Monday, July 4, 2011
How Not to Act
Now of we course we all know actors are messed up individuals who desperately desire attention - me included. And we all know every actor wants to be the center of attention and become a big hit on the big screen and be adored by his countless fans - me included. And we all know that actors are eager to be carried around on people's shoulders and hailed as gods walking the earth - me included.
And the thing is actors know this about one another. And so we know that at cast parties, most of the talk will be about "myself". The leading lady will talk about herself, the leading man will talk about himself, and you'll interrupt every few seconds to say a word or two about yourself. Actors know this and realize that cast parties are almost always dull because of this, unless the cast has really come together during a show. Then cast parties can be a blast!
And how does a cast "come together"? By not behaving like actors when onstage.
Let's say it's your role in one play to carry a spear and stand behind the three or four actors who have dialogue in a given scene. All you're supposed to do is stand there and look like a spear carrier. But let's say, that in a desperate desire to be noticed, you decide to start mugging and making faces or fart noises, or even better - you let a rubber chicken drop from your pants! Now this is clever and creative and it will certainly get you noticed and achieve one of the main reasons you've become an actor. You'll be the center of attention.
And your fellow actors will kill you.
And you won't get the check.
Now the funny thing is that there's another force at work in the heart of the average actor. The average actor will perhaps stumble upon a show in which being noticed is not the most important thing - the play is, doing justice to the material is, the art is, and what the art points to is - a play where everyone is giving his all and the whole thing comes together and the audience loves it and suddenly, somehow, you realize you're a part of something much bigger than you are - even if you are simply carrying a spear. Suddenly you realize that you are part of a community, and that there is a communion at the heart of all this - a communion between the actors and the material, a communion betweeb the actors and his fellow cast members, a communion between all of this and the audience.
And then you start to see what sacrifice is. Sacrifice is skipping your big speech if your fellow actor has muffed a line and cut two pages and if going back and picking up your moment would be too awkward. Sacrifice is going on stage even when you're deathly ill because there's no understudy and the show must go on. Sacrifice is living a life of penury and privation because you want nothing more than to ply your craft, as it is the thing you're called to do and you love it beyond belief. (Marvin Hamlisch captured that perfectly in the best song from A Chorus Line.)
And of course this all applies to life. In life, sacrifice is the essence of love. Selfishness is the essence of sin. Selfishness is territorial and isolating; sacrifice is self-giving and unitive.
Get ready to get ticked off at me again, readers, but here we go.
If you support torture despite the clear teaching of the Church of Christ, you are being selfish, territorial and sinful.
If you practice contraception despite the clear teaching of the Church of Christ, you are being selfish, territorial and sinful.
If you support lying for certain causes despite the clear teaching of the Church of Christ, you are being selfish, territorial and sinful.
If you support something called marriage between members of the same sex despite the clear teaching of the Church of Christ, you are being selfish, territorial and sinful.
If you hate your pastor because he's allowed the music minister to do away with the teen chorus your kid sings in, or he won't let the girl scouts read the gospel at the girl scout Mass, or he won't let your kid be confirmed without some sort of preparation, you are being selfish, territorial and sinful.
If you assign the darkest of motives to the hearts of people who are doing things you don't like (such as criticizing a popular priest who's gone awry), you are being selfish, territorial and sinful.
And when you're being selfish, territorial and sinful, you are not being a good actor.