Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Rehearsals for Cyrano de Bergerac have begun. Excellent cast. It is a fabulous acting opportunity to play very large, romantic passion. One cannot be hindered by the Lee Strasberg Actors Studio type of method acting.

After the first read-through I noticed how Rostand uses supporting characters to react to Cyrano and thus define for the audience who Cyrano is. If Cyrano were not surrounded by this world of characters, he would be less real, less defined. This is an excellent thing for writers to remember, because I know that as a playwright I try to limit characters as much as possible to the ones who are necessary to the plot, and perhaps have used too few characters in the past. Smaller characters do more than just plot functions, they also flesh out the hero’s character and the world of the play. Smaller characters can also help greatly in the theme, a trick Shakespeare used a lot.

Another thing I noticed: Cyrano is much more exciting and interesting a story than anything by Shakespeare. The Bard, for all his poetic and theatrical genius, did not write terribly interesting plots.

Also, I was struck by the same thing that strikes me in plays by Hugo and Schiller: the characters are intensely passionate about their values. They are deeply committed to what they love and to getting it. This passion is necessary in order to have a plot with exciting conflict. If your characters are a bunch of slackers who sit on the couch saying, “What do you want to do?…I dunno, what do you want to do?…I dunno, get Chinese food?” then you cannot have a believable, exciting plot. Romantic characters have ideals for which they will live and, if necessary, die.

This play is great stuff. I’m excited that I get to work in and analyze this world for the next few months.


madmax said...

Could you elaborate on what the difference is between Stanislavsky and Strasberg? I have always been curious about that.

Myrhaf said...

Strasberg stressed emotion memory, which as I understand it was an aspect of Stanislavsky's theory that he moved away from late in life. Emotion memory is doing something like thinking about a time when someone you love died until you feel sadness, then trying to find that emotion in a scene. Something like that. A lot of people such as David Mamet refute this method acting. The problem with method acting is that it went so far into feeling emotions that it forgot about the other aspect of acting, which is communicating to the audience. At the Actor's Studio in the '50s you might see two actors mumbling to each other on stage with no regard to the people sitting in the audience.

To me Stanislavsky is about objectives -- what is my character fighting for? There's no reason why you can't think about objectives in a very stylized, artificial drama.

Many people share your confusion and think of Stanislavsky as Acting Studio torn t-shirt stuff.