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Let's End the Specious Argument of Beloved Dead Masters

In particular, let's end the "argument" between Adler and Strasberg.  There is no substance to their false reasoning upon whi...

Friday, November 27, 2015

December 25, 2012 Post -- Revisited

My post of December 25, 2012 titled "Is There an American Acting Tradition?" discussed Kenneth Branagh's production of Hamlet.  I stated that only in the exchanges with the American actors did Mr. Branagh leave the traditional "representational"  (as Uta Hagen described it) style of British performance of Shakespeare, and spoke as if the thought had just occurred to him.

I think it's more accurate to say that Kenneth Branagh's performance of Hamlet in that production moved between the two styles of performance.  In particular, note his scene with Horatio regarding his impending duel with Laertes that begins with "We defy augury..."  His performance in that scene is definitely not "representational."

What was troubling to me was that Mr. Branagh didn't seem to be aware of the difference in style.  He didn't seem to make a conscious artistic choice between the two styles of acting.  This lack of definition continues (Branagh's production of Hamlet will be 20 years old in 2016) to this day. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tom Stoppard - Ideas from the Actor's Collaborator

Aside from discussing the writer's work, Mr. Stoppard discusses aspects of the collaboration between the writer and the actor.

 I emphasis to actors their need to hold the dialogue of every script sacred; every word in every sentence sacred -- to not paraphrase, add or substitute words regardless of how mediocre the actor thinks the dialogue is.  The story is not about you.  The execution of telling the story is about how what the writer has written resonates for you so that the character you create is the third party to your collaboration with the writer, and as I've mentioned earlier, the final collaborator is the audience, and not necessarily every member of the audience, as Mr. Stoppard comments here.

The actor limits himself and chokes his ability to create a unique human being when he tries to tailor the written sentences to himself.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tennessee Williams and James Grissom

James Grissom has made an enormous contribution with his book, Follies of God - Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog.  To me, it seems a "must read" for actors, directors, writers.

Since this is a blog about acting technique, here's a quote from the book:

     "Tenn had believed that actors were incapable of thought in their acting, that perhaps they were discouraged from displaying this action in their work.  American actors, he felt, demonstrated, indicated, spoke, moved, and all intentions, all motivations, all desires had been worked out prior to performance -- in study with an acting coach, perhaps, or in discussions with a therapist.  Nothing, however, appeared to Tenn to happen in real time in that shared space.  This began to change for him with [Laurette] Taylor in The Glass Menagerie, where one saw a woman range from deliquescence to giddiness to machination to panicked improvisation in a matter of minutes.  It happened again with Brando in Streetcar -- a human being caught in all the gaudy abundance of his being. 'Marlon never did anything physical twice,' Tenn told me.  'He let his body sweat and move as nature chose on that stage, and he hitched or removed his shirt accordingly.  He scratched where it itched, in that time, in that moment.  He wiped real sweat off of his brow in real time, regardless of where he was in the script.  He dragged life and thought onto that stage.'
     No one, however, in Tenn's estimation, brought the process of thought and intention to the stage as Geraldine Page did."

The impression Page made on Tennessee Williams and later on James Grissom creates, along with her work, a portrait of Geraldine Page that is for the reader and viewer to absorb.  

Here's my anecdotal addition:  When I met Ms. Page, in wanting to connect with her somehow, I said, "What you and I have in common is Uta Hagen."  To which she replied, "Ahh, Uta!  I took everything she taught me and turned it into cash!"  I don't remember her putting her hand to her mouth as Mr. Grissom has described, although I'm familiar with that characteristic gesture, but it seems to me that I can still hear her high-pitched giggle after she said that.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Collaborative Art

Stephen Sondheim has commented on the collaboration required between artists in order to create good theatre, and has appropriately pointed out that the final collaborator is the audience.  It's worthwhile to point out further, that the process begins with the author's life experience and how that experience resonates with the performer, and then, how the collaboration between writer and performer resonates with the audience:

Monday, June 1, 2015

Emotion is Derived from Cognition

It's an error to try to achieve a particular emotion by concentrating on it, because it will only lead to "indicated" acting.  It's also an error to consider "cognition" narrowly.  We receive a stimulus from the environment or from a thought process, which then produces an emotion.  Never think of the "feeling," or, as some students have attempted:  To get into the "mood."

The Oxford English dictionary doesn't deviate from other sources when it defines "cognition" as "...the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, or the senses."  "A result of this; a perception, sensation, notion or intuition..."

Watch "How I Became the Bomb - Ulay, Oh...posted below.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Barbra Streisand - It Had to Be You with Michael Bublé - As I've said...

    ...there are several aspects of the Group Theatre members' work on technique expressed here.  In particular, Barbra Streisand's comment about the "accident" in this recording.  View (below) Herbie Hancock's reminisce about when he was employed by Miles Davis:  "There Are No Wrong Notes."  As Uta Hagen said, she doesn't teach improvisation because the performance of the scene is an improvisation.  Yes, yes, I'm aware that improvisation is still being taught by students of Adler Meisner and Strasberg.  But it must be pointed out that the original work on improvisation had a very specific purpose:  To learn how to play an action/objective.

I agree with Michael BublĂ© that Streisand's talent transcends her musical gifts.  I think this is because she recognizes that the lyric dominates the melody; that the melody supports the lyric.  I think this is true regardless of the genre; from opera to rap.  Therefore, a singer has the same challenge as an actor:  To find the image, the history of the sentence, what drives the idea of the sentence, before that sentence can come alive for oneself and then resonate for one's audience.