Monday, April 16, 2007

Actor Manifesto

Manifesto of the Perfect Art Form

Today's theater is in crisis. It has lost significance. To imagine a full powerful theater it must bring faith to humanity. We must rediscover a new language-on-theater. The new language-on-theater is not a parasite living on what society has built for Darwinian survival. It is a theater to reawaken our numbed sensibility by retracing the organicity on how to be human.

The new language-on-theater is an action and voice in rhythm. First of all, we must destroy the text crafted by the playwright that leaves room for only interpretation or the debatable logic of intellect. Theater is not possibly understood through studies of aesthetics or accomplished by persuading the actor into action.

Logical rational argument or reading of the text cannot create a theater. Theater must be composed of an intuitive re-action. Destroying the text, we destroy our enslavement to the text and text as a trap.

Non-scripted text is then chosen. The text must be a means for the actor to work on vibration in sound. The sound must vibrate in the actor's interior body, in the space and in the audience. All are apart of the vibrating zone.

Speech in rhythm carries a life force, resonates from the actor's body and mind, and reaches out to the space. Moving through the intellect logic of word meanings to break the language and create new senses and symbols by means of vocal vibration space is the guiding principle of the new theater.

This is the language that touches and activates the listener's heart and ear directly. Vocal vibration is almost a gentle attack. It is a way the actor shapes and shifts space through resonance without hesitation and fear. It is a search for a spatial language, for speech in rhythm that is musical and melodic called singing-ness.

The new language-on-theater is also a way of finding an action in rhythm. Word theatre has directed actors towards being not act-ors but word-ors. Thus creating a malformed body - almost a mummy. The actor must be a master of her own body to know her limit and to challenge the limits. The actor's physicality is to awaken both the internally and externally senses of the body which will awaken the whole intellect. It begins when the actor achieves an active state of vulnerability. No fear to expose herself to the space.

The actor's movement must come from the spine, the lower spine that controls the vertical praxis of the body. The movement must gain the property of returning to an initial form or a state following the deformation. Elasticity will return and must be capable of undergoing the continuous deformation without rupture or relaxation and a new plasticity will result. Within the new movement gained through elasticity and plasticity the actor must be a good friend of gravity and know how to play with it.

The action in rhythm is to know how to express the inner emotion and psyche externally. Not a reproducing of stereotypical gestures but a rigorous study of impulse, gesture, activity and movement in order to transform those into physical actions.

The understanding of the physical action is crucial because it is a vessel for the emotion, feeling or heart. A vessel for the emotion not a squeezing out, but rather, it is a stream of life visualized within a rhythm. When the actor rides on the stream of the physical acting score, the depth of emotion is present because of what the rhythm carries with it.

Jerzy Grotowski has shown that theater is not a representation of life any more but becomes "real." Theater is life. We must reject the mimics of life on theater. Actor's work can be recalling a memory of the past (such as Stanislavski's "as if"). However, it is by not representing the past today, which is inevitably a lie because there is no way to reproduce the exact same feeling of what we felt in the past. Rather, the actor creates a physical acting score that contains feelings about what has happened in the past now. In another words, the actor listens to the inner voice of the memory of the past and how it acts on her now, at present, while locating herself within the physical acting score as precisely as possible. An actor's action in rhythm vibrates in the space musically which is in dancing-ness. It is a search for a spatial movement.

An action and voice in rhythm is not about the action and voice itself but its vibration in the space because of what rhythm carries. Julia Kristeva's analysis on rhythm as rhyme points the actor to form plus theme equals content. Rhythm is intangible but precisely because of this, it is very concrete and strong and not easily broken. To gain virtuosity of action and voice in rhythm the actor must practice. There are no hidden secret or magical talents. In this respect, an action and voice in rhythm is about time. The actor develops an ability to unfold time in space.

It is a way that we can find our new way of language on theater. Not mimicry of life but the actor creates a resonance and response in space at the moment. It is a concrete development of dancing-ness and singing-ness. Dancing-ness is elasticity in physicality. Singing-ness is an elasticity of vocal vibration. Both are extensions of energy.

An actor rides on the rhythm, moves and sounds organically (even sensually) becomes very present. Because it is about work of time, it is not only a condition of now and here but also carries history in a sense that an actor leads history rather than chasing history. It is the moment where the actor's work links to tradition. The accumulated time becomes a palpitating rhythm of movement and sound. It is not a mimic of life as a representation but an on-going life within the new sensibilities which awaken history yet precede it.

The new language-on-theater which is action and voice in rhythm is an actor's work springing from the limit of being human. The very recognition of the limit challenges the actor to move beyond herself transcending. The actor feels free only when she is in theater working. The actor sublimates her pain into a sacred ritual only when she is in theater working. The actor knows herself fully only when she is in theater working. The actor accepts the world and enters a generous full-hearted state only when she is in theater working.

This act of theater finally recovers the faith in humanity and earns the respect in human dignity. The new language-on-theater is never a fixed result but is constantly in-process. Only then, theater becomes not an escape from life but a revolutionary revelation.

Ae Ran Jeong (written for Failure in Performance class / New York / September 16, 2005)