will asks the question, "How do I cry on cue"?
The real question is, " How does one allow oneself to be vulnerable on cue?" - this difference in phrasing implies "availability" or "availing oneself to something, rather than trying to generate a product - in our case, an action or effect. In trying to generate something - there is effort and forcefulness, a hardening of the muscles and a narrowing of the mind and heart that is antithetical to the openness, availability and exposure that is vulnerability. After all "crying", or a better term, heartbreak, is more reaction than action - it is a reaction to an action or event. Here, I fondly recall Mojisola's tongue in cheek wisdom, "[The Degree in Acting] should be called a Degree in RE-Acting instead of a Degree in Acting."
During my process, I think I have found the key, or at least one of the lynchpins for an actor to share his or her vulnerability with an audience. It is "showing up fully", as vulnerability researcher Brené Brown says.
It is scary to be fully present, to be fully alive - to show up fully in life, I realise. The subconscious thinking is this, "What if I show up fully - give all that I am, and it ends disastrously? What if I get rejected? It is always safer to show up partially, so that if I get rejected, if something goes wrong, I have protected/prevented myself from a whole lot of heartbreak." Perhaps, this is why it is difficult for many, and I speak for myself, to show up fully.
I realise how this is so related to the Gaze Work that Aole teaches us - "allow yourself to be seen" he always says. - I realise that I hide away as a default, a habit. I'm there, but I'm not really there. I speak but I don't really want to be heard. I allow people to see me physically, but I am apprehensive about allowing all of me to be seen. What if they see all of me and they don't like what they see and that's all I've got?
there is an openness that happens when one becomes vulnerable. Suddenly the mask drops, the person's body and heart surrenders rather than constricts. The person is forced completely into the present.
Vulnerability often occurs in relationship too. As difficult as it is to be vulnerable with another person than it is being vulnerable in the privacy of one's solitude, the presence of another human galvanises the effect - either one is really shut down or really emotional. There is something in connection/relationship that brings out our deepest fears and desires. Could it be because we are mirrors to each other - human beings with essentially the same needs and desires at our core? Through another, we know ourselves in unique ways we could not know by ourselves alone. Perhaps why the word for sexual intimacy in the Bible means simply "to know". Or could it be because our deepest fears and dreams drive us to our deepest core - reminds our sleeping consciousnesses of the Fall - we may not recall but our DNA remembers. And our desire points us to the One we truly desire.
Performance Artist, Marina Abramovic, talks about presence human connection and our deepest needs and desires:
Marina Abramovic's The Artist Is Present
This journal documents my process as an actor, reflecting upon the various techniques, methods, training and discoveries I make as I continue to hone my craft.