Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My Personal Library

Books are great.  I love books.  I've been a bookworm since I was a kid, my nose usually stuck in some story book with ideas on how to act them out later.  I imagined that I would have a large two-storey mahogany library full of books with a fireplace and those wheeley-ladders you'd need to get to the highest shelf.  I will never have a big enough book collection, and it's getting almost ridiculous.  I have books about everything - science, art, music, psychology, medicine, history, religion, children's stories, philosophy, biographies ... Well, here.  This is what's directly across from me at the moment; you'd have the same view if you were sitting beside me on my couch.  Have a look.  It's not everything, but it's most.

We have yet to find a 'bookshelf' that we really like.  In the meantime, my boyfriend had found this gurney in a 'free stuff' pile outside Peel Memorial Hospital.  It's currently being supported by a couple of milk crates on either side, those ones are holding magazines and paperbacks.  This is the bulk of it, more of it is scattered around the apartment.  Within arms reach anywhere in the apartment, you'll hit a stack of books.  I've got rainy afternoons, lazy Sundays and sick days taken care of!

I love the fluid motion of turning pages, how words on paper can create images in the mind's eye, fleshing out people we feel connections with and places that we dreamed before.  Reading is the best exercise we can give our minds and imaginations, not to mention our vocabulary.  It can open up so many doors and endless possibilities of communication and compassion, help up conquer and overcome our deepest fears and better ourselves through education and knowledge.  It can also help us understand ourselves better, as individuals and how we are connected through history and storytelling.  An actor's ability to use the 'mind's eye' to 'flesh out characters' is important when it comes to reading scripts, and reading is the best way to exercise that 'mental muscle'.

An actor's ability to become a character from paper all comes, first and foremost, from the script.  Words are crafted in a certain way to show a specific intent, whether it's made obvious in a spoken line or dubious in a veiled action (sometimes such instructions that'll show up in the script usually in parenthesis and italics, for those who haven't read a script format).  For an actor who truly wants to 'create' the character as supposed to 'represent' a character, one would be studying the human reaction within the script as supposed to recreating someone else's performance in the same production.  We do this when we read our favourite novel, but the author has done us the favour by including detailed descriptions of the atmosphere, affecting the character's mood, which in turn reveals the 'inner monologue' - we could only ask for such luxury in a script!  We receive a few paragraphs of the room in which the scene takes place, followed by the characters' lines in order with the few occasional directions of interaction with the set and props, as well as direction of emotional speech.  Read a script - you'll see the difference!  

I've got a pretty good collection of scripts and classic theatre plays, as well.  Stuff ranging from Sophocles and Shakespeare to Shaw and Sondheim ... and a few more in between.  Again, above isn't everything, but a good chunk.  I'm excited to revisit these favourites, and some I haven't even the chance to sit down and read myself.  Shakespeare is my favourite to read because of the language itself, how iconic it becomes when you really pay attention to the symbolism and poetry.  The theatre of ancient Greece and Rome has always fascinated me, as it served as a sort of worship to deities and leaders when actors and musicians would reenact victorious battles and historical moments.  I have a great collection of modern classics I'm excited to read through again, having not really touched them since high school.  All of this stuff I'm excited to share with my new students at Synergy, because these are beautiful works of art that will broaden their repertoires, shape their technique as actors, and deepen their compassion as human beings.

But ... first thing's first.  Let's get my technique down, shall we?

The first book I'm reading is something I've already read, but I'm now defacing it with margin notes and highlighter: Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen.  I've heard this is used as a textbook in most colleges, which makes me a little more excited that I found this in a thrift store.  Ms. Hagen is a brilliant teacher at HB Studios in New York City, where she has been a stage and screen actress and teacher for more than 20 years.  I've gotten about a chapter and a half into the book with copious notes, incredibly introspective into building an actor's technique by using human experience and instinct.

My boyfriend and I don't subscribe to cable television, which relieves a 'tether' on us, where we flip it on and plant ourselves on the couch, and suddenly - whoa, where'd the past three hours go?  I do that with books now, and I feel a heck of a lot more productive, and take my afternoon nap with a lot less guilt.  Don't get me wrong - sometimes Lost is playing in the background, but it's on our schedule.  I feel like I have 'all the time in the world' to finish my library, because books are my television.  I'd be happy to share book recommendations for you; between me and a few other friends, we've got a rather large library to stock!

Read, read, read kids!  Your imaginations can do a million things more than any television can think of!

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