I try not to get too mystical in my approach to acting. I find a lot of that sort of vocabulary to be really off-putting. In our need to ennoble the craft we try to elevate it beyond what it usually is to make ourselves feel like more ourselves.
But there are “mystical” things about the craft that you can’t dodge in the same way that carpenters can’t really avoid the fact the wood has a personality. Using the words we do makes it seem a little cartoonish, but it’s true so… there we go.
With acting I trying not to use spell casting metaphors but we don’t have great vocabulary for exerting power to create tangible emotional change in another on another with simply words.
There are hoary tropes about all crafts and professions. Those ink-stained wretches who wrote our newspapers and novels. Our paint spattered visual artists. A potter with spatters of slip in the most awkward places.
And our actors have emotions all over them.
The spells actors cast may only be words. Words spoken in order and with intention, but just words. They can still have devastating effect. But the best live performance isn’t crafted out of just words.
But when they are interwoven with the performer’s own emotion and rooted to the moment, it really is elemental. I am who I am and my talents are what they are. I can’t deliver that in every moment. I can pinpoint moments for you when I’ve been able to.
What happens every time we build one of these things is we drag the whole toolbox of the craft out and work with them for hours a night, and then hours on either side of rehearsal to be prepared for rehearsal. The toolbox for actors is 80% emotion.
When you’re doing it all the time you have really great control and you grab a touch of the burnt umber lightened a little and it mixes correctly on the brush and you just… roll.
When you have been in dry dock a while – some of the tools are rusty. Some of the tools are a little dried out. But mostly they end up all over the place. We started rehearsing this one-nighter of Pericles for Sweet Tea Shakes’ Shipwreck Festival and I’m a wreck.
I’m in a good place emotionally so it’s not depression and anger. But I am on a hair trigger. Commercials, old songs I really love, kitties… I am basically always on the verge of tears.
It gets better as one gets back into game shape. But I forget every time how much we load onto the brush, and how bad we are at cleaning up.