A Job + A Love


Last week I had two very different experiences with acting, neither better than the other per se, but both interesting to me. The first was an industrial with Lancer Insurance, a company with which I've worked once before, the other a surprise staged reading of Our Country's Good, by Timberlake Wertenbaker. As you might imagine, the first one paid (rather well) and demanded virtually no emotional depth, and the second I did for free and take my word for it: very rich with emotion. It's funny, but emotions can get rather short shrift in an analysis of acting. Critiques rarely mention them directly, and actors are discouraged from "playing emotion," as well they should. Still and all, it's an essential ingredient, and in one way what we're all there for. I think we're a little embarrassed by that, frankly, and that it contributes to our approaches to emotion. Yes, of course -- the actor must live the moment and play intention, not merely synthesize specific emotions. Yet we all seek that connection, that direct emotional interplay that only occurs between two people sharing the same space.

The industrial involved trekking out to Trenton and lingering in a parking lot behind a strip mall for most of the day. There Lancer had constructed a bus accident, hired on a couple of other actors, plus a group of their own employees to play passengers. I was fortunate enough to recommend one of the actors, Jason Carden, and so I had something really cool to do with the inevitably ample down time: chew the fat with a friend from college. To my great surprise, the other actor there was one Jason Griffin -- with whom I had worked on a completely other industrial, gained through completely other means, with no discernible connection. (To my even greater surprise, I actually recognized him.) The shoot involved a long period of waiting, followed by a short period of very brisk, camera-in-hand shooting. As I mulled over my position as an insurance adjuster, I thought how similar a position he's in at such a scene. He arrives at something that's a really big deal for others, where the stakes are high, yet is expected to make rational decisions and, ultimately, it's just another day's work for him.

Sunday's reading was another reunion of sorts, as all the friends of one Cynthia Hewett who could be found surprised her by being the fellow actors and audience in a reading on her day-of-birth behalf. There is this network of folks who were involved in the founding of The Metropolitan Playhouse (now under different management) of which both Cynthia and David Zarko are members, and it seemed they were all there that night. This meant that I was the youngest of the actors involved (an experience I haven't had in a while) and relatively outside the dominant social network. I knew one or two others, though, and it was a great reading. The play is full of humor and pathos and interesting characters, and working on it (however briefly) with such pros made the thing crackle nicely. Plus, every person was there for Cynthia. It must have been one of the most open and involved audiences I've ever had the pleasure of performing for. It was one of those acting experiences that reminds me of why I love it like I do.

It shouldn't be all that difficult, bringing together the work we do out of love and that we do out of necessity. I'm inclined to believe, in fact, that the separation is not only artificial, but of our own making. Subconsciously, perhaps, I like having the two separate, because it makes me inner world simpler to imagine acting as more pure, money-making as more virtuous by merit of it involving discipline. If you asked me, of course I'd say immediately that I'd like the two together, please. But just maybe some part of me has an interest in preserving that dichotomy. My hope is that acknowledging that possibility is a help in learning to overcome it a bit more.

Because buses or the colonization of Australia, gratis or paid, I really do love this work.
 
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