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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: September ::
Re: Actors on Acting
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No.0757.  Wednesday, 28 Sept. 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Harry Hill <HILHAR%
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        Date:   Monday, 26 Sep 1994 14:04:56 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0746  Re: MV Characters
 
(2)     From:   Arthur Pearson <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 28 Sep 1994 10:05:08 -0600
        Subj:   Actor on Acting
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <HILHAR%
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Date:           Monday, 26 Sep 1994 14:04:56 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0746  Re: MV Characters
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0746  Re: MV Characters
 
Tom Loughlin is clearly a very articulate and sensitive actor and reader, and
has contributed stimulating points about the relationship between the performer
and the texts of Shakespeare as they exist. He reminds us that Shakespeare
WROTE plays. No, he didn't do just that, in fact; he WROUGHT them. He was not a
playwrite but a playwright, a maker. "Scop", the OE for God, was also the term
for the creator, maker of art, and as a Scot I know the OS was "makar". There
is a great artistic difference.
 
The posts he decries from Jim Schaefer and others that seem to insist
dogmatically on "playing the scene" are not as one-sided as he finds them, but
timely reminders that fine creators of playscripts have provided considerably
more than mere words with which actors are totally free to dally; these makers
of plays have given the words in a certain order, with a certain phonetic and
rhythmic structure to which sensitive actors may respond with the freedom that
only an awareness of the discipline and form within the lines can grant.
 
I, too, am an actor, but I would no more play Bianca as a fifty-three year old
man than I would Macbeth as a Norwegian or Othello as a Greek. Bringing my own
emotions (who could not????) to a role, I would reign them in by the delicious
strictures, the sweet restraints and tasty chains of the text and thereby find
the greater freedom.
 
As John Drakakis, Terence Hawkes and others have tried in vain to say, Bianca
does not have a "personality" until these chains are broken by having first
been attached to them.
 
I have a suspicion that Tom Loughlin subconsciously but unwillingly agrees.
 
      Harry Hill
      Montreal
 
...6.00am, running off to the TV studio to play a role as written while at the
same time hoping to bring appropriate parts of my own personality to it. I am
cast "against type" as an FBI plainclothesman with what I trust will pass as a
Florida accent. The script does not have the mastery of *King Lear*, but it
does have structire, and there *are* emotional points reflected in its rhythms.
I'll let you know if the inspiration of the moment brought something newly new
to it... which I agree it well may.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Arthur Pearson <
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Date:           Wednesday, 28 Sep 1994 10:05:08 -0600
Subject:        Actor on Acting
 
As both actor and playwright, I have read with great interest Mr. Loughlin's
and Mr. Larner's passionate responses concerning the craft of acting.
Believing I know a little about both, I believe, at heart, we are not that far
apart.
 
When most I see actors and directors fail it stems from a vehement protecting
of their "right" of absolute creative freedom, rather than from striving to
understand and realize for an audience (not for themselves) what has been
written for them.
 
What frightens me when I hear actors and directors speak of "this character is
so and so" and "this one such and such" is that such talk, in addition to
narrowing the full scope of a character, ususally has less to do with
interpretation than imposition or (the dreaded word) "conception".  Even if I
vehemently disagree with an actor's interpretation of a character, as long as I
see on stage the CHARACTER, one whose words/actions/emotions are supported by
the TEXT, I will defend that actor's work til kingdom come. It is when I see on
stage only THE ACTOR and the actor's God given right to do what the actor WANTS
to do with, to or in spite of the text, that I flinch.  Such self-centeredness
is anathema to the communal, collaborative nature of theatre.
 
True:  a play does not exist as a play without actors to bring it to life.
Every playwright knows this, counts on this.  Yet, neither may actors act
unless they first begin with a text (even Second City mainstage "improv" is
scripted).  At the very least, there should be no antagonism between actor and
text.  Especially with Shakespeare, in a battle between the two, the brilliance
of the text either will reveal the presumption of the actor or become so
obfuscated as to reinforce in many people's minds that Shakespeare is a foreign
language as well as a boring night at the theatre.
 
Yes.  Make bold choices, reach for the heavens, yet only with your feet firmly
fixed in the text.  As I recall, via Hamlet, the clowns of Shakespeare's
company were well chastized for straying from the text and calling too much
attention to themselves.
 
Peace.
 
Arthur Pearson
Great Lakes Protection Fund

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