We’re in the early process of deciding what we want to do, but we know we will produce a show by the end of the year. We decided against starting off with a published work, as there will be plenty of time for that later. Moreover, why not start off with something totally wild and chaotic? So far, our ideas have ranged from night of original short plays and sketches, to Viewpoints style composition pieces, to Chuck Mee-esque reworked Shakespeare. Literally, anything can happen at this point. Regardless, I know the focus will be on a project that puts the actor at the center of the creative and decision-making process.
I think actors can afford to take more aggressive reins of a creative process. I don’t know that we have enough opportunities to give artistic input in our work, especially in the context of published work. Personally, I find myself constantly struggling with my creativity as an actor. I think we can all relate to that in some manner. I hold back, I doubt, I ask questions that close doors rather than questions that open them up. As an actor, I do the opposite of what I would ask of myself as a director.
I recently purchased the revised, 2002 edition of “To The Actor” by Michael Chekhov. In the foreword at the start of this edition, Simon Callow discusses this struggle in the context of a larger phenomenon:
“Experiment became centered on design and concept, both under the control of the director. The actor’s creative imagination – his fantasy, his instinct for gesture – was of no interest; all the creative imagining had already been done by the director and the designer… [actors] had lost control of their own performances.” (Callow, pg. xiii)
I haven’t gotten very far in the book, but I feel much of what Callow laments is what The CoLab rallies against. Hopefully, by providing the creative control to actors and encouraging them to take the plunge into the unknown, this first show and others we produce will carry over into other productions by helping to liberate ourselves from doubt and self-awareness. As much as I respect and myself use the Stanislavski “system”, I believe the American interpretation has led many actors to hold back. We are so scared of acting “falsely” that we act safely. We shouldn’t be interested so much in “what my character wouldn’t do” so much as “what my character will do.” To quote a former acting teacher: "I'm not asking you to act falsely. I'm asking you to act truthfully, but expand of the possibility of what truth can mean."
So what does this mean for our little show? Who KNOWS! But it’ll be liberating…
As Sanford Meisner once said: “Play! Play! It’s a play!”
Simon Callow quote from the forward of To The Actor On The Technique of Acting: Revised and Expanded Edition by Michael Chekhov, originally published in 1953 and then republished by Routledge in 2002.