I shudder to think what people might consider to be a stereotypical actor.
I have a feeling it would be something like:
“Likes to be the center of attention.”
“Probably was the class clown.”
“Has a healthy and huge ego.”
“Cares only about themselves.”
And the general public has good reason to think this to be true. Drama (with a capital D) is much more interesting than the reality (with a small r) of the actor’s personal life.
As a rule our performance personas have a heightened reality in order to make the stories we are telling interesting, funny, dramatic, compelling, entertaining… otherwise why go to the movies, watch TV or visit the theatre. Our work involves being paraded out in front of hundreds or thousands of people at a time to transport the audience to another place and help divert their attention from the “real world” for a few hours.
We also get to perform on television, sing and dance on world stages, are asked to be involved in all sorts of seemingly glamorous situations.
(My wife Marin and I in one of our many appearances with the Boston Pops)
And they are glamorous but all of that has a very perfunctory and practical element to it that you don’t see that makes it just like any other blue collar job. Truly.
(Cooling off after my big number in The Visit backstage in the alley. Pants are highly overrated not to mention overheated.)
So, we are conditioned to be able to go to that heightened reality quickly and almost as a default mechanism, possibly more so when you work on stage. Every gesture has to read to the back of the house.
Now for that “Different Kind of Challenge” that I mentioned in the title of this blog…
For our production of The Visit our esteemed director John Doyle has been influenced by and applied to our production, elements of the classic Greek theatre, Yiddish theatre
and a little of the theatre of the absurd, to make for a very unique theatrical experience.
(Roger Rees and Ian McKellen in Waiting For Godot.)
The trick in using these highly stylized theatrical ways of storytelling is that the audience can sometimes feel a little removed from the heart and emotions of the characters.
Mr. Doyle has wisely and craftily designed our production to use the exciting and theatrical elements of these styles BUT asked us to employ a realism inside of these parameters to tell the important heart of the story; the love and morality of the tale needs to be gently stated but able to cut through the grotesqueness of the moral of the story.
This may all be a little technical but I’m sure there are some who will appreciate the difficulty in at once, wearing highly stylized make up and costume, walking in an overstated physicality but then delivering lines with a sincerity and intimacy that draws an audience in.
The challenge of combining all of these elements makes it thrilling for us as actors to perform and, I think, what makes it unusual and exciting for the audience. Using these historic theatre styles and marrying it with a contemporary way of presenting theatre is what creates something that is at once an homage but also forward thinking and cutting edge.
But don’t take my word for it. Come see us at the Lyceum Theatre on W. 45th St. just off Times Square and judge for yourself. You’ll be very glad you did.
“You be good… and I’ll try.”