Some Notes on Acting


Why do we like watching people act? Goethe says we like looking. ‘Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less than looking.’ If the actor is good, you see a person in them, and may watch that person. If the actor is bad, you see the actor, and may watch the actor. In each case, you learn something about behaviour.


When you fail to produce the line you need to say, your mind escapes, and you are left with an empty head. This is obvious in someone else, because they do not move at all. When it happens to you, you become aware of it instantly, but that is the last thought you have until someone speaks. Sometimes a line will fall on you, other times nothing comes.

Waiting to enter

The moments immediately before you enter are always solemn. You may grin when it is not your time, but in the last seconds you will become grave. As soon as you are visible to the audience, your mind steps out of your body like a coward, and your body becomes a shell, which moves in the way you practiced. The moments on stage when full consciousness returns are either when you have a break in lines and the unwinking minds turn from you; or when you have made a movement or used a tone that you know has destroyed your illusion, and shame consumes you.

Missing an entry cue

When someone told us they had started again after the interval, we looked at each other and ran down the corridor to the back of stage. I pulled open the door. On stage the girl, who was meant to be asleep, but who was sickening, heard the door. Among the audience the director, who was breathing only silently, heard the door. Behind the curtain we looked at the stage manager, who was whispering about a character we had cut who was still in her script. I looked at the tech man, who could see the stage. He looked at me like he felt all the eyes of the audience on him, then back at the stage. My partner took the end of the curtain and moved it slightly so he could look around it. He could not see enough. He pulled more, then let it fall, straightened his back and walked out. I followed him.

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