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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: May ::
Re: Finding Truth on the Stage
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1014  Thursday, 11 May 2000.

[1]     From:   John Amos <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 May 2000 10:20:31 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1004 Re: Finding Truth on the Stage

[2]     From:   J. Kenneth Campbell <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 May 2000 11:52:33 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1002 Finding Truth on the Stage


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Amos <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 May 2000 10:20:31 +0000
Subject: 11.1004 Re: Finding Truth on the Stage
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1004 Re: Finding Truth on the Stage

The discussion about "truth on stage" has made me think of the best and
most moving performances I've ever seen.  I'm sure everyone could list
dozens of examples, but I thought I'd offer one.  In the John Barton
video series "Playing Shakespeare" there is one short clip of an actress
(Susan Fleetwood, I think) performing a scene from King John... Lady
Constance's speech about her dead son Arthur.  I've seen this clip many
times; I show every year in my high school Shakespeare class; and it
never fails to move me to tears.  The segment is about 3 minutes long;
it's done as part of an actor's workshop; there's no scenery or costume;
the actress actually performs with script in hand and at one point
stumbles over a line.  And yet, in the absence of all the normal stage
trappings, this speech is as "true" as anything I've ever seen.

John Amos

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           J. Kenneth Campbell <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 May 2000 11:52:33 -0700
Subject: 11.1002 Finding Truth on the Stage
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1002 Finding Truth on the Stage

> To fellow actors, directors and audience members!
>
> I'm currently researching what I feel as a highly topical subject ...
> finding truth on the stage.  Especially in classical theatre.
>
> What I would like to know is what everyone out there feels the actor
> needs to portray the writers work in an authentic way.  So that when the
> audience leave they feel that they have been through a sort of catharsis
> or realisation.  They feel that they have been touched in some special
> way.
>
> So what is it that the actor needs?  What does the director want?  And
> what is it that the audience like to see?
>
> I'm after some thoughts on tools and techniques used to find this
> 'truth'.
>
> Any comments, opinions, relevant material would be FANTASTIC!!!

The scope of your question is a little overwhelming but intriguing never
the less.

Sandy Meisner summed it up this way:  Acting is "Moment to moment
truthful spontaneous reaction to given imaginary circumstances."
Circumstances?.  Time. Place. Weather.

When I work with Shakespeare, I look first at his stage directions in
the verse.  Shakespeare tells me there, how to say, what I have to say
and where and when to move.    His prose also has an intrinsic pace and
sound which if regarded in context with the verse, has many clues to
point the actor to the right direction.

I look for what my characters function for the whole play , by tracing
the action of the play to the final outcome as to my character's
influence upon that resolution.

The truth lies in the reactions of the characters to their perception of
reality.

It is the situations caused by these inter reactions which alter the
circumstances in the time progression of the play.

" the purpose of  playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and
is, to hold as 'twere, the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her own
feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his
form and pressure."

 I come back again and again to these instructions.

"The purpose of  playing"  Why is the scene there, why is the character
in it?  "whose end, both at the first and now, was and is,"  What
happens at the end of the scene, that changes the situation as compared
to the beginning of the scene.  This seems to tell us to play the beats
as they happen but with the purpose of working toward the outcome of the
play as far as the scene takes us.

The character's change as the circumstances of the play confront them
but how they change, has to do with, who they are at "both" the
beginning of the play, at any moment during the play. "Now" and "is" are
the pivotal words; for it is the behavior in spontaneous moments that
reveals the "human truth" which is really the only truth of  staged
fantasy.

 Reaction to circumstances is the journey of the characters, so the
truth for the character is their justification for their actions.

What are the virtues (being, or essence) of the character.   Shakespeare
tells us not to be the "image" (what the character presents to the
world, a copy, or how you have seen the character portrayed before and
even more importantly how the character sees himself).  Shakespeare asks
us rather to show the character's " feature" (Latin," factura" a
formation, from "facere" to make, do, perform) and illuminate with "the
mirror" the formation of this being as a reaction to and thus the
creation of (my favorite part) "the very age and body" of the time his
form and pressure." If you refer here to "All the world's a stage"
Shakespeare explains what the effect of age and body have on humans and
how that correlation might apply to behavioral patterns.

The words of this passage resound with many meanings, I do not pretend
to know what Shakespeare fully intended his audience or even his company
of actors to learn from what at first appears to be a mind struggling
with what a play is.  For the actor however the instructions imparted in
this poetical prose bears frequent rehearsal.

 I hope this helps get at what technique's some actors use in the
journey.

J. Kenneth Campbell
Actor
 

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