06 February 2004

Company of Angels II: Acting

I have observed two distinct acting styles both in myself and in my peers. I like to think of them as rational or systematic acting and emotional or impulsive acting. I don't necessarily think one is better than the other, and in fact I believe that the best performances are a combination of these two ideas. Different performers do their best work at different levels of mixing the parts together.

In my own work I find it helpful to begin from the analytical standpoint and try to think about what your character has experienced and try to consciously look for places in the show where you can associate with an image or action from your own life. During rehearsal different actions, movements and observations inform these analyses. You find certain 'bits' which you can reuse to add texture to your performance. The final key is something which I've always found in either one breakthrough rehearsal or the first time doing the show in front of an audience. You get into the zone and suddenly you aren't trying to associate with your character in order to play him: you are simply letting the character live on stage in your person.

In my own case, these moments when I'm saying something on stage not because it is written in the script, but because the character must say it are the times when I'm really proud of what I've done. So what does all this have to do with "The Company of Angels", which I wasn't even in?

During the entire performance I was hoping that Max would take a deep breath and let himself go. He did it as Shylock a couple of years ago and the result was stunning. He finally did it in the second to last scene, which is just a minute long and features only him and Masha (who was incredibly mature in this role). That single minute was absolutely honest and real. In that moment, those two students born forty years after D-Day were Survivors.

Ginny shone (as usual) in her role as Duna. The unbelievable thing is that as talented as she is, I don't think she's really found her stride yet. I might be wrong about this (and if you're reading Ginny, feel free to correct me) but I think her combination of preparation and technical skill puts her baseline performance well above the upper bounds of most of us. She finds the heart of the scene, figures out how she's going to nail it and then just does. Every night. In this show her character is famous for one particular part she played before the war. The other members of the company encourage her to do it again: the first time she refuses. As she starts singing the second time you can see her forget how much has changed in the last ten years. She simply wants to sing; she wants it so badly that the moment when fear pulls her back again is heartbreaking. Here's the thing, though: I'm not sure Ginny completely let go of herself at that moment, and I'm not sure she's ever done it in a show I've seen. The sky's the limit for her.

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