|Some things, you just don't talk about|
It isn't easy to write about preparing a play. At least not publicly. There is a special kind of trust that you have to have in a rehearsal hall. You need to know that you can try something that fails miserably, and not have a bunch of strangers read about it on the internet the next morning. I've often thought about blogging about the process, but this unwritten code always stops me. For the next couple weeks, I'm going to try to open up this part of my life with the gentle respect I feel it deserves. No griping about the director. No gossip about my fellow actors. But I've shared so much of my life here. I don't want to leave my art out of the mix.
1.) Everything I say about myself;
2.) Everything others say about me.
3.) Everything I say about others.
I'll bet I haven't played five roles as a professional without doing this work. It is a tedious, hand cramping chore, and it reveals more about a character than any other technique I know. Today, I dug into Arthur's words about himself and learned quite a few things. He says he's sorry a lot. He talks only about himself for quite a while. He makes promises. He makes excuses. He is tired all the time, especially when asked to do something. He says "I don't know" over and over. He hasn't eaten or slept or changed out of his pajamas for a long time. He wonders about what things mean. You start to see patterns when you look at a character this way. Why does he always ask, "What time is it," when he wakes up? What makes him say that he's hungry for the first time? What changed that enabled him to say, "She hates me," or "Take me back," or "I love you so much. Both of you." These are the questions that you use to start filling in the heart and soul of a character, and they all come out of the words that the playwright chose.
Acting is a lot more than just literary analysis. Playing a role is more than just learning the words. But the words come first. Knowing what they mean. Knowing how they're put together. Knowing what the playwright tried to tell you about this person by choosing the vocabulary, phrasing, and thought patterns that are on the page in front of you. A good actor needs a good mind, but you can't just think about a role. You have to have a voice. You have to have a flexible, well conditioned body. You have to have emotional tools and a sense of timing, talent, and taste. You can't really be an actor without all of that.
But first, comes the word...