Hey Christina. Hey Kate. I’ve been conversing with the two of you in my head for a couple of weeks. Turns out I did a show. Turns out neither of you showed up to boss me around, so I had to wing it.Opening weekend I repped my last three towns: I wore them under my costume. It was Twelfth Night outside with a 90s edge. I did Sir Toby. You’ve seen pictures I’m sure. And lord above but the cut is all with Twelfth Night isn’t it? This cut is a lot like your short cut Kate, very lean and chooses to strip most of the venom from Toby. Which is the way I think I like him. It also cuts a lot of the foreign language gags which leaves a lot of space for it to stay ensemble comedy. So, honestly? It was a raft of problems from jump.
Live performance is a system of interlocking skills honed individually and together over time like any other muscle-building, and then deployed all at once. It is almost always desired that the edges of that displayed set of skills are folded under and invisible to the uninitiated, and, on the highest level, even to fellow initiates. So as one progresses, craft becomes more and more opaque. The skilled stop understanding how and why they do it and the very best seem to require no effort at all. One of those skills is line memorization. It is the favorite party trick of audiences at talk backs the world over and the bane of new performers taking on walls of text for the first time. It is also a performance muscle that isn’t really worked in tandem with other real world skills, so time away from performance really can decondition that system. And
I try not to get too mystical in my approach to acting. I find a lot of that sort of vocabulary to be really off-putting. In our need to ennoble the craft we try to elevate it beyond what it usually is to make ourselves feel like more ourselves. But there are “mystical” things about the craft that you can’t dodge in the same way that carpenters can’t really avoid the fact the wood has a personality. Using the words we do makes it seem a little cartoonish, but it’s true so… there we go.With acting I trying not to use spell casting metaphors but we don’t have great vocabulary for exerting power to create tangible emotional change in another on another with simply words. There are hoary tropes about all crafts and professions. Those ink-stained wretches who wrote our newspapers and novels. Our paint spattered visual artists. A potter
Ushuwaia Blue has become a touchstone in my head for the sorts of projects I want to make acting students attempt in order to build a different kind of acting practice. Beginning acting is chock full of affection for blazing intensity. In love with wielding every emotion at a 35 out of 10 we see scenes full of rage and not a lot else. It’s the First Church of Going There. It’s adherents fall into the McDonagh hole, in the 90’s they were the Mamet and Labute folks. And it is fun as hell to wield those emotions full bore. To not worry about tactics and just let 8-bit emotion flow. It’s when you get stuck in that being your only tool that it becomes a hindrance. You have to find the finer edged tools in your toolbox to create more finely wrought work. This wasn’t particularly emphasized in my
We get trained to do what we do in very specific ways. It is VERY difficult to change the ways we do it when the future arrives, or even conceive of how it needs to be done. I grew up and was trained in proscenium theatre spaces. As I got older, my usual haunts were all black box thrusts and shared spaces. But they were still formal storytelling spaces if less opulent and less formal than the sorts of traditional theatre spaces I considered Real Theatre. I am more than capable of sliding up and down that continuum pretty fluidly. I like to think that the tools I’ve developed work well in lots of forms and forums. But all of them are in formally designated settings. Even if there aren’t velveteen folding seats and a grand drape, it is understood that we are in a sit silently and watch situation
Over the course of a couple of days this week I watched a livestream of someone cleaning up his Facebook profile. And it was riveting. As part of the Austin-based performance/art Fusebox Festival Brian Lobel recreated his Purge performance art piece with two local performers. The piece consists of the performer/subject sitting in front of a rotating panel of three people and defending their relationship with each of the people on their Facebook friends list for one minute. At the end of the minute the panel decides whether or not the person will remain on the friends list. It sounds like a really dull sort of game show. It sounds like the sort of pretentious grad school performance art that even folks on my performance art friendly social media feeds mock for being a sketch version of performance art. I watched like 6 hours of it. It was spellbinding. The premise