Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Text and the Body

This past week has been all about the text of Hedda Gabler. We have read the play as a group three times and discussed it thoroughly. And now I sit and I extract the text in an effort to create a character chart just based on the text itself. I read the play again and pull out every line said about my character and every line my character says about another character. This kind of breakdown requires me to read the script yet again in great detail. It is cumbersome and sometimes tedious work especially when you are working on the lead character, but the result is a vast understanding of the text. It behooves us as actors to know the script inside out. So often in show biz the actor doesn’t even receive a complete script. In film and television actors often shoot with only the pages of the script where their character appears; these are called “sides”. And filming sometimes begins without a completed script with the writers delivering new pages to the set on a daily basis. So to have an entire, well crafted script at our disposal is a blessing. And I am going to keep telling myself that as I basically retype this thing in its entirety. No, really it is good stuff. I will really be able to get inside Hedda’s head this way. The script is an actors Bible. It is imperative that we know what the story is about in all its detail and what our character is all about. And what’s more, it’s our job! You wouldn’t expect a preacher to get up and start talking about the Gospel without having studied them in depth. And you wouldn’t expect a doctor to start an operation without having memorized the human anatomy. I certainly wouldn’t want to take my car to a mechanic who had never looked under the hood of an automobile before. It’s the same with actors. We ought to know a little something about the character and the story before we expect a patron to fork over the money for a ticket; unless they know they are going to improv. So like a good archaeologist, I’ve been doing a lot of digging this week.

Today I took a break from Hedda and visited the Body and Soul exhibition over at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall. This was a lovely diversion with booths set up to host various practitioners to better the mind, body and spirit. There was massage and acupuncture and Reiki. There were spiritual teachers and lecturers. There were astrologists and tarot card readers. And of course, there were plenty of books, CDs, crystals and incense to buy. I sat in on a lecture about finding balance in one’s life. So true. Don’t we all need to find the balance in our lives? I’ve managed to get in a little yoga this week which always helps me to feel more centered. For me, body work is a continuation of my training as an actor as well as an improvement for the quality of my life. An actor’s body is his/her instrument. It is through our body we create our performance. To be healthy and balanced is essential for us. Our movement teacher at the Globe; the marvelous Glynn MacDonald, was always saying that actors need to be athletes. It’s so true! We need to be able to use our bodies to their fullest capabilities. Shows take endurance. They are often physically draining. Everything we do on stage comes out of us. And the mind, body, spirit relationship is so essential for balanced health. As hippy dippy and new agey as it might sound, it is important for us to check in with all three and make sure they are working in tandem. A broken spirit results in a downtrodden artist. And that depression makes it very difficult for the mind to focus and produce. And then the body manifests the sad state making it lethargic, inflexible and downright ill. Not good when you need to be in top mental and physical form for the work. So balance. We should take care of ourselves. Eat the good for you stuff, get some sleep, move the body and inspire the spirit. Then we can do what we do to its fullest potential.

And on that note, I’m gonna return to the body of my text and wrap up my character chart then catch some zs. Yoga will be waiting for me when I wake up!
You get some rest too and eat a vegetable!
See ya next time!

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