Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Water Line

Kevin Lasit uses the metaphor of the iceberg in his acting classes. That is, the personna of the individuals you may be asked to portray in a film or on stage are submerged, like an iceberg, beneath the water. Your task, as an actor, is to find a way to allow the audience to see that hidden portion, to take them beneath the water line or, at a minimum, to hint at what lies beneath.

Then of course, there is the problem of the audition. Though the producers are ostensibly looking for an actor who can best portray the totality of the character, human nature is such that the casting agent, producer, or director that views your audition may be more influenced by an audition that displays your range, as by one that accurately depicts the characters'.

Somehow you need to strike a balance between the two.

For my first scene in Kevin's Advanced Acting Lab, I was given 'sides' from the Richard Gere film, "Nights of Rodanthe". In this particular scene Gere is confronted by Diane Lanes' character, after he meets with a man who blames Gere for the death of his wife. Gere is guarded, defensive, and at the same time quietly defiant. He goes from defending himself against the suggestion that he is afraid of dealing with his emotions, to accusing Lane of the same sort of emotional cowardice. My sense is that Gere's character (Paul) is too controlled to go either too far below, or too far above his 'water line': that perhaps the key to his personality is control. For that reason I have been rehearing his lines, with an emphasis on slow, measured responses. I was reminded of a scene of another 'control freak' in a recent film, that of  Helen Mirren's portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II. The only time Mirren dipped beneath her water line in this film, I thought, was in the scene where she she comes across a magnificent Stag while walking alone on her Scottish estate. Empathizing with this majestic creatures' plight, she surprises everyone (including herself) by beginning to cry. She doesn't break down. She doesn't - as in the romantic tradition, have an epiphany and forever change her ways. The important purpose this scene serves in the film is to reassure the audience that, yes, she is human, after all - which allows the film to be both satire and - almost, documentary in tone (Mocumentary?). So I don't see Gere's character - especially in this scene, becoming too emotional in any way. Instead of dipping beneath the water line, I think he tries moving side to side. I imagine his character full of little, subtle 'tells': hand clenching, grinding of teeth, excessive sighing, long pauses.. And yet I wonder if - for the purposes of an audition, a more histrionic display might be in order?

Just sharing a few thoughts on the process, out loud..

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