Monday, November 21, 2011

Joseph Chaikin-The Presence of the Actor

The joy in theatre comes through discovery and the capacity to discover. What limits the discoveries a person can make is the idea or image he may come to have of himself. The image can come about through his investment in his own reputation, through an involvement with approval and disapproval, or through feelings of nostalgia stemming from his desire to repeat his first discoveries. In any case, when his image becomes fixed, it limits him from going on to further discoveries.

Acting is a demonstration of the self with or without a disguise. Because we live on a level drastically reduced from what we can imagine, acting promises to represent a dynamic expression of the intense life. It is a way of making testimony to what we have witnessed--a declaration of what we know and what we can imagine. One actor in his acting expresses himself and touches nothing outside of himself. Another actor, in expressing himself, touches zones of being which can potentially be recognized by anyone.

There are actors whose main interest in going into the theater is to seek a kind of flattery. This kind of seeking makes the actor, and, through him, the theater itself, vulnerable to the sensibility of the market place. Traditional acting in America has become a blend of that same kind of synthetic "feeling" and sentimentality which characterizes the Fourth of July parade, Muzak, church services, and political campaigns. Traditionally, the actor summons his sadness, anger, or enthusiasm and pumps at it to sustain an involvement with himself which passes for concern with his material. They eyes of this actor are always secretly looking into his own head. He's like a singer being moved by his own voice.

My intention is to make images into theater events, beginning simply with those which have meaning for myself and my collaborators; and at the same time renouncing the theater of critics, box office, real estate, and the conditioned public.

The critic digests the experience and hands it to the spectator to confirm his own conclusion. The spectator, conditioned to be told what to see, sees what he is told, or corrects the critic, but in any case sees in relation to the response of the critic. Unfortunately, none of this has to do with the real work of the artist.

from “The Presence of the Actor” 1972

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