Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


Great Actors Don't Act

Laird Family Estate, Oak Knoll Appellation, Napa Valley, California, USA

January 16, 2016



This essay, Great Actors Don't Act, is the companion piece to Stars.



Great actors don't act.

Really they don't. That's the paradox (indeed, that's the enigma)  with great actors: great actors are actors who don't act. It's true. When you can tell actors are acting, they're merely hams. But when they don't  act (which is to say when you can't tell  they're acting), that's when they're being the part. And it's when they're being the part that we all recognize what truly great actors they are, deeming their performances worthy of Tonys  and Oscars. If you're going to be a great actor, you have to be the part. Conversely if you're going to be  the part, you can't be acting  the part (if you do, it only gets in the way). Great actors be - they don't act.

Now here's a thing about we human beings even though we're never really overt about it: we love being. We're in awe of it. When we see it in others, we're attracted to it - even if we can't articulate exactly what it is we're attracted to. We're mesmerized by it - without even fully realizing what it is we're witnessing. We love being, so much so that we put it on the stage - which is to say we put it (in spite of knowing better) on a pedestal. We love watching being. We love watching people being. We've loved being, and we've loved watching people being, as long as we've been on the planet.

The sublime pastime of being on stage and of watching being (which is to say the sublime art of theatre  and all other forms of the performing arts) shows up in all cultures known to man throughout all the ages. Although its personalized expression differs (even if only subtlely) from culture to culture, the performing arts and the bringing forth of being, is an internationally admired craft, a constantly and universally revered artform.

What's also true is we don't always readily distinguish that the value we get from the performing arts (which is to say what we love about the performing arts), is being. And neither is it always readily distinguished that the greatest actors are those who bring forth being by not acting. However I assert if you look at the special place acting and the performing arts occupy in our lives, this is what underlies it and keeps us fascinated with it, and has kept us fascinated with it for centuries.

We love watching masters of being (which is to say we love watching great actors who aren't acting) because in watching masters of being, we gain insight into and access to our own being (given it's one of the great mysteries of our lives as human beings  that being  itself should be so illusive). This transference  (if you will) isn't an intellectual phenomenon: it happens directly and spontaneously by osmosis  when we're in the presence of great actors, so much so that when it happens, we may not even be aware it's happening. And if you consider the croesian  going rate for great actors ie for masters of being, you'll notice exactly how much we prize ie how much we're willing to pay for watching the art of bringing forth being, and for making being accessible.
Werner's work provides direct access to being. Indeed, we could say more than merely provide direct access to being, Werner's work is  direct access to being. It's so effective at this, that it's become the basis for The World Is Your Stage, a workshop specifically designed for actors. What I found interesting about participating in this workshop is I, someone who has no aspirations to be an actor (or even to be an actor who doesn't act) got being  from it. What that speaks to me is how Werner's work provides something which is secondarily clearly of interest to great actors, yet is primarily also valuable and useful to everyone ie to all people across the board.



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