Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cliché Watch (Bonus Edition!): Acting Out Indirect Discourse

One of the challenges of acting is not working too hard.  What I mean is, as an actor you're stuck with a certain limited amount of text and months to deal with it, analyze it, embellish it, and it can be very tempting to take every opportunity to endow your allotment with interest.

An instance of this occurs far too often with indirect discourse and it is so profoundly unnatural and uncomfortable I can't believe actors get away with it so often.  It's acting out indirect discourse.  In a scene a character says "Jimmy told me that he wasn't going up there no matter what."  An actor will want to change voices half way through and say, "Jimmy told me that, 'he wasn't going up there no matter what'" or if a little more clever the actor will at least say, "Jimmy told me that he, 'wasn't going up there no matter what.'"  

This is ridiculous.  If you were supposed to act out that part of the story it would be in direct discourse, "Jimmy told me, 'I ain't goin up there no matter what.'"  That's how it works.  Listen to someone tell a story, ever, and you'll know this.

I suppose the reason this gets me so excited is that I've been able to identify it as part of what forms the line between acting and making faces.  I've been thinking about this a lot recently.  I have a real preference for acting that shares--one of my favorite film performances is probably Jack Lemmon in The Apartment--but there really is a difference between big hearted, demonstrative acting (I'm really thinking of comedy here) and making faces--empty expressiveness.  That is, I feel like there's a big difference, but I can't pin it down.  Miranda says that I better not be able to pin it down--that there must be magic--and god know she's right. But this sounds like a dare to me.  I'll keep working on it.

P.S. In the link, check out the way he tilts his head when he takes his hat off.  

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