I wish to be always at the point of discovering.
DB - The Vagabond
Good day citizen of the world.
One of the nastiest tricks we play on ourselves is making an assumption. I know someone who is fond of the phrase "To assume, makes an ass of u and me." If there is a set of three things, x (A+B+C) and A and B are true, it is easy to assume that C is also true and that therefore x is true. But we may discover that C is not true. Then what? We are surprised.
An actor has to deal with things called "discoveries." A performance is real life for everyone involved, but the play is not. It's fiction. It resembles real life, and the closer it does that the more entertaining it is.
The actor deals with perspective, which is different from an artist's perspective where the sizes of things in relation to each other can determine how far they are from the viewer. For an actor perspective is about what the character knows and what he doesn't know. Though the actor knows how the play ends, the character does not and hence the actor can't play the end of the play.
The various events that occur during the working out of the plot must come as discoveries, as surprises to the actor, if he is playing the role correctly.
So how does the actor accomplish that and be believable? One way is by making assumptions. He assumes he knows what's happening or what's going to happen, and he may mentally talk himself into it, he temporarily brain washes himself one might say, that is the artistry. so that when the unexpected happens it's a surprise. It may be an event, an arrival of someone or just a vital piece of information. Whatever it is , it's a discovery. Within the course of the drama his life is changed to some degree, sometimes drastically.
The portamento into our real lives is to avoid making assumptions, so that discoveries do not affect us in any drastic way. In fact, a better approach is to look for those surprises wherever we are.
I think discoveries come about in three ways: past, present and future.
Future discoveries are the ones you can realize if you stay alert and not make assumptions about things, and if you experiment and investigate. Turn over the rock to see what's underneath it, take a walk in the woods, if your in a restaurant order a dish you've never had, don't assume you're not going to like it. Go into a book store and open a book on something you know nothing about. I remember talking a friend into reading "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert Pirsig. He didn't want to read it because he assumed it was about motorcycles.
I also remember going into the Museum of Modern Art in NYC when they were renovating it. The paintings were up on peg boards and primitively displayed. As a result a lot of people stayed away. But I turned a corner and came upon "The Piano Lesson" by Henri Matisse. It's now my favorite painting. I thought it had been painted specifically for me. (I still think so.)
Present discoveries are about things that are right there in your life, right now. They are in the attic, the bottom drawer of the dresser, the trunk, or in my case, in the big white box under the window. I was looking for something one day and came upon the Appalachian Mountain Club Trail Guide which prompted me to write about my hike up Tremont Mountain (see Knuckle Knowledge 9/07/08). It was a joy to discover and relive that adventure.
Past discoveries are perhaps the most personal. Those are discoveries you made about yourself that have become lost or transformed by life and other people. What was it that you knew when you were a boy or a girl that you have forgotten about? When it was clear that my life as an actor was put on the shelf I tried to remember what I wanted before that ever came about. I always loved music, but as I realized I had little talent in that direction I didn't give it much time or energy.
Then I remembered how I used to entertain my friends by telling stories. I literally rediscovered myself as a story teller. So now I write stories.
There are a great many things, too many to number, in everyone's life waiting to be discovered and rediscovered.
DB Vagabond Journeys