14 February 2006

"Whatever is in any way beautiful hath its source of beauty in itself, and is complete in itself; praise forms no part of it. So it is none the worse nor the better for being praised. "

Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations, IV, 20

I love that quote. But not as much as I love praise. I'll be honest. Few things in life give me as much satisfaction as being praised. And therein lies the problem: I think I may also be some sort of praise-junkie....what psychologists might call a codependant personality. What makes matters worse, is the fact that I'm an actor, of all things. Now, I don't think of myself as an artiste, but I certainly believe that what I do requires more than just training.

The problem, I believe, is that the praise has become such an integral part of my experience as an actor, that it has ceased to be a motivating force, and become something I view as my right. Which is not only wrong, but problematic on several levels.

For one, I've become really terse about taking direction, especially because I think most of the people who give me such direction have no bloody idea what they're on about. I hate it when another "actor", who merely started acting because he had a good speaking voice, starts directing me in the middle of a session (which I guess is fair enough, because it's none of his fucking business to direct me. That's what the director is there for). Still, there's a massive arrogance within me because I get that agitated about it. Where do I get off having the stones to decide what people should and shouldn't direct me? So what if I've trained as a professional actor at one of the best drama schools in the world? Does that training make me a better actor than another person? Does the fact that I have vocal technique on my side mean anything? Why am I being such a snob?

On the other hand, I think that the level of "drama" in Jordan is beyond piss poor. And thankfully, a lot of people agree with me about that, namely, the new breed of what i like to call the "Jordanian Acting Renaissance" (ok, it's not original, but it gets the message across); they agree that acting is horrible, as is direction, production, writing, etc. Ever seen a Jordanian soap/drama? I rest my case.

But there's a glimmer of hope: My kids' shows are often interesting, because the kids love them, and even though none of their teachers even look me in the eye when I'm done (usually), the sight of a hundred kids lining up to shake my hand at the end when I'm drenched in sweat is a victory like no other... it even alleviates the pain of my own co-workers not giving me as much as a tap on my shoulder for a job well done.
My drama school handbook actually has a note about how an actor should always respect his or her audience. "Your audience does not need you, but you need your audience. Do not be rude to them. There is no such thing as a difficult audience. If they are not receptive, that means you have to work harder."

In part, I totally agree with that statement, yet I also disagree with it totally. I have been taught that the performing place is sacrosanct. The audience should at least respect the actors while they are performing, and not smoke, eat, drink, chat to each other, or talk on the phone while a play is in progress....that's just common decency...basic manners. But some members of my audience have done that. And I wish I could say it was just the kids: Sometimes, it's their teachers who do all this while a play is in progress. Teachers for crying out loud! Those who should be setting a positive example!

Anyway, rant aside, I think that apart from being rude, this is perhaps due to the fact that they just don't know how to behave in a theatre. Still, it's pretty disconcerting when you're trying your best to concentrate on a hundred different things onstage and having two teachers in the third row gaily chatting away about god knows what. How can you work harder when that happens? How can you maintain character?

So, for those of you who've got completely lost, the whole idea is to juxtapose Marcus Aurelius's quote (which is really about subjectivity in judging things) with both my experiences in theatre, and my opinions of acting in Jordan. Feedback welcome. Oh, and before you call me an arrogant bastard, be aware that I totally agree with that statement.

Thus endeth another rant.


Anonymous said...

arrogant bastard

Ohoud said...

Anonymous: hmm, you could have at least come up with something more creative:D

Anyway, reflecting on the subject I dont think you're arrogant, its totally natural to expect respect in ones work, praise included.Its an instinct to feel the urgency to be acknowledged.

I agree with the quote to some extent, since its all bound to the human being also. Some Will accept the praise and stay the way they are not bettering themselves, others might take advantage of that praise and better theirselves maybe for more praise? maybe for self satisfaction? but at the end the praise will have the negative or positive effect of either feeling full of oneselve and staying at the same point one started with or taking the praise as a new starting point!

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there".Anonymous

Roba said...

I may agree with the quote but from my own perspective (which is very different from yours)- my favorite art movements are dadaism and pop art, both of which celebrate the anti-'art', which thus sort of negates the whole idea of praise. This is a very intimate issue to me though that I won't go into...