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17th of May

Reading is fundamental


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There is no such thing as a great ‘dumb’ actor.  The most famous “dumb blonde”, Ms. Marilyn Monroe, was always seen with a book in hand.  And not just any book, but one of the Russians (Tolstoy, Dostoyevskey)!  A good actor knows a little bit about a lot of things.  In this day of reality TV, with instant celebrities that come and go like toilet paper,  a great way to insure longevity is to be well-rounded and intelligent.

Why is reading so important for actors?  Words, and how they are conveyed, are the vehicles of our expression.  They are our paintbrushes, our violins.  Words are the symbols that we use to convey images, stories and feelings (even though what we are conveying is the white part of the page).   If you want to be able to do better at your readings…READ!

Once you understand how writers tell stories, you’re better able to discern the author’s intent with greater  speed and accuracy.

The imaginary leap that we make between our day-to-day physical world reality and the given circumstances of the script become easier to maneuver when you are already doing it daily every time you pick up a book.

While google may be the greatest gift to actors in their ability to understand and research a role – I’m not writing about the mental benefits of reading.  I’m alluding to the way that reading expands your imagination and library of images and senses.

When you read a wonderful novel, you are swept up in the sensory milieu of the character.  To understand a day in the pre(and post)-Civil War South – read “Gone with the Wind” . To fully undersand the psyche and thoughts of a murderer read “Crime and Punishment”. 

We are in the business of understanding and presenting humanity.  The more that you read, the more you see the common thread that runs through all of us.  Though people from the past may look different in pictures and paintings, they were just like us.  Perhaps they dressed differently and had different ideas of hygiene, but they had more in common than we might want to admit.

Plus, if you read for just a few minutes before going to bed (rather than watching TV), you just may find that your dreams more vivid as your imagination has already been accessed.

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6th of May

Distractions


And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain: When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about. – Haruki Murakami

 

Recently in a yoga class, at a certain point, I started to feel uncomfortable. I’m not talking physical pain, but a deep existential discomfort.  Normally I would just look at someone gorgeous enough to distract myself, but this time I choose to see what would happen if I stayed present in my body.  It became so uncomfortable that I had to lay down.  Awful sensations of pain subsided, and I was able to get up and move through rest of class.  Afterwards I felt uplifted and energized as if I had been to a spa. 

Later, I went to see the iconic Jane Fonda speak, and they showed clips of her astonishing work, and I realized that in most of the scenes she (the character) was under great duress – especially the comedies! 

As humans in the 21st century, we have a multitude of ways to distract ourselves – alcohol, drugs, sex, eating, TV, facebook, looking at the cute guy/gal in yoga…  As actors, our characters have to sit in the pain and discomfort of intimacy. If we, as actors, can’t sit through these feelings, then how are we going to have the courage to do so under imaginary circumstances?

Whenever I move through the uncomfortable feelings –  I have more space inside.  In the breakup  of relationships– we bitch and moan and scream and complain – then finally feel the feelings and move through.

Emotion becomes much easier to access when you don’t attach the feeling s to events, but rather feel them in their purest state.

Actors try to feel pain, humans try to alleviate it.  So feel the pure feeling and then cover it.  Neurotic behavior comes from the actor avoiding pain.

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