Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Come Hither

Yesterday was the third meeting of the interdisciplinary, team-taught class on The Tempest that I'm sitting in on in preparation for a campus performance mid-October by Actors from the London Stage.

We began with an acting exercise. One student sat in the middle of the room. Each of us had to speak to her the two words, "Come hither" (we're working on getting used to Shakespearean diction). Each of us was assigned a strategy for trying to get this student to come hither: pleading, threatening, enticing, teasing, seducing, bullying, commanding, scolding, begging, etc. Mine was "enticing." We were encouraged to put our whole bodies into this. This was a challenge for me: when I was in plays in high school I was great at emoting from the neck up, as I stood stiff as a board from the neck down.

We tried the exercise again, this time using two different strategies (e.g., trying pleading after threatening didn't work, or vice versa). Then we did it while assuming some role in a relationship: e.g., teacher/student, parent/child, abuser/victim, pimp/prostitute, master/slave, lovers, buddies, doctor/patient, confidante/confessor (this is the one I got).

What did we learn from the exercise? Lots. We learned that even within a given strategy, there is a range: of volume, of intensity. Threats can be loud or soft, pleading can be more or less desperate. We learned how much interest is added to a scene by varying strategies: it's much more psychologically fascinating to watch someone abandon a failed strategy to try a different one than to watch someone repeat a failed strategy over and over again. We learned how much freer we felt to add body language when we were embedded in a relationship.

I also learned how hard acting is. I think when all is said and done, I'd rather stick to being a writer. But taking a turn as an actor is good practice for writing. How many different ways can one character convey the message "come hither" to another? How many different ways can the writer make this interesting for the reader?

1 comment:

  1. Loved this informative and insightful look into acting. It was an "enticing" read indeed!