Say the words

We’re nearing that weird place in the run where we are starting to get used to it enough to make it clockwork.* This is the point at which I generally start to panic, because even though it’s live theater, and I’m doing what I love, blah blah blah, there’s the danger of becoming so static that I get bored. There’s a delicate balance between consistency and staying alive and active, and I try very hard in my work to keep that balance, well, balanced.

Steve gave me a great note during our final rehearsal, two hours before we opened. It was to allow myself to really live in the language. To not allow it to get too performed. Again — that delicate balance. Now, I’m the kind of actor who needs an audience, craves an audience, turns my friends and family into an audience at home. So when I get that audience that has paid to see the show, I feel it. And Steve’s note was so helpful because it reminded me what the audience is there to do: listen to the play.** And by living in the language, allowing it to affect me as I say the words, I can let the audience into my thoughts and feelings in a much more real way. If I live in it, they can live in it. I have a speech in the show where I talk about something that absolutely takes my breath away, (I have a couple of speeches like that, actually) and from the beginning of rehearsals — from the moment I read the speech at auditions, actually — I always got the beauty of the language. I also got the intention behind it. But it took that little note — “live in the language” — to remind me of the true possibilities of it. And this is where Shakespeare’s genius starts to really astound me. We don’t know for sure, but we don’t think Shakespeare’s actors were talking about intention and motivation when attacking their characters. They had two weeks to rehearse a new role and were playing five other plays in the afternoons, and didn’t really have what we think of as a director to help them out. What they had was the words. And by really listening to those words, living in them, they were able to tell incredible stories, find their way through the ears into hearts of their audience.

And I just thank my lucky stars that I have the chance to do this every day. Because I really am doing what I love. Blah blah blah be damned.



* Injuries notwithstanding.

** See it, too, sure, but they’re called the audience because of listening… rarely do we call playgoers spectators.


1 Response to “Say the words”

  1. April 29, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    Matt, your words about Shakespeare’s genius are so eloquent and so true. My students — like so many others studying Shakespeare in school — don’t always appreciate the relevance of Shakespeare, or even the fact that his plays can be as realistic in character study as Chekhov or Ibsen. That’s what is so great about 1HenryIV. The characters are so varied in their backgrounds and even cultures, yet their psychological motivations as pronounced by their emotions: ambition, love, hate, etc. are the types of gritty feelings any audience member can relate to.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: