As I work on the play “Vladimir Vladimir” (opening Oct 2) with Pat Patton as Co-Director I am examining my background with Jacques Lecoq and how that differs with Pat’s background in regional theatre. What rises to the top is the difference in how we approach character development, or in the Lecoq world it would be called character “state.” This is becoming very apparent in how I am directing actors and how Pat is directing actors. Both are important and valid.
What are these things on the stage we consider characters? They are not real human beings. If so, it would not be theatre. If they were real, it would be boring. Time is capsulized on the stage. We see not a character in real time, but a capsulized “slice of life.” For example, if we were representing a play of the man called Einstein, We would not play it out in “real” time. If we did we would see long uninterrupted mundane episodes of Einstein, where nothing really happens - like Einstein waiting at the bus stop, Einstein in the bathtub, Einstein at the dentist. (I would venture to say here that many experimental theaters venture into this realm, but let’s avoid that area for the time being.) My point is that theatre is not “real” Which leads to the question - So what then is character in a fictious arena?
I don’t know. However, I do know a few things that contrast Stanislavisky “method” based characters and Lecoq “state” based characters.This is by no means a scholarly analysis, but purely my own feeble observations. Quotes indicate what the actor might be thinking as he or she is applying either technique.
Method - Psychological
State - Non-psychological
Method - character has a past, present and future.
State - state has only has a present.
Method - a psychological person (”what’s my motivation?”)
State - a being (”I am this, this is what I am.”)
Method - “This is what I think of myself, so this is how I walk.”
State - “I walk this way, this walk defines who I am.” (actually, the state would not think this, but walk it, since the state is in the moment, then there is no “self talk”, that voice in your head. That voice in your head is what Lecoq would consider psychology.)
Method - “Another character is speaking, I am listening but only through the perspective lense of my character”
State - ” I listen, move, and exist within my state. Listen! I hear someone speaking.”
All I have written so far seems, well… difficult. Difficult to imagine from a non-actors stand point. So let me try to make it clear. Imagine… (now here in this description you might understand why Imago shines with animal or inanimate states). Imagine… a method actor as human, and a state actor as animal.
All of a sudden… we can see the difference. The human has a past, with problems, hopes and dreams. Regretting the past and dreaming of the future. The human dilemma.
The animal state exists, well because, it must. It’s alive in the space of the theatre. If another being enters the space of the stage, the animal states reacts with its senses. If left alone on the stage, the animal, like a dog is left alone, …and would be itself. With a dog’s rhythms; a dog’s moves and a dog’s sense. But a dog on the stage is not acting, I speaking about theatre. Thus, this is an actor as a dog. (Now I lost you.)
If the lights of the theater grow in intesity, the animal state experiences the lights and reacts and squints. The human actor, in contrast, ignores the light and remains in the fiction of the moment. “I am Hamlet in turmoil over my father’s death, the light from the stage is shining into my eyes, but I will notsquint, well… because I am Hamlet, I must stay in the moment of the play and not in the moment of this space.”
So back to “real” and “fiction” - seems like I’m saying that method actors are in sort of a fiction, but state actors are reacting to real moments and thus are real. Well no, they are not, it is acting. It is theatre. When I am in a state, I am not Jerry. I am Jerry in a state, and that is not real.
I’m sure I have confused you. But before you go, think about this: In “Vladimir Vladimir” Carol and I are working in both “method” technique and in “state” technique. Fail or succeed, that is what we are doing. (Now I’m sure I have you confused.)
“Vladimir Vladimir” opens Oct 2.