Reply To: The Experience of Art

  • Christina Florkowski

    June 22, 2023 at 5:24 am

    This speaks to the experience of the actor. It is from Peter Brook’s “Threads of Time.”

    One morning, I came to Paul [Scofield] with what seemed to me an illuminating discovery. “Lear is someone who wants to let go. But whatever he sacrifices, there is always something left to which he is attached. He gives up his kingdom, but still his authority remains. He must yield his authority, but there is still his trust in his daughters. This too must go, as must the protection of a roof over his head, but this is still not enough, as he has preserved his sanity. When his reason is sacrificed, there is still his profound attachment to his beloved Cordelia. And in the pitiless process of stripping away, inevitably she too must be lost. This is the pattern and the tragic action of the play.“ Paul did not react with enthusiasm. He gave a cautious “Mmmm…” Then he said thoughtfully, “That may be true. But I mustn’t think of it, as it can’t help me as an actor. I can’t play negative actions. I can’t show *not* having. I have to find a different way to mobilize my energies, so as to be fully active, moment after moment, even in loss, even in defeat.” At that moment I saw unforgettably the trap of yielding to the intellectual excitement of “having ideas.” One word out of place in the director’s explanations, and without noticing it he can block or hamper the actor’s own creative process. The same is true for the director’s relation to himself. Ideas must appear, they must be expressed, but he too must learn to separate the useful from the useless, the substance from the theory.