Escaping the default – in acting and in life.

Excellent exploration!

Max Hafler - Radiating /Receiving

Not long ago I was working as director/ teacher with an otherwise highly promising young actor when in an emotionally intense moment in a scene, something happened. Her eyes went soft and wet, and she looked vulnerable. Her body became tense, and she looked stuck, lost in some kind of feeling . She was clearly feeling emotional but it was completely inappropriate for the role or for the moment. I stopped the scene and asked her what she was doing. She said she didn’t know. I told her I had seen that look from her before both in class and in performance. She told me with a smile that it was her ‘default’ . I had never heard this term before used in this context but it seemed completely appropriate.

What is the default? Well we could call it a ‘trick’ or a ‘habit’ but it is much more…

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Theatre is not about plays.                                          Theatre is about playing.

The theatre does not exist to serve plays.                   Theatre exists to serve the players.

Players do not need plays.                                          Plays need players.

Plays cannot Improvise.                                              Players can improvise.­

Plays cannot mime.                                                      Players can mime.

Plays tell stories.                                                         Players experience stories.


The actor does not pretend to be anyone.                   The actor experiences being someone.

The audience is not a target for the actor’s art.          The actor’s art is the target for the audience.

The art of acting is not in performing.                         The art of performing is in the acting.

The actor does not perform for the audience.              The audience experiences with the actor.


The actor does not rely on talent.                                The actor enjoins the forces of aptitude, aesthetics, and scholarship. [Meyerhold]

The actor cannot impose his ‘Self’ on any role.                                      The actor is not bound by laws of common morality or any catechism. [Grotowski]

The actor does not seek to perpetuate the status quo.           The actor remains independent of all traditional and mainstream performance conventions. [Meyerhold]

The actor does not give in to self-indulgence.              The actor’s art is founded on the free interaction of the actor and the spectator. [Meyerhold]

The actor does not seek to create a ‘bag-of-tricks’.      The actor explores all forms and means of human expression separately. [Meyerhold]

The actor does not limit the scope of his art.              The actor integrates all aspects of acting and theatre in the strongest theatre conventions of Occidental and Oriental theatre history. [Meyerhold]

The actor never believes his work is finished.           The actor approaches all work with a fully open mind and is always ready to acquire new knowledge and skills.

The actor does not look for the ‘easy way’.   The actor is always ready to venture outside what is comfortable.

The actor does not look for what is safe.      The actor is always ready to risk what is frightening.

The actor does not look for the simplest way.          The actor is always willing to fail.



A Rant!

The continuing event of human-evolution is the adding-to, or the application of layers of experience and knowledge to that which has gone before. It does not entail, nor require, nor demand, the replacement of that which ‘is’ with something freshly-minted.

However, to add something new as a layer of understanding to that which ‘is’ becomes a positive evolutionary act that leaves us seeing what is ‘new’ in terms of what has gone before.

Human-devolution, on the other hand, notwithstanding anything in the credo of Michael A. Cremo, is a negative event which relinquishes entirely all that has evolved and been learned, in order to substitute it with that which is simply a desired notion.

Perhaps I am a Utopian Pessimist… the only other possibility I could imagine would be that I am an Altruistic Misanthrope… but watching an ever increasing wodge of humankind chasing their own blue-arses around the world demanding ‘Respect!’, generates my own, proportionately growing, disrespect for that same wodge.

In Yorkshire, one would often encounter the expression… ‘There’s nowt queerer than folk!’, and if one takes the trouble to take a good look about one’s world, one sees abundant evidence of superficial layers of affected behaviour dominating each of these folks perception of reality, to the extent that what actually exists becomes entirely invalidated.   Surely, what is ‘actual’ cannot simply cease to exist, but simply become ‘out of mind’… invisible, as it were, playing no part in the perceived-reality of the individual… a perceived-reality which is, in essence, a lie.

It is extremely easy to wallow in such a self-designed, saccharin world and many do, to the exclusion of all that is actual, with the ‘Great Lie’ being the very denial of its existence. What sticks in my craw is the way that this ever increasing wodge of blue-arsed humankind demands that their ‘Great Lie’ be treated with the utmost ‘Respect!’ or face the consequences.

It is often said that a lie told often enough soon becomes accepted as the truth… so are lies and truth simply different expressions of the same thing?

Picasso once said… “Art is the lie that reveals the truth.” Is he in fact suggesting that the lie is in reality the Truth?

“Hell is other people.” says Garcin… he could well be speaking specifically of that ever increasing wodge of blue-arsed humankind.

“Well, well, let’s get on with it.”


An Acting Teacher’s Lament — (with apologies to Thomas Hardy)

“I Sometimes Think “

I sometimes think as here I sit
Of things I have done,
Which seemed in doing not unfit
To face the sun:
Yet never a soul has paused a whit
On such-not one.

There was that eager strenuous press
To sow good seed;
There was that saving from distress
In the nick of need;
There were those words in the wilderness:
Who cared to heed?

Yet can this be full true, or no?
For one did care,
And, spiriting into my house, to, fro,
Like wind on the stair,
Cares still, heeds all, and will, even though
I may despair.

In empathy, Dr.E.

Ah me!

Without a Past a Future cannot be in minds of Men.
Without a Future, Past is but a long-gone fading Pen.
The Present is but all there is, it’s spark too briefly spent.
So, what of Hope and Love and Joy, their memory gone, what then?
To dream, awaken and return whence no-one ever went?
One moment follows moment, ’tis how a life is led
Along a path without a tread, the mindless seek a bed .

‘You are only as good as your last job’

Isn’t it true that the constantly evolving and subjective nature of the ‘Beast’ [i.e., Theatre], creates an ever-changing environment within which every practitioner struggles to find success and/or fulfillment and, irrespective of one’s own convictions, success or failure in the world of Theatre can, and will, be judged from many different perspectives that are often completely at odds with each other.
The crux of the matter lies in the issue of what constitutes ‘Success’ and ‘Fulfillment’, which in and of themselves are highly personal and subjective entities which can, and should, only be defined by the individual concerned. They are made up of personal objectives which should only be defined and governed by your own, true desires and expectations, and neither be influenced nor affected by any outside influences whatsoever… this is extremely difficult to achieve of course and will demand difficult choices of you.

The level and quality of these expectations will be determined by the choices you make.

In the west we theatricals have a dictum, amongst many others, by which we work… ‘You are only as good as your last job’. By which it is meant that one needs to ALWAYS strive to make each job the absolute very best piece of work that one can possibly achieve, regardless of circumstances. Making compromises in a job of work, for whatever reason, will inevitably diminish the quality of the resultant ‘Job’, and it is this ‘result’ which will be judged by others and define the quality of your work from their perspectives. What may be considered a major artistic success from one may well be considered an abysmal failure from. But this ‘result’ will, if you are honest with yourself and you allow it, also defines your work in terms of your own choices, and this is what really matters in the end.
It all comes down to the choices you make.
The first and biggest choice to make is to determine from what perspective you want your work to be judged?