Acting is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Don’t get me wrong, I love every minute of it and I find no greater joy than that which is afforded me through creating art. But my many years of adherence to the stagecraft has provided me a realization that my art, like so many, is a struggle with forces internal and external. It is a battle to resist that which is false and easy in favor of that which is true and arduous. I say this because, contrary to what caricatures have been illustrated for us, acting is not make-believe. In fact, it is far removed from the realm of pretend. True acting is true life. That is, acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances. Though I have always held this truth somewhere in my spirit, it did not become so clearly and beautifully articulated until my time at Christian Brothers University.
I must admit I never anticipated saying such a thing. Theatre at CBU is as minimalist as it gets. Look to our productions for evidence. The Turn of the Screw (2011): Two actors, no sets or props. Almost, Maine (2012): Very minimal scene changes with props and costumes from home. Even our upcoming production of Private Eyes (running from 31 Oct. – 3 Nov.) has only two small set pieces and a table borrowed from Canale Café. Austerity has its upside, however. Often lost in the extravagance and proverbial “glitter in the eyes” of a lot of college-level productions, acting takes center stage at CBU.
The theatre program has nurtured my creative lifestyle, and I have Matthew Hamner, professor of Speech and Acting at CBU, to thank for my revelations and discoveries in acting. His ability as an educator and experience as an actor himself allows for something unique and coveted among those studying the craft: a chance to work with the Sanford Meisner approach to acting. It was Sanford Meisner’s philosophy that actors “live truthfully under imaginary circumstances,” and that philosophy was passed to Hamner by his instructor Larry Silverberg. I cannot further explain here the ideas and techniques behind the philosophy, but instead reiterate the effectiveness and genuineness of it. My ongoing studies in acting under Hamner at CBU have placed me, sudden and welcome, in the realm of all those who have learned precisely what I am studying: Sandra Bullock. Gregory Peck. Robert Duvall. Steve McQueen, to name a few.
Living truthfully is not easy, even in our daily lives. We often think we know how we will react to certain situations based on past behaviors and based on things we witness and file away every day. This is simply not the case. None of us knows exactly how we could react to anything. This is where acting holds the potential to teach us about life: that all our behaviors, all our emotions hold unexpected and hidden, sometimes explosive capabilities that we know very little to nothing about. That is why people come to the theatre.