Part 1: In a café in New York
Dick: It changes things when the record button is pressed.
Richard: For you maybe.
D: [laughs] I like it though, because it makes people… ATTENTION! … try to be more intelligent or something … So I was trying to think of a question to ask you and I think maybe it has to do with something you said before. You said: ‘You can do anything in the theatre’. So with that in mind, how do you decide what not to do?
R: I’m struggling with the premise that you can do anything in the theatre.
D: Maybe the premise is wrong then. Maybe I should say you can do lots of things in a theatre as opposed to …
R: So can you phrase the question again?
D: So you can do lots of things in the theatre.
R: Yes, that’s true, that’s very true.
D: So how do you decide what not to do? Even in terms of performance … do you work from the premise: these are things you wouldn’t do? Or do you use judgement in that way?
R: [putting on exaggerated NY accent] Don’t do it that way! That’s wrong!
D: [laughs] Why would you say that?
R: I wouldn’t say that. I would say, ‘Are you sure you wanna do that? Are you sure … you need to do that?’
R: Because one thing I’ve learned is that our mind as a viewer tells the story. Whether the actor intends it or not, the story gets told.
R: So the character is a synthesis that happens in the mind of the viewer. They look at the body of the actor, they look at the costume the actor wears, they listen to what they say, the lines that they’ve repeated and they see the movements where they interact with other actors…
R: And it all gets synthesised in this great way in the mind of the viewer, whether you come out looking like you do right now or you come out in a Louis the Fourteenth wig, you know, with powder … the actor’s intention is, I feel like, almost arbitrary, but it’s certainly often overdone. And when it’s overdone, it tends to rob the viewer of an experience, of putting things together. So, um … I’m trying to think of a recent example. I dunno … Let’s talk about directions on stage - to take a picture, to adjust a light, to drink whiskey, to stand … these are all very clear verbs and rather than go right to dressing the verb in terms of how can you interpret this, let’s see what the verb yields on its own. I guess you could argue that’s a kind of interpretation, but it’s one that I find most interesting in terms of approach.
D: ‘Pick up the glass of water’ - you just pick up the glass of water.
R: Well … but first you have to eliminate that word ‘just’.
D: Right … but this is the tricky thing
R: Because when you say ‘just’, whether you recognise it or not, you’re almost disparaging the move already. It’s like this: if I’m watching a theatre play, everything that you do as an actor, I see. So why would you concern yourself with certain things and not others? That’s an open question, because ultimately the story does take over and does guide decisions that get made about where you go and what you do.
R: But I think it’s a neat starting point to recognise first how interesting you are as a person and second acknowledge that you are fully visible as long as you’re on stage, you’re fully visible, head to toe. So I, em -
D: So you’re trying to see what’s necessary in a way?
R: - there’s certain schools of thinking about acting and losing yourself in the role, which is to me very, um, selfish and a bit antithetical to what theatre is. Because to lose yourself in a role means that you’re becoming less aware. Of the room that you’re in and the time that exists in that room and what’s being shared … anyway, these are the things that I’m thinking about when it comes to what you do and what you don’t do. I also think there’s a tendency to, when rehearsing, to make decisions, make acting decisions, in haste.
R: And I’m sympathetic to that, because time is money, especially in a city like this one.
R: But carving out these answers … certain decisions will certainly have to be made, that’s for sure … but carving out these answers, uh, at a certain point starts to compromise the time factor, the sharing time factor when it comes to an ensemble and also when it comes to the performer’s relationship to the audience. It’s tricky because you think you’re helping the audience by answering certain questions about who this character is, so it comes from a good place…