Tag Archives: theater

Constructing/Discovering Life’s Meaning Through Encounter With the Other

Welcome to my very first post. Since I intend for my writing here to engender — and to be part of — a larger conversation, it seemed that the best place to start was with a response.

The blog post below —
http://chadglazener.com/2010/05/03/characterization-and-moral-development-some-critiques-of-michael-stauffer/

— and the cited journal article that is its focus (http://www.wheaton.edu/CACE/resources/onlinearticles/faithandtheater.pdf) — pick up some of the major themes I wish to be at the core of my own exploration and reflection for this new blog of mine, “kidmoot.”

The main argument under consideration (which might seem obvious to any artist or lover or art) — and that has fascinated me for much of my life, especially given my own history as an actor and a rabbi — is this: The work an actor undertakes to bring a scripted character to life on the stage involves a process of self-discovery that not only can yield compelling, beautiful, and transformative art — ideally, holding “the mirror up to nature” and exploring and expressing truths about humanity and the world; the process can also transform the actor himself, elevating his own spirit and his encounter with holiness. Specifically, as the Stauffer article seeks to express, the actor can cultivate his own virtue, his own “character” — in the moral use of the term.

As Chad seeks to do in the post linked above and in other entries on his blog, I would also like both to unpack the various assumptions and understandings about the theatrical process that are involved in this idea and also to push the idea into a more explicitly theological direction.

For starters, I am intrigued by the essential caveat that actors remember that they do not and cannot completely “become” the characters they are portraying. An element of detached self-consciousness must remain for the actor as he juggles a duality of identities: one, while “real,” he seeks to largely negate in his effort to embody the “other,” which is ultimately not his “reality” — that he is going to (mostly) leave behind at the end of the performance. Stauffer argues for the actor bringing as much as possible from the character portrayal into his true self, while Chad is more cautious about such an approach. I believe we all agree, though, that the actor has a golden opportunity to learn something new about himself that can indeed endure and that has value beyond simply the performance.

As I continue to explore this and many related ideas, I will return regularly to the theology of relationship developed by Martin Buber in his concept of “I-You.” It seems that one key philosophical component to the actor’s work is to enter into an I-You relationship with his character. Such a process will, if we apply Buber’s perspective, preserve the distinctiveness of the actor’s and character’s identities. But the actor most certainly will grow as a real human being, while the identity of his artistic creation/discovery/interpretation will as well. Of course, the actor then has the chance to facilitate an I-You relationship between his character and the empathic audience-member — and so the chain of relational influence continues.

I have barely scratched the surface of my ideas on this topic — in response to the two pieces I’ve cited and certainly in terms of the larger set of concepts I will continue to address here. This entry is just the beginning. I will return soon to continue.