Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Harold Pinter's "The Homecoming", Cats Eating Mice: Apropos


So, before I begin, I must say that I just watched this tiny kitten eat a mouse. Bone, tail, everything. Then she licked up the floor afterward. Amazing thing to watch. She's less than two pounds. I didn't get any pics, I was too stunned to grab the camera 'till it was too late...but I did get this one, mid-digestion--she looks a little weighed down:

Right. Now, on to the business at hand...Theatre

I've been getting off-book on Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, and it is a challenge. I fancy myself a bit of a genius when it comes to line memorization. I have tourette syndrome, and it has caused me a lot of difficulty in some areas of learning. Memorization of facts for regurgitation on tests is the biggest challenge it's given me. Another is reading comprehension, in the context of dry text and novels. I almost never remember a novel I've read, or even the previous 55555555555m...Kitty! Clumsy little asshole...paragraph for that matter. But memorizing a conversation between two people as written by a playwright? Two reads and I'm usually memorized. Cold. I know others' lines too. Other actors call line on stage and I have to refrain from feeding it to them, thereby seeming like that annoying "actor" who fancies himself better than everyone else for knowing the script better than the writer.

But this has been tougher. Maybe it's because I'm getting older and my prowess is waning. Or maybe it's that I'm detoxing from meat and dairy and bread these last two weeks and it's made my brain fuzzy. Whatever the case, the conversations of this play have a very studied, yet in context seemingly spontaneous, construction. This esoterica is something that Pinter is famous for, and must be gotten down COLD, before an actor can hope to begin the real work of character development and motivational definition.

So I continue to plug away at it, line by line. Teddy, the philosophy prof, only has one monologue in the piece. I find that interesting. He is actually one of the least verbal characters in the play. Here's the film version if you are averse to reading an actual play. It includes a wonderful performance by Ian Holm as Lenny, Teddy's Pimp younger brother:


And the nature of this one monologue is to cut down the rest of his family for not being able to comprehend any of his critical works, which none of them have seen. He tells them he's never sent them his critical works because they would not have the faintest idea what they were about. Furthermore, that he has the ability to operate "on things, and not IN them", that he has the omniscience to observe others in their systems and not be caught up in them himself.

This self-assessment may actually end up proving itself correct upon completion of the play's action, which I will refrain from spoiling for you (FACTOID NUMBER ONE: The act of spoiling a piece of entertainment serves, as documented in a recent study publicized by NPR, to heighten interest in the piece, and to enhance rather than detract from the "spoiled" person's enjoyment of it).

We shall see how the director, Paul Angelo, interprets the piece, and I will of course formulate my treatment on that.

This brings up a very important topic for theatre makers:

Q: How much of the director's interpretation of a character is an actor required to heed? Where does the director's job stop and the actor's start?
A: There is no answer! Suckas! But a good place to start is  The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate

For me, having been raised in the traditional theatre in the sense that I got a fairly classical education in acting at an accredited university in the United States, the director is GOD. But there was a self-contradiction in that ethos, and that is that many of the directors I've worked with didn't want to get too far into my realm as an actor. They stayed their distance, I think for one of three reasons:

A. They wanted to focus more on the big picture and didn't feel like it was a valuable use of their time to get into the minutia of moment-to-moment character motivation development (something that any experienced actor is a straight-up whore for)
B. They were very aware of the protocolic boundaries--Yes, that's a new word--and didn't want to overstep their bounds
C. They respected their actors and wanted to let us do the work we were there to do

Although I would like to believe that it's "C", I think much more likely is "A". The director (and I have directed plays as well as acted in them and therefor have a first-hand understanding of this) has many fires to put out. Some are small and some have acreage. It all depends on which fire is calling to you at the moment. If an actor is ablaze and going down, you focus all your attention on that actor and ignore the others. If it's a technical fire, you work on that.

To Be Condinued...


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