I think that one of the hardest things to do is to speak your mind. Which is kind of ironic — seemingly false but true — when you live in the United States of America. After all, one of the founding principles is freedom of speech. But to speak one’s mind is dangerous. In addition to the fact that you might upset or offend or be viewed as odd or stupid, you also immediately become vulnerable. Because you have dared to reveal yourself. To reveal something that you believe. Some secret desire or hope that you you held dear for quite some time that may now be judged, criticized, ridiculed….FYI, I tend to view things from a glass half empty kind of way.
This kind of daring is the quality that makes a performance dangerous, scary, thrilling, and watchable. Because something is immediately at risk. Something personal is at stake. If it isn’t personal, it isn’t worth it. It isn’t fun to perform. It isn’t fun to watch.
It’s important undoubtedly to determine what your character is going for, trying for, attempting to do in each scene. The all-essential objective. The mission. The want the need that thing I must have cannot leave the room without and am fighting for.
But it’s just as useful and necessary and important to consider the doubts and uncertainties that plague a character and persist throughout the story. Doubts provide the possibility for failure in a scene, provide obstacles throughout the action of the play, and make the character’s journey much more interesting, much more inspiring.
Everyone suffers at some time from the point of view, “Who am I to get what I desire?” We question that we deserve to succeed, that we have the ability — the skill and talent. If we consider that doubt is a big part of a character’s journey, it can excite our imaginations and our personal responses to the circumstances of the story and propel us into action. It can provide the actor with his or her own idiosyncratic hook into the story.
Actors can become obsessed with the desire to appear “natural” or “real”. They can become enveloped in this quest. Trapped. Things they do, responses they have are all determined by what someone else – the audience – will believe. Or, even worse, what the audience will accept.
“Natural” or “real” (although quite different terms artistically) have, for the most part, come to describe behavior that looks like something that might be witnessed in the real world. At the coffee shop. In a bar. In the park. At the beach. In any standard, normal everyday environment.
But plays don’t take place in any standard, normal every day environment. Plays take place in the world of the play. Sounds like double-speak. Or just plain BS. But a play is a heightened event. Most stories are. Whether on the stage, on the screen, or on the page. We read, listen to, and watch stories because something out of the ordinary, non-standard, and abnormal is very likely to take place. It could be as magical as falling down a rabbit hole. Or it could be as sublime as falling in love. It is the atypical event that hooks us: the listener, the reader, the spectator.
And it is usually the atypical responses of the actor that intrigue and hook us as well. These responses, based upon the world of the play, can free the actor from the obsession to appear natural or real. The better question or concern for the actor is, given the world of the play, Do I Believe What I Am Doing? If the actor believes, the audience will believe as well.