SCTV’s Bobby Bitman used to say, “As a comic, in all seriousness”. Perhaps I should say, “As an actor, in all sincerity …” because, of course, acting is the opposite of sincerity in the same way that comedy is the opposite of seriousness.
But that’s not really true. Good acting is authentic or sincere at a very basic level. Within the framework of the Secondary Reality or Sub-creation of the drama, good acting must be true. An actor is pretending, and he does not “become” the character in any real sense, except within the confines of the story. And, as any actor will tell you, the nuances of a character don’t fall into place until you “get it”, until you get in character, until you act the part from the inside-out. Until then, it’s very difficult in rehearsal to approach a character from the outside-in. Sometimes the outside trappings of a role – accents or posture or even costumes and make-up – will help an actor adopt that role, but what they help with is the “internalization” of the role. Real acting happens when you identify with the character. Once that happens, all of the character’s quirks and nuances make sense. An odd line or motivation or moment that frustrated you in rehearsal may fit into place and make complete sense once you “get in character” and find the key, the truth from which the character operates, the inner reality that makes all of the character’s actions a coherent whole.
Elsewhere I’ve written how this is an analogy for living the Christian Faith. But it’s really an analogy for more than just that.
Behind what we do is who we are. Behind our lines is our character. Behind the character is the actor who acts the part. But in many ways we lose sight of this.
Most people live on the level of appearances. The essence that the appearances signify, the hidden truth that motivates what we do, the reality behind the bluff, the truth behind the show – we are uncomfortable with this. We prefer the doxa, the conventional, the external, the outward to the inward. Even in our faith. Perhaps especially in our faith.
We are almost never reminded that Christ brings ontological change. The way from baptism to resurrection is a way of the cross, a death and rebirth. But we don’t want that. We’d rather fake it with bad hymns and all the trappings that help us keep our faith safely on the surface. We may not crucify Jesus, but we don’t go with Him when he says, “Come, follow me” because we are afraid of what we may find. We are afraid of the cross and the reality it brings. We’d prefer to be bad actors, phoning in our parts and cashing the check. And so the last thing we do is imitate Christ at the basic level of our every day existence. Anything but that. Anything but being honest when it’s not advantageous to be, being chaste even when every sex act on earth is a mouse click away, being conscientious when it’s easier to slack off.
And yet acting this role from the inside-out is the great drama of our lives.