Exactly Wrong – what fun!

Well, this is the right time in the rehearsal process to realize that everything I’m doing is wrong! In fact, it’s so EXACTLY wrong that all I really have to do is the opposite of what I’m doing, and I’m suddenly in business!

These last few days have been big rehearsals for me. After a whirlwind trip to New York City for our final Showcase performances, I was back in deep on Wednesday, and failing. Failing in interesting and informative ways, but bombing none the less. I was not aiding the play or telling the story. So, I set about trying to fix that.

My two years at the Institute have been devoted to redefining and recreating my process and technique. And so I feel very well equipped to solve these acting problems. I’ve had 6 acting teachers over these few years, and they have each offered their own techniques and methodology. But they have all urged WANT as a big tool for acting – what does the character WANT? This is not a touchy-feely want – no “wants world peace” or “wants love.” And I try to stay away from the purely physical stuff – for me, no “wants someone to kiss him.” This WANT must be actualized in the room of the play – “Foster wants Hirst to promote him” or “Foster wants Spooner to tell him what happened tonight” might work. “Foster wants Hirst to assure him that he is loved and needed” is sort of a fun one. Anyway, from this WANT springs the ACTION – what I, Henry as Foster, pursue in the room. I don’t go on stage and try to play the WANT (some people do, and very effectively. For me, personally, it just makes me vague.) But I use the WANT to determine what ACTION I bring into the room. “OK, so that’s the want, now what would I do, IN THIS ROOM, to get that?” If the WANT is “Foster wants Hirst to assure him that he is loved and needed” then the action might be, because Hirst is my boss, “I get Hirst to make me captain of the team.” Then what I take onto the rehearsal stage is “get him to make me captain of the team.”

Wow, I hope that’s not all boring and impossible to read. Sorry if it is. If anyone is genuinely interested, let me know and I can try to be clearer.

Anyway, what I realized on Wednesday was that my WANTS were all wrong for me. Maybe not wrong for every Foster, but wrong for my Foster. Exactly wrong. My Foster doesn’t want Spooner to leave he wants him to stay. My Foster doesn’t see Spooner purely as a threat; he sees a great deal of potential value in Spooner. The list goes on.

So, today, No Man’s Land is a family drama for me. Hirst, Briggs, and Foster have created a family, and here’s a new person who wants to join the family, and who might be welcome. What a difficult moment. And how human, real, and tangible.

Many of us, myself included, have single Baby Boomer parents. And while we might all wish that these parents would find someone with whom to share the golden years, how difficult that addition would be!

Hirst is an old man in the twilight of his years, and Briggs and Foster are his family. I say, early in Act I, “He’s my father,” and while biology would surely refute the claim, the sentiment is there. Death brings out the best and the worst in families – love, anxiety, thanks, resentment, support, competition, warmth and regret – and all of these things are exacerbated by the strain of inheritance! Foster and Briggs are there for these last years of Hirst’s life, and here comes a new person – invited, not an intruder. This is big stuff. Very real, tangible stuff.

What do we really want in these situations? That, for me, is the key right now. And it’s a hard question to answer honestly – what do we WANT in these most difficult times? From that honest want derives the action, and Foster is off to the races.

– henry david clarke

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