On the craft of acting
The art form intends to erase itself: that is, if it looks like you're acting, you're doing it wrong. As Henry Fonda put it: "The best actors do not let the wheels show."

Acting requires technique. There are tools that an actor uses to create his or her character.

In American acting training, much of which is based on the Stanislavski method, an actor is trained to feel the emotion of the character in order to take on the objective of the character, and then perform specific actions to achieve the character's desires. All of this while being loud enough to be heard, saying the same lines each performance, picking up a prop in a prescribed manner, moving around the stage in a predetermined path, all for the benefit of creating a believable person onstage or on camera in what is, essentially, a fiction. The paradox of acting is that you have to be someone else completely at the same time you are technically doing your job.

Voice and gesture are part of technique. Acting involves speaking and moving a certain way to make the audience believe in the character you are portraying. Can you do this without feeling the emotion, finding the objective, etc? I think so, though many acting teachers and actors would disagree, saying that you can't recite a character, you can't imitate a character, you must be the character. And yes, the actor should disappear- there should be only the character for the audience. But in my book, the duck test works here: If it looks like a character, and behaves like a character, and speaks like a character, it's probably a character.

An audience wants to believe that Hamlet is at a moment in his life where he wants to commit suicide. But if I'm onstage with that actor, I want to be sure that he's an actor and will stick to the choreography of our upcoming swordfight (Sure, they're aren't "real" swords but the laws of physics ensure that they can still hurt). I don't care if he's thinking about his grocery list or counting the number of redheads in the audience, as long as he's being professional. I feel the same way when I sit in the audience.

The business of acting
"Working in the theatre has a lot in common with unemployment."--Arthur Gingold
Employment tends to be intermittent, physically demanding, and not very lucrative.

According to the Screen Actor's Guild, in 1996 85 percent of SAG's 90,000 members earned less than $5,000. In 1998 25% of members earned no wages at all under contract. And these union members are the top professionals. Well, the most photogenic professionals.

The more lucrative 15% may or may not be more talented. Acting for film and television as often as not involves your physical appearance. Discrimination on that basis is a way of doing business.

Stress: actors must subject themselves to lots of rejection via auditions, the business' equivalent of the interview. In order to keep working, you have to apply for a new job every three to six weeks. There's also the stress of filing self-employment taxes. Has several side effects.

Act"ing (#), a.

1.

Operating in any way.

2.

Doing duty for another; officiating; as, an superintendent.

 

© Webster 1913.

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