Thursday, April 28, 2005

On Acting

I found a great post on "2 Blowhards" (by Micheal Blowhard) about acting. It's definitely worth checking out, not just for his original post, but also for the responses it generated. Read it here. Terry Teachout also sampled from it in his ArtsJournal blog. (If you've never read Teachout, you MUST get over to his About Last Night blog. He covers art in all its forms.)

Anyway, I thought I'd write my own mini-response to Blowhard's comments on acting. He mentions that actors love displaying their faces, voices, and bodies, but notes that they are also often painfully shy. He also notes that he thinks actors are most themselves when they can pour themselves into other characters, questioning if actors do indeed know who they really are.

As to the first point, I do think that, in some cases, actors do enjoy displaying themselves. However, I think that the reason it's easier for a shy actor to do so is that it's almost as if it is not really him/her that's being displayed. It is, after all, the character. Blowhard notes that actors have nothing to hide behind, but I would argue that this is untrue. Although the character must be authentic to the human experience, he/she becomes a sort of mask for the actor. In this respect, performing is extraordinarily freeing. An actor is afforded the ability to say things, do things, and feel ways that they may never say/do/feel during the course of their actual life. (It can be a very escapist, guilty pleasure. It brings to mind the old, "I was drunk; I'm not responsible for my actions last night" excuse. The actor is allowed to love, hate, fantasize, laugh in delirium, etc., in each performance, and there are no repercussions on his/her "real life.")

Because of the nature of their profession, I think that actors probably know who they are more than most. I agree that they can be capricious and mercurial, particularly because they must retain (and exercise) the ability to see themselves in the characters they play. A necessary byproduct of that ability is the robust use of the many different facets of an individual's own, personal character.

As to how actors do what they do, I believe that it is a largely instinctive process. Classes can help actors develop their technique or give them extra tricks to add to their bag for help during difficult scenes or patches of performance that are "not working," but most people I've come into contact with either have the spark, or they don't. (As for those actors that you don't notice for a long time, who then overwhelm you with their talent, my argument would be that you just hadn't seen them in the right role yet. A talented actor is a talented actor, but the wrong casting or direction can interfere with the display of that talent. Theatre is a group effort, and sometimes the planets have to align for the right actor to be cast in the right role with the right direction.)

Anyway, this is all total conjecture, based on my limited experience. But I read Blowhard's post, which I thought was insightful and provoking, and I thought I'd take a stab at a response.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Upcoming shows in the Jackson area

New Stage Theatre, the only equity theatre in Mississippi, is opening a new show, titled "Three Days of Rain." I'm not familiar with the script, and I wasn't too excited about going to see it until I heard a plot synopsis, which sounds intriguing:

Greenberg (the playwright) offers a simple and breathtakingly poignant study of a brother and a sister unraveling the truth behind their father's death, along with their childhood friend. Both fathers had been renowned architects and the siblings’ mother was a “Southern woman who admits to thirty.” In the second half of the play, the trio of young characters becomes their predecessors thirty years earlier to play out the life-changing events that happened during "three days of rain."

I've heard that director Pat Benton has cast some fresh faces for this show, which will be nice to see. I may go catch it after all. If you're interested, their box office number is 601-948-3531. Tix are $20 for adults.

Also, a friend of mine is debuting a new play next month (May) in Jackson. John Webb wrote "The Sound of Steel," and he's workshopped it through the Fondren Theatre Workshop. Although it was originally scheduled to open sooner at The Cedars, it's been pushed back to open on Friday, May 13 in the Mississippi Metropolitan Dance Academy building (540 Taylor Street, one block south of Que Sera off of N. State St., across from the old Woodlands restaurant). Curtain is at 7:30 p.m., and admission is $12. Because these small FTW productions tend to sell out, I highly suggest that you call for ticket reservations if you're interested - 601-353-9053. (I have showed up at the door for some of these without a reservation, and I've paid the price. Call ahead if you want to see the show.) The last time I talked to Webb, the plot revolved around two reporters - one grizzled and cynical, one young and optimistic - who are both covering an execution.

Friday, April 22, 2005

And another thing . . .

Almost forgot to add that I HAVE been working out with Denise Austin in the mornings. Boy, she can really stretch your muscles with those yoga poses. Now, if she weren't so darn cheerful, we'd be on a roll here. I've worked out with her for an hour three times this week, and I plan on going running/walking tomorrow.

Also, an old friend and I have bought tickets to see two shows at Alabama Shakespeare Festival next weekend - Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Taming of the Shrew. (What a double-feature!) It will be a real treat. Can't wait to discuss this more. ASF is a great company. I've seen several shows there (Romeo and Juliet, Noises Off, Two Gentlemen of Verona, MacBeth, the list goes on), and I've enjoyed all of them. I am really looking forward to these two, especially Shrew. It's one of my favorite plays, and I've never had the chance to even audition for it.

Now that's entertainment!

I went to see my little sister in a production of Lend Me a Tenor this week. I may be a wee bit prejudiced, but she was definitely one of the strongest performers in the cast! She played the role of Maria, and she had the accent down cold! All in all, it was a fun production, although the set looked as if it had seen better days. My Dad was laughing so hard that he almost had a heart attack. That's when it hit me - I should have been performing in farces all of these years! Maybe there's hope for me yet. New Stage is producing Noises Off next season, after all.

I also finally saw two movies that I'd been meaning to watch - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Sideways. I was very lucky; they were both great. I thought Jim Carrey did a fabulous job in Sunshine; I don't think I've seen him turn in such a layered performance in anything else he's ever done. It's just such a neat concept - the thought that you could erase people, places, things, from your memory. But if you erase things that bring you pain, you also erase some of the joy out of your life. And you erase part of who you are. If you erase your mistakes, you don't learn from them. And you don't grow stronger because of them.

Let me add my voice to the chorus of people who were surprised when Paul Giamatti was not nominated for an Academy Award last year. He did a great job in Sideways. What I liked best about Miles was that he was a contradictory character, like so many of us are. He did bad things, like steal money from his mother and lie to his best friend, but he was also capable of great loyalty, self-examination, and devotion. (On the flip side, I felt that his best friend was a total ass.) I also liked the way that, although the story didn't end with everything tied up in a nice bow, you definitely felt that Miles was going to be all right, that he was going to make it just fine. Sometimes all people need is one person who really gives a damn about them.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

I want to sing and dance!

I saw two shows over the past two weeks: a production of Nunsense at Millsaps, and a Kessler traveling show of 42nd Street. Both shows made me want to sing and dance!

Nunsense was cast very well, with mostly underclassmen. I was very impressed. Robert Ann, Hubert, and Amnesia were all stand-outs. It's just such a fun show. I think a real nun was sitting behind us in the audience. She was laughing the whole way through!

Kessler's 42nd Street was a little over-acted, which I especially noticed in Act 1. Also, the actress they'd cast as Dorothy Brock was, I think, mis-directed. She was just so over-done that she didn't seem like a real character at all. I think that when performers over-act, they don't seem real. As a result, audience members don't care about them, because they are continually reminded that the whole show is one big act. It really works against the whole "suspension of disbelief." You can't give yourself over to a play if the actors are strutting around and emoting all over the place. The actress playing Peggy Sawyer was an amazing tapper, as were all of the girls in the chorus line. WOW. What a great, old-Broadway-style show. When the obligatory lighted steps rolled out, I almost got a little misty! If the company tours the show in your area, it's definitely worth checking out.

Needless to say, the whole thing has got me thinking about performing again. I'm pretty rusty, though. It would take some work.

I recently finished reading Midwives, which was another great pick. I reviewed it on Amazon.com, so you can check out what I thought if you're interested. Since then, I've been trying to get a handle on The Book of Ruth, without much success. If it doesn't grab me soon, back to the library it goes. The 50-page rule is a good one; if the story doesn't interest you after 50 pages, don't waste your time reading the rest. Remember - you have a finite amount of time in this world. Don't waste it trudging through books you aren't enjoying.

Easter brunch went great. My in-laws came over, and we had the quiche, the salad, the fruit platter, etc. We finished up with a great lemon cake. They stayed for a while after we finished eating, which I was really glad about. I like to think that they feel comfortable over at our place.

My little sister's 21st birthday is quickly approaching. Since this is a bigee, I've got to come up with something good . . .