Tuesday, December 09, 2008

ancient chinese curse

"May you live in interesting times."

Apparently, this alleged Chinese imprecation is not so Chinese. Wikipedia:

No known user of the English phrase has supplied the purported Chinese language original, and the Chinese language origin of the phrase, if it exists, has not been found, making its authenticity doubtful. One theory is that it may be related to the Chinese proverb, "It's better to be a dog in a peaceful time than be a man in a chaotic period" (寧為太平犬,不做亂世人; pinyin: níng wéi tàipíng quǎn, bù zuò luànshì rén).[citation needed]

Still, it seems that interesting times have been wished on all of us, what with the bailout fever and governors being arrested and Greece on fire. I have noticed that since these interesting times began, right around, oh, say, the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate, aspects of the plays that we work on in class that come up in scenes that have relevance to our current national and international crises (!), they crackle more loudly than they perhaps otherwise would. Last cycle in SF, we worked on a play by Neal Bell called Ready for the River from the early nineties, which involves the bloody aftermath of a bank foreclosing on a family farm. I had selected to the play because it's great writing and I like the way playwright Neal Bell loves to bring dead people back from the dead to talk to the living in what are either expressionistic interludes or hallucinatory sequences. But my selection of the play had nothing to do, if I recall correctly, with its social relevance. The first time I heard the foreclosure that transpires in the play referenced by a pair of actors doing a scene from the play in class, I was BOWLED OVER. I mentioned this to students who had been watching the scene work in class during a break, and they had a similar reaction. Tom Brokaw said on Meet the Press the other day that for the first time in years, "everyone is paying attention." We are all experiencing and participating in the public life of this country in a way that is new and exciting.

These observations throw into relief the importance of actors in these times: they are people who are able to embody and give voice to the yearnings of people in our society, both the private and subjective yearnings and the public and political ones. In performing pieces of writing, actors participate in bringing these yearnings into confrontation and dialogue with others, so that solutions can be hammered out, tires can be kicked, and glad tidings and great rejoicing can ultimately come to pass.

To arms!

(This post is from the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in Los Angeles and San Francisco (www.utteracting.com): an acting class in Los Angeles and San Francisco for serious, motivated students.)

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