Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Making Out On Stage

When you teach Meisner based techniques as I do, you will eventually be subjected to some odd conversations surrounding your chosen platform for training actors. Now, we all know that REPETITON is a big part of the training. This exercise simply requires actors to stand before each other, make an observation of the others behavior in a word or two and repeat that word or phrase until a beat in the relationship occurs and the word or phrase changes.

It is the most powerful acting exercise I have ever done and I have ever intergrated into my teaching philosphy outside of Improv. However, repetition is like beginner's improvisation. So, they're kind of one and the same. These relationships that are created in REPS are the perfect harmony of a philosphy, living truthfully in imaginary circumstances. Actors are forced to deal with how they actually behave in certain circumstances opposed to working with 'put on or dressed' character traits.

Inevitably in most sessions of repetitions that I do, lasting up to an hour or more, I'll see around 10 - 20 repetitions with the group. In these sessions, without fail, two people will kiss. It happens frequently. The expressions of the kiss range from gentle, friendly, appreciative, affectionate, passionate, loving and down right horny tongue lashing. The result is always the same. The audience goes very still and is completely enraptured.

I think THE KISS is an incredible expression of human behavior. It's completely captivating. I think that actors need to understand how they do it. So, it's always odd that people have such a hard time simply... doing it.

This gets back to my first point of order... when folks know the exercise and know I teach it, they often ask me two questions: First, how is class going? Second, anyone made out recently? I've had non-actors come to audit the class (directors or agents or producers) they are often struck by the 'making out' that takes place. Which is odd, because it's mostly designated to one or two reps. They often make it sound like it's every rep that occurs. However, what bothers me, is that it bothers them.

Now, I'm not saying all actors should just whore it up on stage and walk into class looking for a cheap grope on-stage, but actors do need to be THAT expressive with their bodies. The fact that a performer could call themselves an actor and place that kind of boundry with physicality in their mind is incredibly baffling to me. We're actors, our bodies are the instrument. Physical touching and affection is part of the game. When I direct pieces, especially for the stage, with relationships that are supposed to be intimate or close, like marriages or families, I often use physical touching the blocking to provide that level of intimacy we need to make the relationship believeable. However, I'm shocked that I have to TELL ACTORS to do this. They don't just do it on their own. I am baffled by this continually. I am shocked that the simple act of holding hands is foreign to people. I am shocked that people think that if they kiss a person on stage, that it might lead to indiscretion or that a simple staged kiss could be considered infidelity in their own off stage relationships.

I think it's a question all artists need to think about, because it goes back to the idea of sexuality and its place in the arts. I think that our puritanical viewpoints on sexuality that still exist in our Western Cultures that are born from the Victorian Age still hold some weight in the fact that simple affection is seen as an open door to sex, and that actors ride this interesting moral ground of how they are percieved based on their choices as they surround the idea of sex. We either forwardly or discreetly bemoan the issues of sex when seen on stage or on television or in film, but at the same time we can't look away, and our numbers and dollars seem to indicate people respond to the idea of affection and even the far ends of sexual expression in media and on stage. Hell, what is HAIR known for? Not the soundtrack. It's the nudity. Why do you think Sex and the City stayed so Provocative, when it was really four almost middle aged women talking about their issues. Well, maybe the title had a little to do with it... that and the actual sex.

Hmmm... I'd love to hear y'alls thoughts on this.

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