While I forever preach the teachings of Gordon Craig and Robert Edmond Jones and Harold Clurman…the concept that the Theatre exists as A Body…I also believe the profession of the Actor, to be one set apart from all the rest. A profession that requires the Valiant quality I speak of so often, to be present in such a large quantity that I would even go so far as to call the profession of Acting – a Noble one.
The Actor speaks a truth that the majority of us never experience in any sense. A small percentage of us know it in our hearts, a slightly smaller percentage speak it in our minds and the smallest percentage of all, will at times, let it slip from their lips. But the Actor, to fulfill his duty to The Body, to truly be effective in his art, must speak the truth from deep within, and speak it with every fiber of his being. The truth must come in his delivery of the text, an unaffected, organic, visceral and emotionally vital evocation. The truth must come from his posture as it must support his character and say something to us about him, without hammering away at our skulls about it. It must be in his movement as he walks his staging for the 147th time on opening night…not as though it were by rote. It must be in his gesture as it supports his delivery of the text and aids in his relationship with the rest of the world of the play…without indication. The truth must come from his eyes and bore into the eyes of his scene partners…his fellow Actors, who’s truth should be boring back at him. We should witness a collective truth on the stage, summoned by this group of Actors, this ensemble of Truth Tellers, and put on display before us so that we might allow our own hearts to have that truth embedded within them. We should carry however large or small a piece of their work as we can, out of the theatre with us. Then the truth can live on. The truth the Playwright put on paper. The truth the Director so carefully coaxed from the Actor. The truth that exists only in that special world of the play as constructed by the team of Designers.
We may well study to be Directors or Designers or Stage Managers or any of another dozen specific professions of the Theatre…and while each requires a certain set of indelible talents, it is my experience that the Actor is the most truly born to their profession. Training is still necessary. Technique is not something we are born with, it must be learned. But I have found the other professions to be less dependent on something you are “born with” than that of the Actor. Perhaps that is because their work requires, in order to stand on a stage emotionally bare, metaphysically naked, a level of courage…a Valiant quality all their own, to which one cannot be brought. One cannot be handed that quality in a classroom or discern that quality from something read in a book, not in the amount it is required to be truly effective as an Actor. In my opinion, and experience, there is no other profession that requires such a large amount of such an intangible quality as the work of the Actor. Why do you think so many of us begin as actors, only to take up residence in other portions of the Body? Because we lack what is truly necessary to be truly effective. We see a large number of great Actors cross over into other segments of the Theatre with great success, usually while they continue to perform . But it is rare to see an Artist begin in another area of the Theatre, only to later take on the task of the Actor with any reasonable impact.
There is nothing at all wrong with this. The Body needs all of its parts. ALL of them to be truly effective. But let us not forget, at the end of the day, the Actor is on the front line, the Actor is in the Infantry of the Theatre. The Actor my very well be the Heart of the Theatre…as we must always remember the Audience is it’s life blood.