This blog post is from 2009-July-07. However, what it is about is from 2001, or so. I had found a scrap of paper with some advice to the actor on it. These notes are probably from Sabin Epstein. If so, they are certainly guidance to actors in Tony Kushner’s “Illusion.” Are there exceptions to these rules? Of course. (Honestly can one think of a good rule that doesn’t have some sort of exception some where? Don’t answer that) Anyway, I find these to be good for actors and designers of theatre, and probably directors too!
Advice to Actors
I was cleaning out some old theatre records and found a set of notes partially typed from the director, and partially notes I took (I’m sure from the directors speech). Anyway, as I thought the notes were particularly inspiring to those who work in theatre, so I’m reproducing them. I suspect (from other notes I’m not including here) that the director was Sabin Epstein
When Speaking on Stage:
1. Stress not the negative. “No” and “not” are almost never operative. The operative word is instead, the word that is being negated. “Go not till you hear from me.” “I love thee not; therefore pursue me not.”
2. Verbs of being are never operative. The operative words are the words that explain the kind of quality of being. “I am happy.” “He is my brother.”
3. Avoid stressing pronouns whenever it is possible to do so (“he” “she” “it” etc.). Whenever there is any alternative that makes sense use it. This includes possessive (“His” “Her” etc.)
4. Possessive nouns are never less important than the word the possess (“My father’s house.”)
5. Articles (“a” “an” and “the”) prepositions (“to” “from” “on” “in” etc.) and conjunctions (“and “but” and “or”) are never operative. They contain no images, but serve to show the relationships between images. Find the words with the images.
6. Adjectives and adverbs are treated as part of the noun or the verb they modify. The key operative word is the noun or verb, with the adjective or adverb incorporated in the images as a modifier.
7. An image that is repeated is not operative. What is operative is any new quality that is added in the repetition. This is called repetitive contrast. Stress the new information.
My hand written notes
Follow the text. Every choice made on the production must be based on the text.
Focus on nouns and action verbs.
Find the action
What is reality? What is illusion? That is the nature of the question of theatre.
Love is often both the sickness and the cure.
Pain is always more interesting anger.