Talking Bodies

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

(Note: I wrote this while still in the thick of rehearsing for M! The Opera—almost 2 years ago, I think. I read this nearly-forgotten draft and am amazed at how different I was back then. So observant and articulate. I feel stupid and shallow now, in comparison.)

One truism that you hear a lot is that communication has a lot more to do than spoken words, possibly found most often in those gossipy mags with their ubiquitous dating advice columns. I know it’s an overly-visited topic, but I still have to get it out in writing to ease this mental itch—indulge me if you will.

Firstly, know that I am not an actor. Although I am very comfortable with performing on stage, I’ve always gotten away with just a beaming smile to the audience while I danced or sang. It was simple—walk up there, present item while rooted to my little spot, graciously bow to applause, then leave. People saw Michelle as they knew her from day to day life.

M! has been a completely different kettle of fish. For the first time in my life, I play a character, and I’ve a feeling that a naive smile for the audience will do more damage rather than riveting them to their seats for the rest of the show. It’s terrifying to consider that this production could be the sort that people would either love or loathe, leave them in perplexed frustration or strike a chord so deep within their understanding that it could even spur them to rethink their own lives.

In trying to get the message across to the audience, Jo has done so much to equip the cast with the instincts to ‘act’. Lending credibility and weight to what we sing or say by making full use of our bodies. Jo has drummed into us to allow even our *backs* to react to our surroundings. Tiny shifts in a pose can tell as much of a story as a wide, arcing motion of a hand can.

I don’t think acting is a walk in the park. There’s this self-conscious barrier that you *must* shatter before you can even begin to learn anything usable. Then there’s all that mental preparation that goes into readying yourself to adopt the character you play.

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