Screw. You. Shakespeare
This isn’t an open letter to good old Bill, mind you, I hold, and have always held, a deep love for all (Most) of the Bard’s works. Even still, screw you, Shakespeare, for ruining shakespeare for me in high school. Its not the words I hate, its not the writer, its not the content, its the way that people read them.
Nothing in the world can possibly be more sexually deadening to me than a perfectly enunciated Romeo and Juliette said in a perfectly iambic metronome. Its something akin to imagining the sweaty effort your parents made that earned your little white tadpole a seat on the 9-month egg express.
The joy of acting isn’t found in the words, its found in how they are said. I am of the firm belief that anyone can be inspired by Henry V’s “St. Crispin’s Day” Monologue, or that anyone can know pain by hearing Titus lament the destruction of his daughter. The power of those words isn’t as much in what they say, its how people say them. That seems obvious, doesn’t it, that the power of the Bard’s words are in how they are said. But we have a habit of taking ourselves out of the equation when it comes to Shakespeare’s works.
The joy in seeing one of Shakespeare’s works isn’t watching a perfectly rendered period reproduction with original accents, its in seeing an actor take words we have heard thousands of times, and saying them so we listen like its the first time. Like that first time that we actually heard the words spoken with emotion, not from a high school teacher, not from a monotone reading, the first time we heard someone actually MEAN those words.
I am my art. That is the dilemma actors face: We are our art. As artists we are victims to our own self-doubt. Should our art suffer, so too do we. Many a theater teacher has told me, “you are your instrument, take care of your instrument.” Which is all well and good, but actors suffer by this fact more than they know. The world of theater sadly seems to be divided in between those who have IT and those who don’t. It is also generally accepted that those who don’t have IT have no way of getting IT. Talent is a cruel and evil word.
The line between these two groups varies depending upon whom you ask, but it leaves the question open: As an actor, if you don’t get a part, does that mean you aren’t good enough? Whether we like to admit it or not, that is the question that always comes up. Since we are our art, and since we don’t always get the part, we start to question our worth. And our worth seems to be so tied up with our lives and our art, if one falls, it seems like the world itself starts to fall apart.
This is where I start to get highly Emphatic (capital E intended). There is no line between those who have IT and those who don’t, because everyone has something to bring to the table. For every part in every play ever written, there is an actor to play that part.
At this point it almost pains me to draw the comparison between directing and cooking, but I might have to. Every actor has a different way of doing things, and a distinct presence on stage. A great director should be able to feel this out and be able to put actors together who both exemplify their roles, and act as a unit. It’s like cooking a meal; you can’t just toss whatever is most expensive into the pot to make good food. You have to choose your ingredients.
I guess the general point of this rant was to exemplify two things. First: that not getting an audition in no way means you are not a good actor, it just means you didn’t fit what the director wanted. Second: Talent is found in all forms; it is not a single commodity, but a wide breadth of building blocks combined in innumerable ways to create a unique performer. In this way, let it be said that no actor is ever untalented, or that one type of talent is lesser than any other.