By Tiago Lameiras
Actor Being: A Role in Mankind is an essay on Theater Arts, but not quite stricto sensu, as it may sound firsthand. Though related to the actor, who is now all the more renowned as a «performer», in detriment of a «player», the goal here is to figure out the Thespian artist’s place and influence in Human race itself.
Allow me to demonstrate in detail what each chapter is about:
Merely an introduction, only not labeled as such, this section presents the reader with what they are about to read, already cautioning them of what it means to be a Homo Sapiens, i.e. that we are sage, indeed, but not always toward a common welfare, turning irreducibly hedonistic and individualistic, which, unfortunately, is a condition which seriously affects both the ways of life and outer image of the actor.
As mentioned above, in the abstract, this chapter refers to when and how actors came to be and what their relevance in Grecian public life of Antiquity was. It also highlights the several Western and Near-Eastern mythology that inspired Man to start producing Literature and fearing for his life if he did not choose the path of the righteous, which would be shown not only in Greece, but later on in Rome, especially as a Republic and then as an Empire. Both catharsis and pathos were always the educational purposes of the ancient tragediographers.
Here, we take a look at the continuance of History, speaking of Rome and Horace’s Ars Poetica, focusing as well on intellectual tyranny, which forbade Theater from rising from its ashes, after the Empire’s conversion to Christendom, claiming it was an art form casting the people astray, though the real intention was again educational, by making them think about their condition as peasants and how they should acquire the taste for knowledge, therefore defying the darkness in which clergymen were casting them, thriving in an unmistakable authority over everyone and everything, including kings themselves, who decided to institute the Holy Inquisition within the borders of their realms, so as to keep their relations with the Holy See fruitful. One of the best examples illustrating these events is the story of Hypatia of Alexandria.
Because educated acting is so important, from hereon we take a look at the several esthetics dedicated to teaching actors how to perform according to renowned theorists, namely Denis Diderot, which means the beginning is set in the Enlightenment period, moving all the way to Stanislavsky’s so-called Naturalist method, though we emphasize the director never intended to create any methodologies (at least, not from a scientific point of view). Considering this is an essay, we simulate other possibilities, checking their respective feasibility.
Though Symbolism is previous to Naturalism in an orderly fashion, we decided to save it for this chapter, especially due to its radical properties, taken it is an extreme movement in Theater Arts. We mention Alfred Jarry and his dramaturgical partner Maurice Maeterlinck, together with Eastern perspectives, namely Jerzy Grotowsky, who too changed his point of view drastically over the years, and Vsevolod Meyerhold, with his Biomechanics. As an actual form of «Manifest», Erwin Piscator must not be forgotten, as he was the one truly founding Political Theater, from which Bertolt Brecht worked on his Epic version of drama, often making metaphors out of his plays. In short, when tyranny seems to be a victor in Europe, we explain how actors and directors willing to protest intend to bring down dictators, of which Adolf Hitler is a priority.
Instead of sticking to one acting style or endorsing a single kind of dramaturgy, we take a look at how transcendence could change the theoretical definition of each kind of play, if performers actually do find the need to have their spectacle’s basis on one.
Indeed, becoming an actor does comprise suffering slight consequences. With the help of a few fictional references, though based on concrete cases, we explain how pressure may be dealt with when building an acting career. Of course, we would not think of performers as saviors of Humanity to be treated so kindly they would be considered a lot more important than any other human being. That is in fact the point, the actor’s role in Mankind is one of uniting, not segregating. But this essay is about him, so it is the stress featured in the industry we focus on, in this case. Sometimes, it is more than that we need to face as performing artists. There are four essential kinds of abuse toward men and women still put into practice nowadays. Just because you do not intend to respect someone’s physical integrity, does not mean you should have people know of it, it counts as a crime all the same and as a new low against our values as humans.
As a follow-up to the previous chapter, «Backlash» shows live testimonials on how actresses, especially, were harassed in the beginning of their career and how they regret not having turned their prospective agents in, for their morality’s sake. There is also a word on how being the exact opposite, chivalrous, is considered to be a tender form of machismo by some feminists.
Extras do not benefit from legal defense all around the world. Their situation is slightly better in America, but in other evolved, first-world countries, having a union is not enough if legislation shows no intention of protecting culturally relevant people for a nation’s image, in comparison with the international community. Those differences are stressed here.
Artists are supposed to be sensitive, understand the world around them from an unusually different paradigm, in order to find beauty in grotesque, and grotesque in beauty. It takes learning, dedication and, obviously, innate sensibility. However, and despite all these qualities, Art industrialists may sometimes take young, struggling actors for marionettes or puppets which can be easily manipulated into doing whatever they please. This is not how it should be done.
Mimesis is not just a question of imitating or impersonating. And neither is solely the basis of Theater. We are bound to it since birth, as it is the only way to grow up accordingly, by miming others around us, usually family or other kinds of legal guardians. Though we possess hereditary features, some others are acquired. Whichever the origin, we must always put an effort into becoming reliable human beings so we may trust each other and work conjointly toward progress. The main message to retrieve from Theater Arts is exactly one that can show us all the path. That is the ultimate place for an actor in all of Humanity.
This essay is meant to be read primarily by professionals, but it also contains educational material that would fit students’ needs, as if they read it out of their own free will, much more can be acquired in order to become better prepared professionals in the future, as if another possible title for it could be something like Artistic Propaedeutic – Preparing the Performer, only we have already seen a few titles in our lifetime similar to that. Placing the actor in the whole of Mankind and finding his purpose is an entirely different matter.
Any scholar wishing to use this oeuvre as part of a course curriculum is also welcome, as I, myself, could go for with my own students, should they empathize with the suggestion. Freedom in Education is the main goal we must all achieve, so as to choose what we really want for ourselves and how we can make civilization better.
The best fields of study for this essay to be used in are the Performing Arts in general, together with Film and a few sectors of Communication, such as Public Speech and Rhetoric.
A lot of scholars do not consider artistry as having such a useful purpose in life that is not entertainment or food for thought regarding only the most sensational thematic exposed by the news. Theater, Film and Television also require sufficient autonomy to present important issues people should think about without having been previously exhausted by the media, so a lot more research should be done considering this matter.