Saturday, February 06, 2010

vulnerability and the actor

As I wrote previously, I am currently reading Jeremy Rifkin's book The Empathic Civilization, and find it constantly...arousing, not sexually, but spiritually. So I want to share some of the juicy morsels that I come across as I read. Here's one:

If freedom is the ability to live out the full potential of one's possibilities and if the measure of one's life is the intimacy, range, and diversity of one's relationships, then the more vulnerable one is, the more open he or she will be to creating meaningful and intimate relationships with others. Vulnerable in this sense does not mean being weak or a victim or prey but, rather, being open to communication at the deepest level of human exchange.

Real allowing oneself to be exposed--warts and all--to another person. It is the willingness to place the most intimate details of our lives in the hands of another. To be vulnerable is to trust one's fellow human beings. Trust is the belief that others will treat you as an end not a means, that you will not be used or manipulated to serve the expedient motives of others but regarded as a valued being.

This is at the heart of what acting is and what we value actors for. Great actors are able to engage in the mimicry of their fellows in a way that doesn't merely reproduce their behavior, but also lays bare this vulnerability in a way that is palpable, immediate and undeniable. They bear witness to our interdependence and our capacity for reconciliation and harmony. They confront us with what we all share: a deep, visceral, unquenchable longing for connection, belonging and play.

This is why I call the "underlying objective" is the touchstone of what I teach. As actors we must learn to bring our own vulnerability to bear on the circumstances of the imaginary people we portray. By struggling (and I mean struggling, it wouldn't mean much if it were easy to find) to articulate the need which the actor can recognize the most urgent priority of the person they are embodying, in their own visceral and direct words, the actor forges a connection with the humanity of the character that can serve as the basis for everything they undertake in the role. There is a Zen koan (or riddle) which says "The ten thousand things return to the one, what does the One thing return to?" For the actor, it is her underlying objective, the thing that she is asking for at every moment, her most urgent priority and purpose.

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