I recently received the news that someone very close to me had been diagnosed with cancer. All things being equal, the prognosis is good, the malady was detected early, and treatment will begin very, very soon.
So how do I feel about all of this? How did I react? What was my emotional response?
I still don’t know. Intellectually I know the significance of the situation. I realize the risks
involved. I’ve researched the statistics. But I’m kinda numb to the whole thing. Maybe I’m in shock. Maybe I’m in denial. But maybe I’m perfectly healthy, normal, and perhaps even typical.
The point is we never know how we will respond in any situation. We hope that we will behave heroically or with such a wonderful degree of sensitivity that some kind of Council of Elders will designate us a demi-god at the very least.
But that’s not the way it works in life. We are often dumbfounded, stunned, even lazy in our response. And that’s okay. Because it’s organic, it’s truthful, it’s real, it’s what it is at the time.
Lee Strasberg advised that No Reality Is a Big Reality. Nothing can be more terrifying on stage than not knowing, not feeling, what you’re response is. It’s a great place to be oddly enough. It’s not that the actor is deliberately attempting to eliminate the expression of response. It’s a matter of the actor allowing whatever might happen to happen.
When reading a script, the actor can sometimes assume that what is best in times of crisis is a huge emotional response. But, oftentimes, we don’t behave that way when faced with challenging circumstances. We try to solve the problem. We try to offer assistance. We try to find out as much as we can about whatever is going on, whatever is confronting us. We don’t try to feel, we don’t try to emote. We focus on the person confronted with the problem or challenge, and we try to assist as best we can….Or we try to run, to hide, to deny, to push away the problem or challenge as best we can. It’s a survival instinct. It’s reptilian. It’s ancient. It’s organic.
Sometimes no reality is a pretty big reality.