Michael McDonald's Blog

Don't Move

As a stage actor I have learned the value of stillness. If someone else is speaking, I (usually) shouldn't be moving. If the focus should be somewhere else I need to be still so that I don't 'pull focus', distracting the audience from the plot and the action. My reactions and motions are ripples naturally compelled by the action in the scene, rather than preconceived motions or some intent of 'acting'.

Even when I am the focus of the audience's attention, where my every word and gesture is meant to be measured, savored and consumed, stillness is still essential. Amateurs will fidget nervously, or fidget dramatically, or gesture clearly but falsely, or restrain their impulses so that they are physically fighting their body on stage, their truth wrestling with what they think acting is supposed to be. To simply stand, relaxed and alert, with no unnecessary gestures is a great feat.

When I saw Rita Moreno perform in Master Class at Berkeley Rep, I was awestruck with her naturalness when she walked on- and off-stage, or quiped "Look at me, drinking a glass of water. I have presence." And she did have presence, in buckets. Not because she was big or loud or boisterous, but because she was unabashedly herself.

The falseness of extraneous movement rings out everywhere, not just on the stage. Graphic designers who show off their Flash skills, hoping that the neat animations they are allowed to compose for one project will get them a bigger and better project. Marketers who tack on features and acronyms so that they can join this week's bandwagon. Guys who lie to impress girls. Politicians who fib so that they can get elected. Businessmen who say yes to anything with a check attached. Entrepreneurs who let venture capitalists decide what kind of business they should start. These are maddening trends, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Stillness has little to do with what you are missing. It has to do with focus and integrity, peeling away these layers of dissonance built up through ignorance and fear by recognizing and accepting who you really are and being that. And only that.

link  |   |  12/27/06 11:45am
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