Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why I Do Theater

Patsy Rodenburg is a renowned voice and acting coach. In the following video taken during her talk at Michael Howard Studios in NYC, she illustrates via two stories why she feels that playwrights and actors are important in society, now more than ever. She also talks about the quality of being “present” and “in the moment” as necessary for performers to succeed. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the art of acting. It’s the reason why people are moved by performances, and why we respond when we see truth onstage or onscreen.

* * * * *

I never aspired to be a great actor; in fact, the reason why I chose to be a comedian instead is because I knew I have a hard time generating tears for crying scenes.

Back in college I had the privilege of being directed by Junix Innocian, one of Repertory Philippines’ best in their stable of actors, and to act alongside the late RJ Leyran, a mercurial actor even when he was still doing high school plays. We were doing Tony Perez’s Gabun; at the end Perez actually wrote in the stage directions that the character I was playing would cry—as in, a sobbing, weeping breakdown. Junix tried his best with me; at one point, he told me that I didn’t have to cry if I didn’t feel like crying. And so for most of the performances I ended up with my eyes dry. There was one performance when I felt my eyes well up, but that was about it. I considered that particular performance of mine a failure.

I was already 40 years old when I had the courage to tackle another role that had a breakdown scene. My director was Ron Capinding, and the play was Bienvenido Noriega Jr’s Bayan Bayanan. During one rehearsal, I genuinely felt the water works coming on. That’s when I knew I could pull off the part. It helped that my character was close to my age. Besides, I had a death scene. It’s so easy to die onstage.

Now that I’ve had two readings in the past month, I kinda miss acting again. There’s a thrill in being in the moment, of putting on an artifice but believing in it so totally, it becomes “real” to you and your audience. The applause at the end is just a confirmation of a job well done.

Hmmm, maybe one day the Fabcasters will produce, direct and act in a one-act play, or a short indie film. I wonder what that play or film will be like?


rudeboy said...

Ah, yes, Joel.

I am a philistine when it comes to local theater, but when the wild horses succeed in dragging me there I find myself swept up in the moment you speak of. And when the actors are really good, the performance becomes more than just a show and approaches the sublime.

And having been onstage a couple of times myself, I have a bit of an idea what a true actor must love about the whole enterprise.

The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd.


joelmcvie said...

@RUDEBOY: Ah yes, that too. =)