Dictionary.com defines boredom as to weary by dullness or tedious repetition. Dull is defined by the same resource as uninteresting, not lively or spirited, unimaginative and uninteresting, among many others. Actors (and directors) beware. It’s another occupational hazard of the profession. Tediously repeating the same unimaginative choices.
But no one goes on stage intentionally determined to bore the hell out of an audience. So how can it ever happen?
Let’s table that question, and just accept that sometimes more often than we care to admit we are boring. That’s the premise. That’s the fact. We’ve all been there as audience members audience. Unengaged in the performance. Frustrated by the separation from the story playing out before us. Feeling like we are in some kind of lecture. It happens. And we actors are all guilty of causing this horrendous experience. Just accept it. (Denial is the first sign there’s a problem.)
Actors are subject to the obligatory need to determine what is commonly called the Super-Objective. The actor identifies by careful examination of the script where exactly the Character is headed. The Character’s goal. The writer’s intended destination of the Character’s final scene in any script. And so, mindful of her obligation to the author’s intent, the actor sets out to achieve that demand. But it’s unnecessary. The playwright or screenwriter has already determined where the actor will end up. The actor can’t change the course of action in the story. By page 78, the actor, playing the Character, will have lost all her friends and allies and have to face down a most powerful and terrifying enemy all on her own.
Since the actor cannot change the story, what can she do? She can only respond to the story. Respond to the circumstances within which the tyrannical writer has placed her. Respond with her own sensitivity, her own heart, her own soul as if she wasn’t aware of the predicament the writer would create.
That’s the thing. Actors – because they’ve read the script! – know where the story is headed, but the Character does not.
And the actor has to always observe this essential element of good story-telling. We seek to be natural, to be real, to be believable. But our only obligation is to be truthful. To respond to the circumstances. Based upon the actor’s unique sensitivity. And then allow that sensitive response to filter through the lines of the text.
If we are hung up on Naturalism, on appearing Real, Life-like, we often default to a kind of casualness. (Think Boring.) Everything is even-keeled. Expected. Anticipated. However, I know that in my daily existence the day never turns out exactly how I planned. Certain things, beyond my control, do always take place. For starters, the sun rises, the sun sets, the moon rises and then fades away at the early hint of dawn. Except occasionally, when it doesn’t. Sometimes the moon and the sun occupy the same sky. Completely due to cosmological forces of Nature (a.k.a.: Natural). Scientific factors. Given Circumstances. But each time it happens, it strikes me as odd and wonderful. The moon and the sun in the sky at the same time has occurred for all of my life and all eternity; but, each time I witness it, I notice it and marvel at it. It is never a casual occurrence. It’s a surprise!
The playwright is the only one who knows where the story is going. The Character does not. And since the playwright isn’t on stage and the Character is stuck with the actor, the actor needs to leave himself open to the element of surprise, to break out of the dullness of repetition. The dullness of knowing where the story is going. This element of surprise exists in every line of text. Each statement is an opportunity for stimulation, new thought, new information, a place the Character has never been before in the course of the story and leads to an opportunity for new response, for a new realization, an epiphany, a revelation.
The dull actor’s dull performance is guided by dull choices. The dull actor knows exactly what is going to happen and where he is going: Bore-Dumb.
The imaginative actor’s inspiring performance is ignited by a wonderful kind of crafted ignorance. This actor seemingly knows not what is going to happen or where she is going. Destination Unknown.
And we, the audience, willingly (and thrillingly) go along for the ride!