lesson learned.

Posted on January 29th, 2014 by

I am two days, 287 miles, one sea, and one plane ride removed from Dublin.

the stone & i

Sitting in a cramped 17-bed hostel room five minutes from King’s Cross station in London, I can’t help but miss the familiarity of our comparatively spacious and private rooms located conveniently in the heart of the city’s center. This being my first time out of the states, I’ve yet to find out what my three and a half weeks in Ireland mean to me. On our last day, as we waited for the bus to the airport, my answer to the query of what my favorite memory of Ireland would be was, “Ask me in a few months, then I’ll know.”

I do, however, have the beginnings of a solid appreciation of the education I received while in Ireland. Strangely, one of the best lessons I learned at the Gaiety School of Acting was to not act. Both acting coaches were adamantly against “acting”—in the sense that contorting your face and your body to spoon-fed audiences what your particular interpretation of the script may be is fairly counterproductive.  It is human nature to go against the grain, to have reluctance to do what someone tells you. In the theatre, audiences enjoy going on the journey prescribed by the playwright with the characters, as opposed to being told what the trip is by a bunch of people in costumes. They want to feel, wonder, reach, and get lost within a story, and as soon as an actor starts telling them exactly how and when to do all of that, there is a good chance that they’ll stop trying altogether.

The second significant idea that I acquired abroad was to trust the playwright beyond all. There is a reason it takes years to write a play, and a few short months to stage a production. Playwrights have already designed the text they struggled with for a copious amount of time to perfectly and subtly give an audience a specific experience. We learned this in particular while working on every Irish playwright we studied. Our instructors knew the pieces word for word, and would catch us nearly every time that we attempted to paraphrase or modernize the text. They would then reprimand us—but the point was clear: changing a word or two in a sentence can completely switch the idea that the character is trying to put forth. It may not be easy to memorize something word for word, but that is our job as actors.

I can’t place what Dublin has meant to me, but for the progress I have made and have seen in my fellow students at the Gaiety School of Acting over the past month, I am truly thankful. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

 

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