#34: Cry Me a River

Dear Friends,

Sebastian’s a total mama’s boy.  You heard me.

He’s about to start crying in just about every scene he’s in.

“She’s drowned already, sir, with salt water, though I seem to drown her rememberance again with more.”

“…I am yet so near the manners of my mother that upon the least occasion more, mine eyes will tell tales of me”

“I should my tears let fall upon your cheek…”

You get the idea.

It’s totally intimidating to have a playwright tell you to cry.  Shakespeare drops hints in the text, but many modern day writers just make it a stage direction:

(He sobs hysterically.)

No pressure.

Here’s the trick, though: Don’t play sad.  Play anything BUT sad.  Crying isn’t what touches people.  Trying not to cry is what does it.  Because that’s what people do. 

I use this example in class all the time: If a character is drunk, it’s never believable to go staggering around stage like an idiot.  That’s bad acting–nobody does that.  Drunk people want others to believe that they’re perfectly fine.  So they talk as clearly as they can.  They stand up as straight as possible.  They don’t play drunk; they play sober.  So as an actor, yes, you have to incorporate the circumstances of being drunk, but the believability comes in fighting against it.

Likewise, when you’re sad, you’re usually trying to make people believe you’re not sad.   Unless you’re especially fragile, you don’t just bawl your eyes out and bare your soul in front of everyone.  You fight your emotions.  You try to control them.  You know how when something really bad happens, people get really still and talk really carefully– almost tonelessly?  That’s when you know something’s really wrong.

So as a general rule, I find it much easier to let tears come on stage when I start by trying not to.  Weird.



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