Promiscuity and Monogamy on Stage and Screen.


(I am often asked what the stylistic or acting differences are between the film actor and theatre actor. My first response is to acknowledge that stage and screen actors share much in common. However for the purposes of coaching I use many analogies. The below has struck a chord with many actors over the years. Enjoy.)

I speak of two actors; the promiscuous actor and the monogamous actor.

Beginning with the theatre actor; all theatre actors are promiscuous! And the best theatre actors have mastered the art of promiscuity! Necessarily so. She is trained from the outset, to know the third party, the ‘other’,  in all stage transactions . This other is the spectator. It might be one, or hundred and one spectators,  it makes no difference to the promiscuous theatre actor.  However intimate the encounter on stage, however raw, the actors is forever seeking and needing the presence of the spectator in this most energetically-derived art form. What heightens the sense of promiscuity is that by recourse to vocal and physical techniques, she does everything in her power to have as great a relationship and connection with the spectator off-stage, as she does with the scene partner on stage; just no touching!    It matters not, ultimately, if the scene partner is a spear carrier or the most ardent lover, no. She must have this other observer, an active/passive on-looker,  completely absorbed in whatever experience she offers.  The stage actor is so exquisitely honed, so adroitly sensitized, that she can even feel the mood, focus, tendency of the spectator many rows back, while seemingly enraptured by what is happening right in front of her. In fact she can be so attuned to the spectator that she quite literally acts for him, adapting and adopting her behavior and language to draw in the naughty, unfocused, (dare I even say) bored, spectator back into the conversation on stage. THIS is art indeed!

And then there is the film actor, who can no more be promiscuous than be heard across an uncrowded kitchen measuring 10ft x 10ft!

The ‘low talker’ is so internalized that only the finest instruments of magnification can capture his being. The camera, microphone, lights, and even the call to ‘action’  are required, so attentive is he to the moment. It goes without saying that this particular actor-animal is monogamous; and the best of his tribe make monogamy glorious.  The ability of an outstanding film actor to connect with his scene partner while seeming to render invisible,  the 10-30+ crew in the room is nothing short of miraculous.  To find a truthful moment and then to share it in a totally authentic manner with the scene partner(s) is a magical process, requiring extraordinary technique. To be seized by the moment to the exclusion of all else, and then to react truthfully to that moment,  is an art most people can only hope to mimic well. Few are able to continually achieve such mastery without constant study and practice.

This is just one way in which I see and understand my actors. I often witness some of the best actors,  faking monogamy beautifully, but unconsciously delighting in promiscuity. Nothing is more delightful to observe than the promiscuous actor, faking it! Or the monogamous actor desperately trying to enjoy being promiscuous and just shriveling up, inside.

Either way,  I enjoy them both. I do not seek to change them; but simply to remind them what medium they are working in and what connection, therefore,  they must seek to have with their scene partner, and the camera or the spectator.

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