It is wonderful that we(performance practitioners) are rediscovering ‘craft’ these days. However, I see increasing cases of the well-intentioned pursuit of the purity of ‘the craft’ (as sadly directed by some teachers and coaches) completely block otherwise creative people from their full creative expression, including, ironically, of their ‘truth’ as their identity as ‘purist craftsperson’ or somesuch notion becomes just another idea, another act to hide behind, albeit an often almost-convincingly authentic one.
The upshot is that, unless remedied in the rehearsal room or in the company classes, working with such practitioners can be, at best unpleasant and, at worst, impossible.
As writer Charlie Kaufman (including of two of my all time favourite films: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Makcovitch amongst many others) so eloquently puts it:
‘the danger of craft is that it needs to be in second position to what it is that you’re doing.’
This is helping sustain me through the thick-and-thin of my practise as actor, director and teacher. I hope you are able to derive something from it also…
¨You asked me a question, ¨ Bill says, looking at Jon. ¨You asked me, ´How can we get better at processing our emotions?´ You should all turn off your cell phones. Shut down your computers. Click off you iPods and your televisions and everything you listen to that isn´t human.
Modern society has surrounded us with these things and they´re killing us. We´re beginning to forget what it is simply to breathe and eat and laugh and watch and wonder and listen and experience one another. We´re forgetting how to be human beings with actual opinions and genuine feelings and originality. And if we can´t be human, how can we ever hope to be artists?
¨This is the battle that art must fight in the twenty-first century, and you, as actors, are important soldiers in the battle. We must defend our humanity in a society that values us less and less.
¨Now, go home and read a book of poetry. Memorise some of your favourite lines and quote them to anyone who will listen.
Live. Take in. Give back. Live some more. This is the job of the actor.
I´ll see you next time.¨
~ William Esper, The Actor´s Art and Craft
I wish the stage were as narrow as the wire of tightrope dancer, so that no incompetent would dare step upon it.
I first came across this quote, reportedly one of Sanford Meisner’s favourites, via Simon Furness whilst training with him, some four years ago. It burned itself into me and has come to mean many different things to me at different times. Today, its meaning is something like: the dedication to this path, to the best of my ability, to wherever that leads and to those who might share it with me for a while.
Funnily enough, I have trained in tightwire in the past and even given a little performance or two on it and am reminded of another of Simon’s many pieces of wise guidance shared: ‘a miss is as good as a mile’. I think that, finally, only we can know for ourselves if we are placing each step on the path truthfully and with our fullest possible commitment. And, as some of the reflections on this subject describe, there is no ‘sort of’ staying on ‘the wire’.
To keep facing the truth of life, through the fear. I feel that is something of my task. And this lifetime is not long enough to repay the debt of gratitude I owe the good teachers, friends, family, colleagues, and my tribe with out whose help I would not have had a hope in hell of staying on the straight & narrow.
“Welcome to the present moment. Here. Now. The only moment there ever is.” Eckhart Tolle
“How to make the gods laugh: tell them your plans!” via Jim Haynes
“It is about what it *becomes* in relation to me.” Diego Akselrad
“The foundation of acting is the reality of doing.” Sanford Meisner
“Theatre for the actor is a temple. It is a sacred ground! Your life, your honor, everything irreversibly belongs to the stage, to which you surrendered yourself. Your destiny is now at a mercy of the boards… Perform a religious rite or get out” M.S. Schepkin via Olya Petrakova
Special London Preview!!!
Thursday 4th August 7.30pm@Positively 4th Street 119 Hampstead Road NW1 (near Mornington Crescent).
Please come and see what we have made so far and help us celebrate our send-off to Edinburgh in the bar afterwards.
It’s a lovely, intimate venue snuggled between Camden and the west end and it would be lovely to see you there.