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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: Acting from Experience
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0483  Thursday, 18 March 1999.

[1]     From:   Tony Haigh <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Mar 1999 11:53:00 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0477 Acting from Experience

[2]     From:   Todd M Lidh <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Mar 1999 11:54:00 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0477 Acting from Experience

[3]     From:   Lucia Anna Setari <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Mar 1999 13:07:24 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0477 Acting from Experience


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tony Haigh <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 Mar 1999 11:53:00 -0500
Subject: 10.0477 Acting from Experience
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0477 Acting from Experience

If Matthew Gretzinger is interested in the theoretical basis of an
approach to acting that questions the orthodoxy held by some acting
teachers that you must live it in order to play it, I recommend Don
Richardson's book "Acting without Agony."

By the way is Matthew a Brit?  The decisive use of the word "Bollocks"
seems to suggest so.  Or is that expletive more common in American usage
than I recall?

Cheers, (Brit greeting for "Sincerely")
Tony Haigh

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Todd M Lidh <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 Mar 1999 11:54:00 -0500
Subject: 10.0477 Acting from Experience
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0477 Acting from Experience

I wouldn't be contributing to the "origin of creative action" debate if
not for an email I received from an aunt of mine who's taking a
'Shakespeare's London' continuing education class in California. She
wrote asking my opinion of the Shakespeare vs. Earl of Oxford debate.

As Matthew Gretzinger mentioned with regard to acting ("it seems to me
that writers must use a good deal more of what they observe than what
they feel - though both are required in the long run - and I've long
suspected the same is true of the actor"), I can't help but see
parallels to the authorship question itself.

Shakespeare, as a result of his horridly back-water upbringing, couldn't
possibly have known details about foreign lands or written in foreign
languages or known the intricacies of court. Surely, another wrote the
plays.

If you believe that one cannot write about something with which he or
she has no experience or exposure, then the authorship question opens up
for you; on the other hand, if you think that writers can observe what
others know and incorporate that into their own work, you can believe
that Shakespeare wrote the plays.

Granted, this is a major simplification of what many have made into a
most complicated issue, but after reading hundreds of pages on this
subject (personal curiosity? sadism? you say "tomayto," I say
"tomahto"), it still appears to boil down to those core ideas stated
above. After all, would there even be an authorship question if
Shakespeare were known to have been well-educated and a visitor at
court? I doubt it.

So, this may be a drier approach to the "emotional outpouring" emails
that began this discussion, but I can't help but feel they are tied
together at the root.

Todd M Lidh
UNC-Chapel Hill

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lucia Anna Setari <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 Mar 1999 13:07:24 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 10.0477 Acting from Experience
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0477 Acting from Experience

Please forgive me if I too dare share my opinions though my English is
so lame (and maybe ridiculous).

I was impressed by Matthew Gretzinger's observations, because I too
think that actors' and writers' art is grounded in a similar creative
mixing up of  observations and personal experiences.  I think that a
great actor and a great novelist or playwright both are above all  more
able to sympathize than other people are.  I mean that they  can
strongly imagine what happens in the soul and mind of a certain
character put in  a certain condition: they are able to  imagine and to
share an imagined feeling (which is not the same thing as to strongly
feel themselves real feelings).

Under the same condition about their intelligence and culture and
environment, it is just the gap between a strongly felt feeling and a
strongly imagined one that makes the difference between the writing of a
deeply passioned (suffering or enamoured or hating) man/woman and the
writing of an artist that represents these passions.  The especial
feeling of the latter is the pleasure and excitement of writing (or of
acting), of finding the exact expression etc.  The really true passion
of a writer is writing, I think.  Hardly a writer loves somebody more or
longer than his work.

No wonder if both, the actor and the writer, have choose their so
strange work just because it allows them to pretend feelings and
situations they perhaps cannot experience (or fear to experience) in
their lives. I  think that sometimes there are  great actors and
writers  who, just because are unable to feel deep passions, love to
represent them: it is for them the only way to skim experiences they are
so afraid to fully experience in their real life (so afraid, I mean,
that  they think to feel nothing).

They are in part like playing children when they pretend to represent
adult peoples (and in doing so also exorcise many fears and control some
anguish).

I know  an actress (a very appreciated one) who told me that when she
was very young her mother killed herself. She, the daughter, said that
near her mother's corpse she felt nothing. But it happened that a futile
image (nothing to do with her mother: it was a tree) came in her mind
and made her weep. So, thinking that she as the dead's daughter must
weep in front of people, she started to recall that image in order to
weep: the device worked and she was almost excited for this kind of
exact miracle. She said that it was this experience that made her
understand that she had to be an actress. She would said that playing
was the only way she knew for feeling something.

The thing is most complicated, and it seems to me rather childishly to
put it as a contra-opposition between them who say that great writers
feel more strongly and deeply than other people and them who deny this.
As to Shakespeare, was his experience Mercutio's or Romeo's? Othello's
or Jago's? Hamlet's or Malvolio's or Feste's or Cleopatra's?

<Homo sum, nihil humani mihi alienum est.>

I stop now to wexate you with my language.

I hope to have been understandable.

L.Anna S.
 

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