Monday, 17 March 2014

Generosity (Part One)

Let's talk about techniques this week.

Specifically, let's talk about Generosity. Megan and I were talking about this recently, and it spilled over onto Episode 7 of the podcast, but I want to explore it a bit more here. 

Actors talk about generosity in terms of playing a scene with another actor. It's the sense that the other actor you're in a scene with is giving you support for what you're doing, and helping you set up emotional beats for your performance. In other words, the actors playing a scene together are thinking about several things at once: first, of course, the prescribed words, movements and actions that make up playing the scene; secondly, a general knowledge of what's happening in the play and what must be communicated within the scene to move things forward; and thirdly, an awareness of not only what the actor herself is trying to do, but what the other actor is trying to do at the same time.

Although some people like to talk about actors as little better than trained monkeys who repeat the lines they're given, there is a very complex interplay at work in a scene between two actors who are really working together at a high level. Like musicians, they're communicating back and forth, adjusting their performances to be in harmony with, and building on, each other. 

It's true of many actors that they may be skilled but not generous, and their performance is entirely self-contained, without that level of communication and interaction that really takes a performance to another level. An un-generous actor isn't thinking about what they can do for the other actor, only about their own performance. This leads to situations where a strange discordance is created, and actors have reactions that don't seem to make sense in a scene -- a sudden turn to anger, for example, when the "supporting" actor hasn't done enough to provoke that reaction. 

An actor needs to be constantly present in a scene, listening to and watching the other actor's performance, to create that back-and-forth which makes a scene really cook. 
Next, I'll talk about what the implications of this are for roleplaying.

To be continued...

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