Tuesday, June 12, 2007

That's Me Up There!

I've noticed (and perhaps this is a pit of masturbatory reflection, you have been warned, blogosphere) that when I'm improvising I often tend to play a version of myself with one of my personality traits unraveled and flitting around in the breeze. For example, I'll play a slightly twitchy guy who is REALLY depressed, or a slightly smart guy who is REALLY twitchy. I've counted seven iterations.*

I also find that this can be really easy to do. What I'm worried about though, is whether it's intellectually/artistically lazy to do this. Am I using it as a crutch? Am I forcing something on my scene partner when I bust out my "signature" nervous gulp and quavering voice?

I suppose the general issue is how much the artist affects the art. When I was doing academic work, I rejected all notions of biographical criticism. It didn't matter to me whether Hemingway was gay or Eliot was a fascist, because the meat of the work was in, well, the meat of the work: the text. But when an actor performs, how much should he allow himself to inhabit the role? Ian McKellen is gay, and pretty swish at that, but he played Gandalf decently butch, and was fun to watch perform. That said, I get the impression that Paul Giamatti is just like that in real life, and is also regarded highly as an actor (I like him, at least).

Maybe I'm giving myself a little too much credit. If a gag is funny, I should probably do it, I just want to make sure that I'm self-conscious so that when someone calls me out on having a shtick, I'm ready. And maybe this post is boring and academic at best, wanking at worst, but I just wanted to have one blog entry that didn't reference a science-fiction book or TV show that I like.

Mal Reynolds! Damn.

*Not really. I hate counting.

1 comment:

Scott said...

When you play a character, you're working to convey to the audience that this is a real person with real motivations that can be believed and related to. Whether that performance is scripted or improvised, the actor brings himself to the character, and when the performance is improvised, all he has is his own sense of truth to play with. There's nothing at all wrong with manipulating your own personality and filtering your sense of truth through that lens; in fact, I find that preferable to the "use a bad accent or just be louder" school of thought. You don't need to SOUND different to play different characters, you need to ACT different. And as you keep exploring, you're going to find more and more ways to act different, until you start reacting and surprising even yourself.

(As always, no warranty expressed or implied.)