Schofie

Posts Tagged ‘actors’

Acting and Theatrical Forms

In On Acting on August 18, 2014 at 2:27 pm

So much of art is influenced by culture, and so much of culture is influenced by art. This may seem obvious, maybe even redundant to say, but it is worth noting because the bicameral relationship between the two massively broad concepts is so sticky. Any artistic achievement that has stood the test of time serves as an icon in some fashion to the philosophical undercurrents of the era from which it was birthed – or a symbol rejecting those undercurrents. Often the most notable are the achievements that pioneer revolution, or are the banner from the flagship of a new idea – a cultural armada that seeks to cultivate, sculpt, or reform society in some way. Not all artists actively pursue some political, social, or cultural end, but the way they think and create is directly effected by those themes.

I hope our discussion can be practical. So I don’t want to get too bogged down in philosophy and the cultural influence on how you will approach a role as an actor. But I would be remiss not to recognize it. For so much of our current schools of thought on acting stem directly from specific philosophical perspectives iconic to the time from which they were conceived. You as an actor would be wise to consider it, because when one person says “Diderot’s thoughts on acting are spot on! That is always how I approach a role.” or another says “Strasbourg had it right, man. This is how you should really approach a role.” You need to understand that each individual had a perspective unique to their position in culture and the philosophical and cultural ideas of their time. All of them may be valuable within their own context, but only so long as it is beneficial to you, the artist today.

That brings me to my point for this little snippet of thought. Acting is a progressive art form. What the masses enjoy in performance is perpetually evolving as the culture morphs. What works best on stage or film is ever changing, and the influences on that change are nearly infinite. This is why I might caution against an over-reliance on any one system. It may soon become antiquated, and you will find yourself a dying breed of actor. It is completely acceptable to cherry pick those ideas, concepts, and approaches that work best for you, and abandon those techniques that leave you frustrated or box you in as an artist.

If you have been acting for a while, this is something you should spend some time studying. Really dive into themes like Marxism and Capitalism. Seek to grasp the ideas behind Feminism, and the GLBT movements. Research Naturalism, Realism, Expressionism, Modernism, and Post-Modernism. And not just as pertains to theatre and acting, but specifically how those schools of thought effect culture and art in it’s broad vastness. You will start to see parallels in Theoreticians and the things they believe. You will start to form your own understanding and beliefs, and from your own personal culture you may find yourself developing your own method of thinking, of art, of acting.

If you are just starting out as an actor, forget everything I have said. This stuff is way too heavy. Because at the end of the day, you don’t want to be bogged down by philosophy in the moment of performance, you should be liberated by your method, not inhibited. If you are a novice or amateur, stop thinking and start doing. Seriously, experiment with what works for you, but you need to have done a good deal of acting to understand it’s challenges and applications before you start bothering yourself with all this lofty philosophical crap. And the same goes for the experienced actor, we need to always be careful not to over-encumber ourselves with too much thinking. The point of studying philosophical and cultural influences is to better understand the nature and purpose of art, to perhaps give you a practical vehicle for performance. If it is tripping you up, throw it out, or put it back on the shelf until you are ready for it. Because it doesn’t matter how much thinking you do, it is your body and voice the audience sees and hears, and if they don’t like it, it doesn’t matter if you believe it or not.

I wanted this week’s post to be a precursor to lightly examining theoreticians of the past and present, and I wanted to illustrate how what they have to say may be valuable and may be dangerous. So now that this is out of the way, lets look at a few different approaches.

Life-Philosophy

 

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1920475_10152073790794983_1207531938_n ~j.d. schofield

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Schofie on Acting?

In On Acting on August 13, 2014 at 3:17 pm

So…. Actors have been around since the beginning of time. Even if you credit them Greeks with the origins of what we might consider traditional acting – you’re talking 534 B.C. or earlier. Thousands of years. Millions upon millions of flesh-and-blood persons have taken up the mantel of performance between then and now. And now, in an age where performance related media and live performance is historically more ¬†accessible than it has ever been, it seems everyone is an actor. If you don’t consider yourself an actor, you probably have at least done it once. If you never have, you may have considered it. If you never have considered it, you still can’t avoid how greatly your life is affected by actors. They’re in the shows you watch, the features you love, the plays you attend, and the commercials that drive you nuts. They’re on the side of the street waving signs to get your taxes done for free. They’re on the corner of 5th and Main in black-and-white mime attire. They’re in the museum bringing Hammurabi and Abe Lincoln to life.

So, if we have thousands of years of acting tradition, theory, and history – and so many of us are actors today, why are we all so confused about how to do it? If there is anything I have learned after academically studying theatre for the last 8 years, and actively performing in productions in a broad range of functions, it’s that no-body really knows what they are doing. Everybody has ideas, theories, and their own little comfortable method that works for them. Some are dogmatic, others pragmatic, some are systematic, while others are enthusiastic and spastic. And that is fun to say really fast, by the way.

It’s just that acting is such a hard thing to quantify. Traditionally, we can identify an actor. But that’s because we see him in his element. His venue. He’s in my Tv, he’s on the stage before me. He’s behind the glass at the museum exhibit. But what is it he does? How does he do it? You ask any two acting celebrities how it is they do what they do, it is likely they will have two completely different answers.

I am still working out my own thoughts on the matter. I have some strong opinions. I don’t know that I can claim that they are exclusively correct. But I do have my ideas – like anybody else.

This is hopefully the first in a series of thoughts on the craft – my thoughts, others thoughts, stolen and borrowed thoughts. Now that I am done with school, and I am actively performing in the real world, I am starting to actually read those dusty books I hastily skimmed during my Graduate work. So roll up your sleeves, actors, we’re about to get nerdy….

 

hamlet

 

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David Tennant in Hamlet in 2008.

 

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1920475_10152073790794983_1207531938_n ~by j.d. schofield