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The International Writers Magazine
: Actor's life for me

The Play’s the thing
Stories from an acting student.
Ian Jordan

And so the adventure begins. The curtain opens on the next stage of my life and I prepare to launch into the most daunting role imaginable; professional actor. To the uninitiated and disinterested I recently graduated from the fine city of Portsmouth, studying the fine art of creativity.

And so the adventure begins. The curtain opens on the next stage of my life and I prepare to launch into the most daunting role imaginable; professional actor. To the uninitiated and disinterested I recently graduated from the fine city of Portsmouth, studying the fine art of creativity. Now I have embarked upon an eight-month trek through the hills and valleys of the full time intensive acting course at The William Davis Centre in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. That is in Canada by the way and a staggering four thousand seven hundred and thirteen miles (give or take a few) from the comforts of cozy Portsmouth town. I am in my third week of life in Vancouver and have already learnt a great deal about acting and indeed about myself.

Being so far from home is bound to alter and add to a person. For an actor the most useful tool may be to savour all these experienced emotions in order to feed them into the character you are pursuing. However as I have been reminded the word ‘character’ can have such detrimental effects to the process of creative work. Each person that is being displayed on the stage, on film, or even on the page must be a fully developed individual. They are not simply an amalgamation of learnt techniques and general speculations but a specific person. The very notion of finding a person’s distinct being for performance has really heightened my perception of the self beyond art. How do I recognise myself in new surroundings? Back home I have family and friends to help with identifying my particular traits. Essentially the me that I know is the me that they project back, the me that they and my surroundings have created. Arriving in a new city and a new country made me question who I am right now and who I am going to become while I am here.

That is to try and intellectualise what has happened so far here in Vancouver, which in reality has not been the aim of my first few weeks. Often when approaching the stage or aiming the pen we tend to focus on the thought process attached to our actions. This of course is a necessary approach for establishing our desires, dislikes, and overall objectives. Despite this however we must not extinguish the possibilities of spontaneity. After all the very concept of becoming a new person is a child-like imitation of reality. Therefore the actor must play! We must abandon our inhibitions and throw aside our constant self-analysis. So far I have struggled with this task of abandonment still longing to stay in control of my person and surroundings. Unfortunately I think it will take a lot of work breaking down this attitude but I look forward to tackling the problem in my daily training.

I have been fortunate enough to arrive in Vancouver at the beginning of the cities International Film Festival and had the pleasure of catching Lars Von Triers’ follow up to his controversial movie ‘Dogville’ last Saturday afternoon. His new work ‘Manderlay’ is an equally as gripping and provocative take on the complexities of modern American society. Here Von Triers’ intriguing approach through the imagining of the towns’ landscape opens up the issue of the history and consequences of slavery within the US. Made ever more poignant by the racial divisions highlighted during the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, the film pulls no punches in pushing the audience to address the roots of such difference. Bryce Dallas Howard does an admirable job of following Nicole Kidman’s footsteps as the flawed but well meaning Grace. Her interaction with the black community that she both controls and liberates is often moving. Ultimately Von Triers’ movie provides no resolution and leaves the audience with a sinking feeling of impossibility. I left the cinema feeling both inspired by the filmmaking and angered by the evils it concerns.

Other movies I have viewed since being in the city have been the humorous Jim Jarmusch flick ‘Broken Flowers’ which displays another strong performance from Bill Murray. I also had the opportunity to catch Phil Morrisons’ ‘Junebug’, an extremely moving family drama that I highly recommend. It boasts an array of well-defined people portrayed effectively by a hard working cast. What inspired me most about this picture was how each of the characters interacted and had believable relationships throughout. The central character George, played soulfully by Alessandro Nivola, spends vast amounts of the film off camera but manages some how to have an extensive effect on all the other characters. There are some beautiful moments where the silences of these people say so much more than if they were overloading the scenes with dialogue.

And to me that is the ultimate objective of an actor. Not so much to place the weight on the lines they have or the amount of time they have on stage but the ability to be still in the moment. I want to be on stage and have nothing happen but at the same time have so much taking place within me being projected to the audience. I have a long way to go with my training and as I am frequently reminded as an actor, the learning process never ceases. I took comfort from an interview I saw recently with Ray Liotta who said that only now at the age of fifty did he feel ready to be an actor. He still visits acting classes and reads his notes from over the years. And this is the guy who was so believably manic in the role of Henry Hill all those years ago in ‘Goodfellas’. This does help alleviate the feelings of inadequacy that often creep into my studies yet at the same time it emphasises just how steep the mountain is to climb. But that is part of the adventure and in the mean time I shall continue to forget my inhibitions and keep on playing!
© Ian Jordan October 2005
mrjd_2002 at yahoo.co.uk

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