The Hall of Hams #39: Sir Laurence Olivier
1 hour ago
This is the former location of the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The blog is now located at http://utteracting.com/blog. This old location has been left in place as an archive.
Macy, like his friend, mentor and longtime collaborator David Mamet, does not believe in delving into his characters any further than the writer has already delved. He doesn't believe that creating a back-story - a cherished aspect of the Method school - does anything for the performance.And in one very important sense, I am with him. I quoted that same remark of his in a previous posting in which I take pretty much the same position. For me, acting is about touching the same impulse in yourself that prompted the writer to invent the character in the first place. The text is the alpha and the omega. When Mamet and Macy make remarks like this, their targets are approaches such as Method acting, which relies heavily on the actor's personal experience, and, to a lesser extent, Meisner, which gives primacy to the immediate connection to the partner, and the circumstances and text are built up around that.
"I'm a written-page guy," he says. "The writer gives you everything you need."
There's a story in my family about my parent's first date. My father, wanting to impress my mother, decided to take her to a drive-in, however, he had to borrow his father's car. Once they were at the movie, my mother, wanting to impress my father, ordered the most sophisticated drink available, which was a root-beer float. Now my mother hates root beer, always has, and after imbibing it, she proceeded to throw up on the floor of my grandfather's car. My father had to drive her home, missing the movie he'd driven fifteen miles and paid a dollar to see. Then he had to clean the car and return it with an explanantion and an apology. (There was, fortunately for me, a second date.)
Now, what part of the story is about the internal combustion engine. None of it, in any obvious way, but all of it, in another way. No engine, no car. No cars, no using cars for dates. (The effect of automobiles on romance would be hard to overstate.) No dates in cars, no drive-in movies. And so on. Our life is so permeated with the automotive that understand immediately how my father must have felt when my grandfather let him borrow the car, and how carefully he must have cleaned it before returning it, without thinking about internal combustion at all.
assert their fulness and roundness, their power to revolve, so that they have sides and backs, parts in the shade as true as parts in the sun
...one can also speak of the agents and actions represented by the play, and for this one relies...on the same range of concepts that are used outside the work of art [emphasis added]—concepts, for example, of purpose and choice, success and failure, prosperity and suffering, good and evil, guilt and innocence. Nor, on this model, do we speak descriptively of the work in these terms; we experience it through an understanding that depends on them, and we respond to it with evaluative judgments, hence with emotions, that presuppose and are informed by that understanding.