Thoughts on the actor's role in new and old works.
By B.T. (Brett) Ryback
But it is always delicate work. I notice, sometimes, that actors either don't appreciate the gravity of the undertaking - the extreme trust placed in their hands, the honor of saying someone's words for the first time - or they don't understand the fragility of the situation. They take for granted something that, as of yet, cannot be taken for granted.
Bold choices are useful in these situations, as they allow the playwright and director to explore the outter limits of the world they are creating. Bold criticism, however, should be careful considered and often times left unsaid. Not because criticism is not helpful, but because those types of things often have a way of working themsevlves out on their own, especially when you have a good playwright and a good director.
It's very easy to confuse what is the playwright's intention, what is the actor's intention, and where those two things meet and diverge. The best thing an actor can do for a new play is to follow the character's logic to a critical T and then play the character within an inch of his/her's imagined life. This will give the playwright everything she needs.
Further, I've also noticed (even in myself) a certain ennui with older, established works. Williams, Miller, Wilde, Shakespeare. Often there's an eye roll involved. An exasperated sigh. "Yeah, yeah - we get it." As if everything to explore has already been explored, all art mined from these treasured works, and now conveniently commercialized in the gift store.
It's true that these pieces have been explored to their fullest and often by the greatest actors of past times. But they are always new to the company playing it at hand. New relationships to be discoverd, new subtleties about human nature to be revealed. These works should not be trusted or taken for granted either. We must follow the logic to a critical T and play these characters within an inch of their imagined lives! Test them, push them, see where their weaknesses lie.
That is what brings life into NEW works, and that is what will bring life into OLD works. And remember: everything old is new again, sometime or another.