Diderot Today

Theatre IS a paradox. We are aiming to depict and present compelling real life stories and searching for the deepest truths of the human condition in a black box with lots of people watching us separated by an imaginary 4th wall and the dark.

I believe there most certainly is a paradox to acting. Creating a character, a 3-dimensional human being with a story and habits that are not my own- never have been and never will be- and to make that character as honestly truthful as possible takes real technique. The goal is for the audience to believe that I AM that person.

There is a fine line between honestly experiencing emotion in the scene and yet all the while remaining fully PRESENT and sound in the mind. I am an actor playing this part. There is an audience watching me. I don’t really believe I am this person… or do I?

One CANNOT lose control on stage- yet we work and train very hard everyday to do just that!?!

I believe there is a real disipline to acting that requires the actor to be fully physically and emotionally present and engaged while in character. “It is a peculiar combination of good sense and warmth which creates the sublime person” (Diderot) I agree with Diderot on this comment- I believe a good actor is one with an open heart and a sound mind. If you are not fully engaged in the life of the character- if you are only displaying your ‘idea’ of how the character would react, then it becomes presentational and the audience spot it in a second, realize you are ‘acting’ and as a result will not be personally touched/ affected. There is no soul in presentational acting; it GENERALIZES.

Diderot points out that the way the characters speak, for example, in Racine’s plays;  are not the way we speak in real life. Well YA!!! That would be utterly boring to watch! Theatre is about those heightened moments in life- and we only have a couple of hours to do it- so let’s just get straight to the juicy parts; the ACTION!

As Uta says: “Naturalism pursues the unselective imitation of life- IT IS THE ANTITHESIS TO ART.

Diderot complained that one could never count on an honestly emotional actor- because no two performances will ever be the same. That’s the difficult part: no two ever WILL be the same! That’s where the structure and disipline of the craft comes into play. If we have clear objectives and a huge imagination- a clearly marked path to follow for every performance- we trust that the rest will follow. If we do the work and hit the goal posts, emotion will be a by-product.

One of my favorite quotes is from Grotowski (I believe!):

Tears are to an actor as sweat is to an athlete.

I agree with Diderot that there needs to be a disipline and methodology to acting- but unlike Diderot I do not believe in mimicry. The actor’s craft is in the embodiment of the character she is portraying while NEVER losing control of herself as the actor on stage.  This way the audience can sit back, trust us, and come along for the journey…


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