Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Acting on impulse

I was faced with a choice at a difficult age
would I write a book... or should I take to the stage?
- "Left To My Own Devices", Pet Shop Boys

I’ve learned that acting is a real challenge. William Shatner’s autobiography was key in that realisation. It’s not that he said it explicitly, but in reading his anecdotes, detailing the rigours of delivering the scene despite all kinds of personal and professional distractions, I resolved that you have to give respect to actors for showing up knowing their action.

That’s not to say that all actors are good actors. Or even consistent actors. Or sane actors (Nicolas Cage, we need to talk about that Oscar.) 

But a professional actor is trained in a specific craft, one which is nearly nullified by the modern entertainment paradigm. Hell, I’ve tried acting on camera few times.

There was this one time... I was cast in a French movie. In French! (“The horror! The horror!” Or in fact: "L'horreur! L'horreur!"). I doubt the Academy noticed.

In my scene I had to drunkenly stumble up to a camper in a desolate part of the woods, piss on it, be surprised when a couple emerged from within, exchange a few words with them (they asked me to help them push the camper out of the brush), and see them off. Easy, yeah? Not so much.

THIS was my mark which I had to hit after a 25-metre stumble; THIS was my bottle that I had to hide in my pants when I took the leak. THIS was the direction in which I had to turn my head when I refused to help them at first... and did I mention I had to act like a New Zealander? In French?

Actually, I think they may have decided to cut me out of the movie altogether.

Never mind, I learned my lines. I took direction from the director who was very patient with me. I don’t really have performance shyness so that wasn’t the issue – but I discovered that there’s a hell of a lot to remember when you’re acting a scene. 

So I was not led astray by my moment of self-attributed celebrity. And if I was for but a moment, it was because I asked for a cup of coffee and the AD had it in my hand thirty seconds later. I had arrived! And then I was told to back to go my mark to await direction.

But I am, for all intents and purposes, a lover of the traditional concept of theatre (if there is such a thing). I love watching classically trained actors at their best. And I suppose it's not surprising that I use a lot of borrowed concepts when I'm on stage myself.

I'm not an actor, but I feel that musical performance is acting too in most respects. I think certain things can transfer, even if the brand of pop performance I do is largely by the seat of the pants.

"...but in the back of my head i heard distant feet
Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat." 
- - "Left To My Own Devices", Pet Shop Boys
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The Chiz said...

I was quite the actor at school, but these days I leave that to the pro's... writing is public self-evisceratingly enough for me nowadays!

Anton Marshall said...

I hear you, chiz... I'm feeling that with this blog more and more

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