What is an actor? Should an actor be sacrificing? And what should he sacrifice?

Convener: Duncan Brown 

Participants: Rachel Karafistan, Rod Smith and Maggie O’Connor 


Firstly I want to thank Maggie, Rachel and Rod for their alternative views on the subject as I am aware that I have tunnel vision on this subject.

I held this discussion because the actor, for me, is the forefront of what live performance is today, and I have become disgruntled from being constantly let down by the performer/actor in live performance, due to the fact that the performers/actors which I have seen over the past three years have never grasped my inner self and I often find myself separated from the performers/actors. However saying this Faust did absorb me into the world, but I feel this was mainly because of the world they created, the set, the lighting thus enhancing my view of the performers. I suppose I held this discussion to see if anyone in the ‘business’ had a similar view point.

            Perhaps what I strongly believe is that for the audiences to return to theatre, firstly the actor needs to change become something other than an everyday person; a master of their body both vocally and physically like a musician is of their instrument.

Rachel – who said when she was my age she had the same focus on what she wanted to become as a performer/actress and having been working in Poland – She has since returned and found her view to have altered slightly – in the respect that she has begun to understand the more relaxed stance that we seem to have in this country and has begun to appreciate it.

            I brought up the idea that young performers/actors needed to be training rigorously, increasing their strength, their focus, their vocals, flexibility – so that they can do things which another person can not do.

Rod asked what I meant by sacrifice?

I spoke about taking on rigorous training so that you can become so in touch with your physicality and your inner self and your inner child that when you are performing you can revisit states of anguish, love etc thus sacrificing your inner makings to allow the audience to undertake a similar experience. As you can most probably tell I talk mainly about Grotowski’s training methods here. 

Rod asked in that case do you feel closer to society through this style of training?

Which is a very good question as I find that through becoming so focused on this ‘holy grail’ that as you become more in touch with yourself you do find yourself becoming slightly more alienated from society and everyday human nature.

Rachel brought up an example of a line she had in a performance, ( which I have forgotten), which was a very simple everyday line and she could not find the right rhythm, tone and sound and thus gave the line to someone else, and therefore she also thought that this was a negative affect, of the way she had trained.

What is an Actor?

Rod brought up the topic as he said:

He had not trained, but he acts, so am I an Actor?

We all concluded he was and in fact ignorance in a sense is better than training as you act as you would in everyday life and thus your performance is real, the audience can identify with your mannerisms, your identity 

This then lead to a topic on diversity

Is it better to be trained on one specific thing, e.g. physically, (Grotowski, Lecoq, Dance etc) or have the diversity to be able to switch from roles, forms and styles. We concluded that diversity is better. (But at the same time can you be the master of all? Would you not just become a Jack of all?)

I then brought up the subject of Chaikin…who says that it is all about getting life experience – try everything so that you know what it is like and you can identify with any subject matter and thus relate to it as an actor as you did when it occurred in real life.

We all saw the importance of this approach as the audience would possibly relate to you better as a performer.

We then discussed that the two alternative methods were specific to different styles -expressionism, surrealism and realism and naturalism.

We then argued over what is theatre?

Theatre is the actor!

Theatre is the story, the writing. The actors are their just to tell it.

The following question was then asked by Rachel to Rod: What if as an actor I create the story as a performer?..................surely then theatre is the actor…………………………….We all agreed and disagreed with one another’s auguments! But mainly agreed with our initial view. 

Jazz music was brought up by Rod – He can listen to Jazz and enjoy it but when the technique overtakes the song it just becomes a mess, the best jazz is that with less notes, where the song is more present than the technique.

Rachel quoted someone!

Technique is a cold hard staircase, but when snow falls it creates a soft blanket over the top. (I may have missed something in this)

We concluded that the actor’s inner self/presence/ humanity is needed just as much as technique.

We concluded nothing and everything….possibly. 

I enjoyed it and thank the other three greatly.

If I have missexpressed views and thoughts I apologise.

P.s if you know of an actor/performer that took your breath away, touched you deeply please let me know who and where I can find them??

Thank you

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