Shake my shaky hand
19 February 2010, 5:44 PM
Your Humble Blogger has spoken before about two schools of thought about acting, and how while my sympathies are with the English, my training (such as it is) is with the Russian. Since that time, I’ve done some more shows, am on my third director since then, actually, and none of the directors has engaged in improvisation or any of that Method stuff. Which is fine with me—although I do enjoy improv generally, with the typically limited rehearsal time available to Community Theater, I’m in favor of just getting the blocking right.
And, I feel, over time I have become more and more sympathetic to the Technical style anyway. One of the ways people have described the difference is that the English style is outside-in while the Russian is inside-out. The Technical actor will begin with the externals—a hat, a limp, an accent—and fill in the character from there, whilst the Method actor will begin with the internal emotions and sensibilities—relationships, motivations, instincts—and fill out the character from there. I have always felt better when I have the externals—the hand props, the shoes, the hat. It is true that on occasion, I have had to ditch an external, when it doesn’t work with the internal, but that’s part of the process, too.
I mention it because as we have been blocking the scenes, I have been touching the other actors a lot. No, not like that. At least not yet. No, I’ve been putting my arm around them, grasping their forearms, putting a hand on a shoulder, turning them by their shoulders, and generally being the kind of guy who is always touching you. That had not been a plan of mine, and I was honestly surprised to discover it happening over and over again.
When I first come in, after my greeting, my next line is
QUEEN ELIZABETH: God grant him health! Did you confer with him?
BUCKINGHAM: Madam, we did: he desires to make atonement Betwixt the Duke of Gloucester and your brothers, And betwixt them and my lord chamberlain; And sent to warn them to his royal presence.
As the Queen’s brother is there in the room, I thought it might be nice if I took her arm and drew her aside, speaking to her as if in confidence, while Lord Rivers (her brother) conspicuously eavesdrops. The scene (I,iii) is all about the intrigue, making clear to the audience the factions, insofar as it can be made clear without having people wear different colored track suits (which has been done, you know). So, the two obvious options are to say the lines to Lord Rivers through the Queen, and to say them to the Queen around Lord Rivers. Well, and I suppose the most obvious option is to say the line broadcast, but that’s the least interesting option as well, and fails to contribute to the sense of factionalism and complottery. So I went for the most secretive one.
Then, later in that same scene, I am drawn aside for private talk myself. The Duchess of York (who has been given some of Margaret’s lines, which is very interesting and probably worth a note in itself) warns me against Richard, who is in the room at the time and wonders what’s up. We kiss hands (the Duchess and I, not Richard and I, at least not yet), and I take her glass away and hand it to Hastings as I feel she has had enough. That’s two.
In the next scene, although I am speaking to a group, I speak to each in turn, taking hands with a symbolic handshake—that’s three handshakes in the scene at least. I enter with my arm around the Young Prince’s shoulder, and then later, I draw Catesby aside and put my arm around her shoulder. In my scenes with the Lord Mayor, I steer him around the stage so that he can play his part properly. Richard puts his arm around my shoulder (his shoulders are off limits, of course), and I take Hasting’s arm to lead him to the Tower. In each of those cases, or almost all of them anyway, I was doing what the scene seemed to require without thinking of Buckingham as touching people rather a lot.
In real life, as it happens, I don’t touch people very much. I suspect it’s not uncommon for a week to go by without my touching anyone other than my Best Reader, my Perfect Non-Reader and the Youngest Member. Oh, I shake hands, now and then, but not every day. When I come in to work, for instance, I do not greet anyone by touching them, with a high five or a back slap or whatever. When I come in to rehearsal, I don’t generally speaking touch people—I don’t shrink from a proffered hug or handshake, but I don’t offer them myself. I have a few friends with whom I am physically affectionate, but not many, and not new ones. It would not have occurred to me to develop Buckingham as a character who is physically—what—not affectionate, certainly. Physically insinuating, let’s say. But once the actions are there, it makes sense for the character, too. Outside-in.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,