Wednesday, July 18, 2012


At all moments of living, people are responding on several, sometimes many, (according to character) levels.  There is the sensory level -- we may be engaged in a fascinating conversation, we may be solving a problem, we may be actively pursuing any objective, but always our eyes are seeing objects, persons, sky, moon, trees, chair, books, about us.  Unless we close our eyes we cannot close out the objects and people which contribute to the physical environs about us.  These visual responses may occupy only the periphery of our attention or they may penetrate more deeply and interrupt the flow of thought which is being vocalized in conversation.  These “things” are part of subtext, depending on the kind of person we are and how or to what extent we see and respond.  The same is true of all the other senses and I cannot, as I write, shut out the sound of the door that just banged nor the car passing in the street.  The extent to which they interrupt my thought, the extent to which I identify -- that’s me.  So at all times, people, unless they are asleep, unconscious or dead -- are aware on the sensory level to the physical environment about them.  The actor, then, creates the physical environment about him, responds to it as he proceeds with spoken dialogue or the action.  Then there is the level of direct response to the stimulus which makes speech inevitable -- the mental level which finds direct expression in words or acts.  In addition there is this mental level not expressed in words but flowing behind the lines, with the lines, past the lines.  It may be memories, associations, desires, plans, dreams, escapes, direct thoughts too incongruous to be spoken, etc. etc.  depending on the nature of the character.  It is the actors’ task to express all of these levels and to illuminate character in situation.
Take this:
1.  Mr. A and Mrs. A or Miss A and sister, Mrs. B (or friend) are sitting at the dinner table.  Through the windows the lighted house next door can be seen.  thisis the written-to-be-spoken dialogue.
Mrs. (or Miss) A:  I saw some beautiful sheer yellow drapes at Marshall Field’s today.
Mr. A (sister or friend):  I am going to call Mrs. Steele about her dog: he dug up the yard again.
Mrs. A (Or Miss A):  I want to go to Yellowstone Park this summer.
Mr. A:  Celery in a dining car is always so crisp.
Establish the character sub-text which makes the lines inevitable.  Play the episode.
2.  Take a similar number of lines between a charcter in a play.  Present in class. 
(Note from Prairie Mary:  It is this kind of dialogue at cross-purposes, always revealing of character, that Wm. Kittredge said was the major and most valuable thing he taught James Welch, Jr.  These thoughts for actors are often valuable for writers.)

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