Monday, February 21, 2011

Top Ten Tuesdays: A Madness to his Method?

"Acting is the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances."  
Sanford Meisner


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What does it take to be a "gifted" Actor? I use comic book kerpow! type words like amazing and wonderous when speaking of Liev, but that lends a sort of immaculate conception quality which can detract from my point here: it's all about Liev's dedication, courage and commitment.

Did I ever tell you I acted as a child? It's true. I found it hilarious - hanging out with the other kids, even getting time off school. I loved the attention and camaraderie of it. But, to borrow a phrase from vocals, what happened was that I couldn't quite make that leap to "projecting from the diaphram." I was not ready to delve into the self exploratory part of the thing once I got to an age where my precociousness wasn't going to cut it anymore.

Besides, I was drawn to the exterior details. I just wanted to hang out in wardrobe, and try to spot continuity errors in the daylies. And pour over the script, of course. Did I miss a boat? Maybe. But on the other hand, stepping back did gave me a wider lens of the experience and my interests are now more in the creation of the story than the execution.

All this to say that the travails of an Actor, a really palpable Actor like Liev, are something I think about a lot. I admire the shit of their courage to rip off a scab *in front of everyone* and own whatever oozes out of that gaping sore.

My latest delve is: The Actor's Art and Craft: William Esper Teaches the Meisner TechniqueNow, I'm keeping my mind open to all philosophies. I've dabbled in Brecht and even tried to conceive of Meyerhold (a glass of wine helped, there). It would seem that while people have different exercises and techniques, the key here is to just use whatever works. We've heard Liev mention these schools of thought as well as others. He has said he's not especially a "sense memory" person, but that he has used his own memories to infuse his characters and their actions. Adaptability.

I can see why Liev would not want to speak out in favour of a certain school, as people would then be looking for the how and not the what. I'm sure Sean Penn deeply regrets having revealed that his penchant for Method. His family is still fielding questions about what it was like to live with Jeff Spicoli, 30 years after the fact.

Whether Liev is a student of Esper/Meisner or not, there are some beautiful statements about dedicating yourself to being an Actor in this book.

Here are my Top Ten favourites:

- "Acting is the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circustances."  

I mean, let that one just sink in for a minute before you move on. That is the most all-encompassing definition I've ever seen. In French we say frissons - that's what this brings to me.

- "Truth is the blood of art. Without truth a piece of art fails to touch a human spirit."

- "Listen to a choir of angels singing above our heads. Try and make out the song... Now, who heard them? Does it matter if you heard them or not? No. It matters if you were really listening."

- "The reality of doing is the single most important principle of truthful acting. It is the key that allows you to unlock the door to the imaginary world, enter it and live there truthfully."

- "If you experience commercial success, fine. County yourself lucky. But that's not the reason we act! The only true reason to appraoch any art is because it's your passion."

- "Good acting - real acting - is impossible to spot."

- "You can't listen to Yo-Yo Ma play the cello without recognizing brilliance. But real acting can never be pegged because it cannot be differentiated from real life." 

- "It's true what Thoreau said: The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. Because most people measure their lives by so called significant moments... Actors live with a different truth. To an actor, every moment is a peak moment. He may live an entire lifetime in two hours or less. An Actor knows that this thing we call life is nothing more than a series of moments."

- "An actor must know how he feels about everything. And I do mean everything. The development of this connection with your own true person is a major area of work in an Actor's development.

- Text is a very confusing element of acting. It can mask a great many problems. The fact that someone can memorize lines and speak them in more or less the right order might give people the impression they're acting, whereas they might only be reciting lines.

- The Actor knows that there is never an outcome and never an ending; only the ride." 

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