Friday, February 10, 2012

My 4 states

I'm taking a class right now that is kind of tying together my life. It's an improv-based class, but it's really focused on being emotionally big and believable on camera in the way all the Christopher Guest films are, and in a lesser way (or greater way, depending on your opinion), like Will Ferrell's movies.

We are working heavily on the commedia d'el arte notion of the four emotional states: Happy, sad, fear and anger. Man oh man, are we delving deeply into these! This is a great time for me to actually be revisiting this construct from my clown training a few years ago at the Portland Actors Conservatory.

The thing I'm finding is that for me and most of the other people in my class, fear and anger are the easiest to delve into. My personal thought is that it has something to do with the fact that we're all actors in LA, so we have plenty of reasons to be fearful and angry.

Three weeks ago I had a great breakthrough in another class where I had to play a scene in a hospital room with my dying mother (within the class rehearsal space). After some guided talk, I was fully in the reality of the moment and it was an amazing experience! It felt so real to me there was zero "acting" and 100% being. I have not been able to recreate that deep connection since then, but my overall realization was that to be an actor you have to be willing to put your loved ones in danger, at least emotionally and in the same part of your imagination that believes dreams are reality.

After thinking about that connection I have with the states of sadness, fear and anger, it intrigues me that the one state I find the hardest to go fully into is happiness. Apparently I'm not alone in this, it was consistently the most difficult for most people in class. The one state people strive for the most is the one that is hardest to get into.

While this one class is tying together all my training and stretching my muscles, the real question I am carrying with me is why happiness is so elusive. If I can get into the other emotional states with relatively little effort, why is happiness so elusive? Maybe I'm extrapolating too far out of bounds, but here I am searching for the answer to one of those big life questions. That in itself is an exciting and scary place to be.

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