I hope you’ll bear with me through the next few posts, because this issue of there being a “right” way to play a role is critical to how you use the first half of your rehearsals. So it’s worth the time.
Human beings are pre-disposed to thinking that there is a RIGHT. By definition, the fact that this (whatever “this” may be) is RIGHT, no matter how limited it is, makes anything outside of its limited scope WRONG.
If you’re very young (and perhaps even if you aren’t), you’ll have to take me on faith when I tell you that there is a lot less surety in the world about what is RIGHT and what is WRONG than you probably think there is. (In twenty years, you’ll probably understand what I’m talking about. At least, I hope you will.)
Despite the fact that I have an large number of reasons to believe in this uncertainty as being a natural and okay part of existence, I nevertheless fall into the trap of thinking that this, that, or the other thing is RIGHT on a regular basis. The only thing I have learned, apparently, is to recognize the fall shortly after the fact, so that I can get myself standing again.
Fortunately, rehearsal time allows you the opportunity to backtrack to where you went awry. To acknowledge that what you were so certain was RIGHT turns out to be largely WRONG, and that you’d better replace it with something else. Even if you aren’t quite sure yet what to replace it with. (This is the trial and error that is part of the first half of rehearsals. Ah, I haven’t gone that far astray, after all!)
You may remember the Kansas example from the post on first-person acting. I’d like to explain it a little differently now.
Imagine all of humanity as occupying a place near the center of a pie. Carve that pie into a number of slices that corresponds to whatever personality type schema that you’d like to use. If you use the Enneagram, you’ve got nine slices. If you use Myers-Briggs, you’ve got 16 slices.
However you slice it, each pie slice represents a general life perspective. I’m not talking about politics or religion. It is entirely possible to have completely different politics while occupying the same life perspective space. (Again, trust me on this one, because I certainly don’t have the space to make the argument. Go study one of these typing systems in some depth, and you’ll understand what I mean.)
For instance, my Myers Briggs personality type is, among other things, convinced that absolutely everything can be improved. That colors everything I do. It’s one of the things that makes me a good teacher; I’m convinced that if I keep trying different ways, I can successfully communicate anything to you. It’s one of the things that makes me curious and a lifelong student. In addition, being intensely aware of my own flaws and convinced that everything can be improved, I am the first object of my “I can build a better mousetrap” perspective. I am my ultimate work-in-progress.
However, not everyone shares this perspective. Some people just don’t quite see that improving things matters one way or the other. They aren’t opposed to it; they just don’t see the point in spending the energy on it. Others take great exception to my perspective. For them, everything is perfectly fine just the way it is. And a fourth group of people have a different take, one which says, “I am what I am, and as flawed as I am, I’m never going to change. Deal with it.”
I hope you’ve noticed that because we’re all standing near the center of the pie, we’re all looking in different directions. Because we’re looking toward the crust, where our slice is two or three inches wide, we think we’ve got a broad perspective.
The fact that the pie has a circumference of over 28 inches completely eludes us. As far as we are concerned, our two inches IS the world. We also assume that everyone else sees the same two inches. So if they disagree with the party line associated with our slice, they are being purposefully intransigent. When we’re feeling kindly about them, we’ll just call them stupid. Or ignorant.
For the most part, these perspectives aren’t things we have a lot of choice about, although once we recognize the limitations of our own perspective, we can start to see why other people’s perspectives make sense to them. And these different perspectives actually have a very useful function in the world. I’m a great planner and teacher, but I have no patience for what I see as the tedium of scientific experimentation. Fortunately, there are personality types who live on other slices of pie who are into science and like their change to come slowly.
The point is that we are inclined to assume, for some peculiar reason, that our slice is RIGHT, and everyone else’s – and remember, everyone else’s constitutes the majority of that dang pie – is WRONG.
But it all depends on where you stand on the pie. Wherever you are, you think, is RIGHT. Wherever anyone else is is WRONG. But they’re standing looking toward their piece of the pie crust, thinking that they are absolutely RIGHT, and you are absolutely WRONG.
So who is RIGHT, and who is WRONG?
To read About Those Stage Directions, go here. To read The Half Dozen Rights, go here. To read How Do I Know What the Right Acting Choices Are, go here. To read Line Readings and Why They Don’t Work, go here.