Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Playback Tuesday: Research

I finally finished the Harriet Tubman biography I had been working on since before Christmas. I know, it's not a play, but believe it or not my Harriet Tubman biography is related to the nature of the biz. As an actor, research is an integral part of any role. My ultimate goal when portraying a character isn't to necessarily be an expert in any one aspect of a character's life, but to come as close as I can to understanding a character and their motivations (I often fall grievously short but it's good to set high standards). When you think about it that's actually a rather daunting and difficult job. I have a difficult time just trying to analyze myself and my own "character" motivations.

Acting, in of itself, can be rather humorous to think about at first. One individual attempting to portray another individual. I use the word portray intentionally, because imitating is a word that I've found to be rather irksome. I want to do more than imitate, which implies this almost outward understanding of character. I want to know (or at least try to know) as much about a character's inner workings as possible. The funny thing about characters and human beings is that the knowledge and understanding that I attempt to pin down is impossible. Understanding seems to be much more fluid a concept so that there is always something more to know or add. Always some new place for the character to grow or expand.

I also find that there is a particular challenge added when portraying someone who actually existed in "real life." The excitment of knowing that the story being told actually happened. The scenes being played now may have been played out many years before. And even if those scenes weren't played out in exactly the same way it is interesting to ponder the possible similarities.

I read this biography in hopes of further understanding a character whom I had heard about, but never really took the time to discover. In earlier posts a discussion popped up in the comment section about heroism and what makes a hero. Whether or not tragic misgivings were needed to highlight the eventual rise (or decline of a hero). I am still not sure about the answer to that, but I am discovering that the more I learn about iconic individuals of the past their "humanness" seems to manifest itself in curious ways. Flaws, personal strife, or misgivings seem to, in an odd way, bypass the passage of time to create bridges connecting their stories to my own.

I must remember in the future not to ignore the power of the biography when it comes to film, theatre, and television. Many a successful production has come from such stories. I guess in the in end I am always taken aback by the power of the written word, and I am extremely grateful that I began Playback Tuesday as a way to force myself to read more.

As much as I love the biography, next Playback Tuesday I will reenter the world of plays. A good two (maybe three) week hiatus is long enough.

Harriet Tubman: Portrait of An American Hero
Kate Clifford Larson

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