As I write these words, the United States of America is at war in many places -- in the War on Terror, in the War in Iraq, in the War in many places. Particularly with the land war in Iraq, a columnist has a clear choice -- write about the war or ignore it. This particular war with its attendant political and diplomatic difficulties seems to me like walking through a fireworks factory with a flame-thrower while wearing a roller skate on one foot and a snow shoe on the other. It can be done safely, I imagine. But it takes a great deal of skill all the way across the floor and come out with your skin pretty much on your body.
Movement is a troublesome thing for the actor. It seems like such an easy task. Enter the stage. Walk across the stage. Sit. Stand. Walk some more, perhaps. Exit the stage. Yet, the actor is so often left at odds with the body. The body wants to do one thing, and body doesn't seem always to follow what's going on inside the mind/spirit/soul of the actor. Stanislavsky talks about the fear of "the black hole of the proscenium arch." (Unknowingly, Stanislavsky made an important discovery of physics in which a gaping maw sucks all energy that enters its zone of influence. . . .)
A soldier is trained to stand in the line of fire and fight and kill the enemy when it might seem like a good idea to run away and find a nice spot behind a very large tree. The field-soldier is rightly admired for facing great risk and meeting that risk with courage.
A great organizing force for the actor is breath -- the most human of all acts. When we enter the world for the first time, we take a breath. When we leave this world, we breathe our last. The cycle of inhalation, exhalation, and the mysterious pause when we neither inhale nor exhale -- influences the actor's speech, movement, energy.
Conflict is said to have a life of its own. Someone slaps a troubled situation, and war cries aloud with a miserable wail. War lives like a troubled soul, flailing and cursing and wanton in its destructive force. The breath is pained and burdened.
More could be said, but at this time we see the future only dimly. I end with two quotes from Emile Jaques-Dalcroze. The first:
"Through innumerable centuries, humans march in file through time; one generation following the other, and the burden of life is passed from hand to hand and the will of each person may decide whether that burden shall become lighter or heavier. The duty of each one of us is to see that it becomes lighter."
The second: "The future belongs to us as long as we are alive."
Peace will come again.
©2003 Nathan Thomas
living as a touring actor, Artistic Director, director
stage manager, designer, composer, and pianist
He has a Ph.D. in Theatre and is a member of
the theatre faculty of Centenary College
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