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Extra Materials for Acting and Life
We are learning to act all the time. We are trying to figure out how people want us
to behave, what feeling to show or to hide, and what action will be rewarded or punished.
In other words, we may spend our life in trying to impress other people, and so in every
association with them we have got to do what they expect of us. We try to give our
audiences what they want and still stay as much ourselves as possible; most of the time
we vacillate between acting to fulfill people’s expectation and acting differently to
prevent ourselves from sameness. Sometimes we may adjust our acting to match
surroundings, but at other time we may act adversely to make ourselves look distinctive
and special, or refuse to act in order to get freedom for ourselves, or to avoid feeling
low-priced and compromised. What we have been learning and doing to survive among
people is called acting.
When I wish to find out how wise, or stupid, or how good, or how wicked is anyone, or
what are his thoughts at the moment, I fashion the expression of my face, as accurately as
possible, in accordance with the expression of his, and then wait to see what thoughts or
sentiments arise in my mind or heart, as if to match with the expression.
—Edgar Allen Poe, “The Purloined Letter”
[Enter CLEOPATRA(Queen of Egypt), CHARMIAN, IRAS, and ALEXAS(Cleopatra’s
CLEOPATRA: Where is he?
CHARMIAN: I did not see him since.
CLEOPATRA: See where he is, who’s with him, what he does:
I did not send you: if you find him sad,
Say I am dancing; if in mirth, report
That I am sudden sick: quick, and return.
CHARMIAN: Madam, methinks, if you did love him dearly,
You do not hold the method to enforce
The like from him.
CLEOPATRA: What should I do, I do not?
CHARMIAN: In each thing give him way, cross him nothing.
CLEOPATRA: Thou teachest like a fool; the way to lose him.
CHARMIAN: Tempt him not so too far; I wish, forbear:
In time we hate that which we often fear.
But here comes Antony.
[Enter MARK ANTONY(Cleopatra’s Lover)]
CLEOPATRA: I am sick and sullen.
MARK ANTONY: I am sorry to give breathing to my purpose,—
CLEOPATRA: Help me away, dear Charmian; I shall fall:
It cannot be thus long, the sides of nature
Will not sustain it.
MARK ANTONY: Now, my dearest queen, —
CLEOPATRA: Pray you, stand further from me.
MARK ANTONY: What’s the matter?
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------—William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra (Act 1 Scene 3, Line 1-18)
Japanese director Ozu Yasujiro’s (小津安二郎) words:
“In this world, people love to complicate the simplest matters. Things may appear
complicated, but who knows, the essence of life may be unexpectedly simple. That’s
what I aimed to express. It’s easy to create drama through emotions, crying and laughing
denote sadness or joy to the audience. However, that’s just an explanation. Even if
feelings are expressed, it doesn’t mean that the character’s personality or style has been
properly represented. For a long time, I have wanted to do away with all the dramatic
elements, to express sorrow without tears, to capture a sense of life without any intense
emotional upheaval. Since Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family(1950), I have striven
for this effect, but this approach is not easy to master. Late Autumn was acceptable but it
hadn’t completely attained that state yet.”
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