Thursday, September 26, 2013
Commitment Needs Doubt
Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt but in spite of doubt.
- Rollo May
In a role, in a relationship, in really anything, if you are absolutely certain of something, you may be missing deeper levels, using a shorthand or skating toward fanaticism.
You think you know precisely how to play the part, down to exactly when to tilt your head to the left 40 degrees. But the audience laughter changes the timing of your delivery or makes your lines unheard. Or the camera move means you must look left instead of right. Be too rigid and the reality of the moment goes out the window, and not in a good way.
You have become so accustomed to how this moment plays out, that an almost laziness leads you to indicate in the direction of what is happening, instead of living the uncertainty of not knowing what comes next. The script suggests the next moment is thus and such, and the set may shift unexpectedly, and now the audience collectively inhales because something new has clearly happened. Abbreviate your work and you're stuck...scrambling to adjust. Or the character your character is dating was a lawyer when they met, so your character assumes they'll always be satisfied being a lawyer. Even as they drift toward their next chapter, your character remains in the last, eventually leaving you both looking different directions toward the future. For the next 90 minutes the audience watches the movie to see if you'll reconnect or break apart.
The role you play is someone who decided long ago what elements they wanted in their life, from the color of the wedding reception centerpieces to how many kids they'll have, and has fastidiously found the pieces to put together that certain, safe, appealing-right-now-so-what-could-possibly-change-in-the-future-if-our-curtains-are-egg-shell-colored-now life. Then boredom and lack of surprise set in just as the selected-because-they-fit-the-criteria spouse comes home one day to announce they've fallen in love with someone...else. Chaos, mayhem and murders ensue, in the story (and awards come your way) as the absolute certainty about the trivial unravels in the face of deeper intangible truths winning out.
Good performances can come from not holding back, being committed to the work, the moments, and the role. And yet, at the same time the best work is accidental behavior captured on film. As with many things, balance is the optimal path. Being committed, in the best way, to the right things. So commit, but not foolishly. And best of luck, break a leg.
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