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Milk teeth

Author: joe

Monday, 22 November, 2010 - 21:51

- on performing and pioneering

Truth on the stage is whatever we can believe in with sincerity, whether in ourselves or in our colleagues. Truth cannot be separated from belief, nor belief from truth. They cannot exist without each other, and without both of them it is impossible to live your part, or to create anything. Everything that happens on the stage must be convincing to the actor himself, to his associates and to the spectators. It must inspire belief in the possibility, in real life, of emotions analogous to those being experienced on the stage by the actor. Each and every moment must be saturated with a belief in the truthfulness of the emotion felt, and in the action carried out, by the actor.
If you only knew how important is the process of self-study! It should continue ceaselessly, without the actor even being aware of it, and it should test every step he takes. When you point out to him the palpable absurdity of some false action he has taken he is more than willing to cut it. But what can he do if his own feelings are not able to convince him? Who will guarantee that having rid himself of one lie, another will not immediately take its place? No the approach must be different. A grain of truth must be planted under the falsehood, eventually to supplant it, as a child's second set of teeth pushes out the first.
An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski

I'm fascinated by the practice of actors. Actors are imposters, strangers, aliens, pretending to be something they are not; but when they do it well, we say they 'inhabit' their roles - are 'at home', 'dwell' in the character, 'live in' the persona - vocabulary which implies something about belonging and home-beddedness. It's a strange and intense interplay between artifice and authenticity, with truth 'supplanting' falsehood.

I had a go for a few years in a community drama group, and without wishing to claim any kind of acting gift, I did experience that sort of simultaneity which consists of being myself and being someone else. I acted for about 8 years, and finally began to have the sensation of both being in control, and nevertheless 'in character' - self-watching as well as free-flowing, spontaneously contrived. To be 'saturated with a belief', and yet ever to feel it is not enough. It is a paradox, to be constantly creating the space which one then occupies.

I struggle to describe it. It is as though the outer edge of the performance is a bull-bar, an outstretched arm purposefully clearing an opening, into which the rest of the self can then expand. The new space is colonial - I settle there, feeling like a foreigner, imposing myself on the indigenous; but habitation makes the new world familiar, until eventually the land is mine. I am an occupier who has gone native. But have I expanded the empire of my self? When I pioneer this new territory, has my homeland grown? Or am I now an émigré, who has adandoned the old land for the new? Is my performance acquisitive or picaresque?

Categories: Constantin Stanislavski, acting, performance, self, territory, colonisation,
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