Posts Tagged ‘Craig Horner’

Stranger ethics and fuzzy thinking phobia

June 14, 2014

I feel so tired of hearing harshness in ironies, and my own writing registers as flippant to me in spite of it, but I’m beginning to hope it will fade out – when I think out loud the sound of my own voice is less unbearably pointed, and yet it’s confusing to look at the kinds of thoughts that seem to be helping my feelings resolve away from the jagged-edged sounding sense of disgust with my options for confronting the world as I see it.

That’s part of the reason I pulled back some earlier blog entries about the domestic violence case a public prosecutor brought against my mother. I’ve now heard that the charges against her were dropped and she’s interested in resuming contact with me, after several months of avoidance. I hadn’t realized until then how badly I wanted a conviction even if she was only sentenced to anger management counseling again. Her sense of impunity frightens me.

The things I end up having said somehow seem to jostle the barbs of fear and anger at the same time, I can’t look at my own words or hear my own tone of expressing what I’m angry about without hearing the same cruel habits in myself, yet I don’t know how to demand change of myself. Apart from violating Wizard’s Eighth Rule and becoming a vegetarian.

Maybe I’m just too tired to trust willing change to matter and that makes it easier to imagine it’s a different kind of problem, not a grounds for capitulating to the way things are – a desire to resist a sign of failure to understand the real, a failure to apprehend the truth as straightforward as a bad grade in physics.

I sound like a hypocrite to myself. Misery loves company but when your unhappiness is disorienting, you know better than to take the idea of reducing anyone else to grief and confusion lightly, if they listened hard enough to be hurt by what you had to say for yourself.

Fears feed each other, not in a metaphysical way I don’t think, it’s as simple as associational logic underpinning all the unreflecting habits that make up a susceptibility to attentional bias.

Any strong sense of alarm heightens your alertness to everything else that has come to mind lately that is frightening, and then your concrete perceptions about just those things that frighten you dwarf the other things you already know, and even if one fear can be resolved you look from one to another and it’s far too easy to feel overwhelmed.

Lies are so easy to blame people for, so complete in the harm they seem to do, it’s easy to feel undone by mistrust of your own ability to tell what’s going on. And putting names to feelings when you’re that unsure feels like inviting other people to listen when you know your intuition feels unreliable.

But you wouldn’t reject a reassuring lie that worked for you, if you knew fear was what was keeping you disoriented, no matter what rabbit hole it led down. You’re reduced to that, willingness to believe anything that differs from the sum of all fears, even if it’s a twisting around of whether something confronting you is to be feared, as if what you feared for could be devalued in a way that would help.

dead_parrot

When you’re prone to black and white thinking that seems like too much, you look for other explanations for the way you feel even if there are none coherent enough to hang on to.

Perception is the credible threat – not Cartesian anxiety about whether I am there, but a totalizing sense of contingency about how revisable I am as a person who has an identity drawn up by way of self-awareness as well as actual habits and traits of which I may be less entirely aware.

Look at informal credit, and the way people use numbers as if they didn’t know better for ambiguity and indirection about social distance, the absolute value of informal credit ratings, with a give and take measured in price information asymmetry in the sense of access to gossip, always partial in both senses of the word. Walter Bagehot, founding editor of The Economist, was good at explaining that sort of everyday micro-economics. I named a beagle after him for putting a positivist spin on the dismal science.

Part of what I’m struggling with is fuzzy thinking phobia. Fuzzy thinking is how we get through unscripted parts of our lives, but it is rather a lot to face if your biggest fear is being misunderstood and that fear applies to even concrete details of your identity and memories, whereas in real life there isn’t time to so much as verify the verifiable, let alone make your case for what you can’t corroborate with external evidence beyond the integrity of your own testimony.

This is partly why I am so fond of The Legend of the Seeker. Craig Horner interprets Richard Cypher’s distaste for magic as a preference for dealing with tools and threats that are tangible and concrete rather than deceptive and mysterious. This validates my reluctance to allow experts to tell me this or that is merely psychosomatic pain, or that threat perceptions can be chalked up to catastrophizing just because they’re recurrent and inconvenient to redress.

I was a runaway as a kid, but I never got far, and eventually my plans for running became a joke even to me, a comment on the fact that hell is other people but foraging isn’t a viable alternative to life where there is nowhere to run. What I was running from gradually infected my understanding of the world I thought I was running toward until the fantasy fell apart.

Secrets and lies and the group dynamics of gossip and ambivalence compromised my notion of a better world “outside, over there” through incident reports of violence in my home and bystander-typical reactions from the people I confided in about it. Some of the violence was quite psychological – as when a toad was found impaled on a pencil holding down an improbable note implicating a very young neighbor and friend.

Pulled punches left confusing memories – heated verbal threats of bodily harm followed by relatively light bruises, a blurring of death threats and petty injuries into a bleak comedy about the elephant and the mouse.

Zooming out to the sociology of health, all this seems to be part of the social experience of alienation that is widely considered a modern urban phenomenon but has close parallels in the paranoia of rural poor communities concerning envious neighbors. Maybe alienation is the price we pay for trying to live by voluntary agreements loaded with uncertainty about how well trust holds when bargaining rules approximate zero sum games.

There is something perversely reassuring about coercion in this context; expectations reinforced by threats are considered more reliable and can be liberating if you are willing to respond to fear without compunction or if the expectations don’t feel compromising in a way that would tempt you to face your fears and disobey.

Maybe alienation is exacerbated by social conditions promoted by marketing culture that exploit asymmetry of information systematically. Could a political economy of seduction produce more atomizing social conditions than the hierarchical compliance culture of patronage politics?

“Don’t stand so near me!
I am become a socialist. I love
Humanity; but I hate people.” – Edna St. Vincent Millay

False sympathy or use of opportunities to tend to the weaknesses of others to curry favor and the idea of “entrenching the need for help” by institutionalizing welfare provision come to mind. Why do the administrators of vital social safety nets come across as patronizing and out of touch to their own clientele? In how many ways are status-oriented microaggressions masked as kindness?

Does defensive posturing about “the best a flawed social safety net can do” capitalize on the prevalence of faux pas issues from cognitive dissonance, or is the difference of intent that relevant if the recipient can’t tell where the speaker’s misconceptions are coming from or to what degree they are rooted in unspoken but internalized hostility rather than unconscious mirroring of a hostile cliché? Victim-blaming stereotypes must come to mind in such a workplace.

People who attend to your sense of distress about a weakness, limitation or source of pain without kindness and a compassionate impulse to alleviate your distress often are relating to you as an enemy, in their minds your claim to their capacity for compassion is presumptuous or artificial on some level. Doctors, in particular, have strong pain-silencing prejudices for coping with patients.

We all have a sense of our own limitations to help others, and recoil quickly when we feel someone is asking too much of us relative to our means; in a helping professional this can lead to internalizing a triage ethic that is rather out of touch with the root concept and rather clumsy as a way of respecting personal boundaries. They feel defensive about relatively impersonal boundaries like purview, workload, minor conflicts of interest like whether or not they get along with the colleague whose help they would need to follow through on a perceived need of a client, etc.

What if conservative economic philosophy is a belief system that also protects the upwardly mobile from shame when they must refuse their own social contacts some of the favors they are asked to grant as if they owed their friends and family to spread their wealth? If they are consistently stingy fewer people will take it personally or be bold enough to put them in a position to have to refuse a request.

Liberals want resource allocation professionalized within the public sector for fairness and efficiency, the same reasons conservatives prefer private charity be responsible for allocating surplus. Both fear the selfish corruption of rhetoric that misallocates resources in the name of the social good.

If futile in another’s eyes, your interest in discussing your own victim status will often be seen as undignified, pathetic and self-defeating. The victim role assigns significance (injustice) to the ongoing distress and thus elevates its prominence, which does mean experiencing it more acutely than you would if you didn’t see a need for redress of the injustice but chose to be more accepting instead.

In this respect counseling someone to stop complaining and accept their fate is a kind of advice that can bring a degree of relief to their distress, and make them more willing to distract themselves from it. Even if your frustrations are blameless on your part and reflect serious fault on someone else’s part, dwelling on the unfairness of what happened to you won’t necessarily solve the problems that were caused for you.

Yet no one should put their own hardships in a global perspective in the sense of trivializing their own unmet needs if they can think of some other unmet needs in the world that would dwarf their own if lined up side by side. There is plenty of external social pressure to keep quiet about one’s unhappiness conditioning us not to be an unreasonable imposition on those we could turn to for help or emotional support at will. Internalizing it is redundant and unsustainable.

In particular, the hidden harms of institutional violence – discrimination in its passive forms, distinct from micro-aggressions – leave their victims with largely unshareable experiences, difficult to discuss openly with anyone who hasn’t been through something very similar. Support groups with people who have had similar victimization experiences are important in part because of the way cognitive dissonance has denied them adequate emotional support and understanding from friends and family who lack the kind of insight that comes from personal experience.

But even within support groups we are all strangers, with reactions to one another’s stories typical of bystander indifference. That’s why I’m getting a copy of Michael Ignatieff’s book The Needs of Strangers. I have a feeling that until I understand what it means to be a stranger, I won’t fully understand how to be a friend.

Acting that “isolates and intensifies” the truth

January 22, 2013

Everyone remarks on Craig Horner’s extraordinary work portraying the experience of physical pain as Richard Cypher. This performance challenge is most spectacular in the episode “Denna” (directed by Michael Hurst). Craig describes it as the greatest challenge in filming The Legend of the Seeker, but also the episode he considers the best out of both seasons.

Standard acting advice on portraying pain or suffering is to resist the temptation to make it loud. In the words of Peter Hall, “A child who comes toward you trying not to cry (but who is filled with suppressed tears) is incredibly moving. But a child crying his heart out, a child in extremis, is less certain of our acceptance.”

Craig found a way to bring out the extreme nature of the pain in the torture sequence without violating this rule of drama. Of course, a magical weapon like the agiel helps. There are no points of comparison for the wise-asses in the audience to insist they could endure the same with more composure, because the hypothetical potential of the agiel’s magic is “unimaginable.”

But perhaps more importantly, he has a well-developed political torture sequence to work with in “Denna” – a full complement of psychological torture techniques enrich the exposition of the idea of torture in images.

denna_knife

In a book on acting first published in 1925, Stark Young wrote: “When an actor does a torture scene we are harrowed and sickened not because we think him tortured, but because we receive from him at that moment an idea of torture so compelling that it moves us, moves us more powerfully, perhaps, than the same blood and wounds in life might have done. He does not blur any truth but that of mere accidental externality. He does not, in so far as he is good, blur truth at all, but isolates and intensifies it to fuller power.”

In The Body in Pain, Elaine Scarry argues that a torturer’s power is the true instrument of totalitarianism, destroying the freedom of the individual mind one person at a time. The threat of further punishment is internalized, until any built environment that once would’ve seemed benevolent feels exactly like a cell. Political refugees far from their tormentors see the shadow of that same fear everywhere, reliving the same nightmares awake or asleep.

Actress Jessica Marais describes Denna’s psychological strategy in breaking Richard as “nonreactive,” keeping her tone and facial expressions unreadable, and so exploiting his warm and friendly nature by heightening his sense of isolation. Even when encouraging Richard’s compliance when he stops resisting, she doesn’t seem genuinely impressed. She is free to hurt him whimsically, instead of keeping a score card of whether or not he “deserves” any punishment, though she may tantalize him with a sense of having something to look forward to for good behavior when she turns to seducing him.

Is it strange to warm to someone capable of this? Not when you are otherwise isolated, no.

Lear
.. My wits begin to turn.
Come on, my boy. How dost, my boy? Art cold?
I am cold myself. – Where is this straw, my fellow?
The art of our necessities is strange,
And can make vile things precious.

But to exploit necessity this way, as isolation torture does, is yet another level of monstrosity. Coldness is not disgusting when it’s ugly. A garden slug is disgusting, but this is not a strong enough word for someone who would salt one. Such an act is better described as repulsive.

How then can walking away seem unacceptable, even if the monster inflicting such pain cannot be overcome or redeemed? Rilke wrote, “Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.” As if this were the sticking point for those entrapped by every coercion known to their assailant to be at hand – that out of awful familiarity, looking inside, they confront the soul that would be held to account, rather than spared such honesty out of disdain for the wicked.

As the Mord Sith Cara says in Temple of the Winds, “We always let our captives keep their weapons. It’s a constant reminder to them they are helpless, that even their weapons will do them no good against us.”

It is at first bizarre to watch the deleted scene in the episode “Denna” that reveals she may be falling in love with her victim. Mord Sith madness entails affectionately enjoying instances of showing mercy to a “pet” one is torturing (“training”), but every act of kindness is really intended to cultivate false hope and maintain sensitivity, the better to inflict further pain and catch the victim off-guard.

Being repulsive in this way is something Denna takes satisfaction in, because it serves her purpose – it makes bonding with her excruciatingly difficult, so that a slave she has broken is more completely broken. This is her job, and she is good at it.

Mord Sith know how to co-opt a captive’s pride in his willingness to resist torture, punishing them until they no longer wish to fight back, but then needling them to find another trigger for involuntary reactions that resist again, until in the confusion of pain and self-sabotage they only know for certain that resistance is futile. All sources of pain can temporarily inflict this sense of being at war with oneself and unable to win, but the victim of a Mord Sith knows she could change her mind, and so comes to look to his tormentor as his only hope of any reprieve.

To stop resisting the use of operand conditioning to enforce compliance with simple commands is one degree of surrender, which Richard gives Denna when he partitions his mind by “locking his dignity away.” This surrender comes with a heavy price – he is suddenly quick to reveal his feelings for Kahlan, when before he had the presence of mind to hold back, knowing his feelings could put her in danger. But it is not like flipping a switch, for Denna is an expert at finding chinks in a prisoner’s armor. The secret to staying the course is Richard’s insight that through partial surrender, something inviolable can be held back and preserved from Denna’s effort to corrupt it.

Denna will not settle for anything short of breaking his will. What a Mord Sith expects of her slaves (and what Darken Rahl expects of all Mord Sith) is that they embrace contact with the agiel merely because she wishes to use it on them, and compliance with those wishes is all they desire. These bonds are hierarchical, with none of the ethics of equality and reciprocation.

dragon_goltzius

The viciousness defining what a Mord Sith is telescopes our darkest motives and deepest cruelties, as efficiently as the image of the dragon whose teeth were sown at Thebes.

Several linked but different features occur in brutalization: 1. Pleasure in the pain of the victim or victims. 2. The formula ‘I am not going to suffer’ is pervasive. ‘You are going to do the suffering’ is implied and acted upon. 3. ‘I cannot contain what I feel in the way of fear, anger, or persecution’ … 4. Some people do suffer but cannot digest or metabolize the internal situation and it appears that instead of being resolved, old hurts get worse .. until what is acted out is far worse than the original suffering. – Cruelty, Violence and Murder

Not to wince away from the contact through the agiel with the tormenter is a gesture that embraces the shared experience of pain, as the way “out” that obliterates the horror of instinctively trying yet failing to escape. This is what Denna is getting at when she coaxes Richard to appreciate the metaphysics of pain, to use the profound nature of the experience of suffering as a way of escaping the worst.

As Weil says, likening all human experiences of pain to the passion of Christ, the divine spirit “shudders before suffering and death and feels itself in the depths of anguish isolated from man and from God.”

Craig’s decision to show extreme muscle tension by flexing all visible muscles to show maximum definition and strain when grasping the agiel creates a visually stunning effect true to the mechanical “vicious cycle” in which pain magnifies itself, which can be exacerbated when physical torture is combined with psychological torture. “Pain leads reflexively to counter-tension and this, in turn, to renewed pain, so these events continue in a kind of vicious circle.” – At the side of torture survivors

The deep muscle definition Craig uses in this scene also taps into the ability of the audience to relate to the experience of exertion/strain as causes of physical pain. There are also disturbing connotations of sexualized exploitation in this image, evoking the sense in which “violence turns anybody subjected to it into a thing,” as Weil puts it.

There is also restraint in Craig’s performance. Richard’s tone of voice is strangely guarded when he reveals that he wishes to spare Denna pain at his own expense. But he has seen the fawning sycophantic behavior she is accustomed to from her slaves. He knows these gestures are really just an elective humiliation in their systems of adaptive depravity, expressing self-loathing as the last refuge of interpretation, to despise their own fate. He clings instead to the last shreds of compassion, hanging by the flimsy thread of unconditional love.

Given the opportunity, before facing the final test, Richard begs Kahlan to stamp out all that is left of his vulnerability, and take his soul with the magic of confession. She refuses, and he calls it a betrayal. But she has hope, guarded though it may be by ignorance of what he has really endured already.

richard_kahlan_episode_denna

After recognizing all this in the performances at the heart of “Denna”, there is something distasteful about Rilke’s gentle consolation, “Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.” The story, Richard’s journey of the mind, gets under your skin, and then you recoil from the nicer ways of putting it.

This is the difference between perpetrating life-like illusions and the actor’s work as an original artist: “the actor gives you the eternity of love, grief, and death; … The art of acting in that scene is ultimately to be judged by the completeness and significance of its idea. Every work of art endures at last not by its likeness to things outside itself, but by the depth and freedom of the content that it embodies and expresses.”

“I don’t want to read between the lines”

January 22, 2013

Anne Carson describes in the audience a preference that unwholesome truths be articulated at a safe distance from the blunt encounters of everyday life – as the meat of catharsis in tragic drama, a blood price paid by the actors. “You sacrifice them to action. And this sacrifice is a mode of deepest intimacy with your own life. … The actor, by reiterating you, sacrifices a moment of his own life in order to give you a story of yours.”

Aaron Swartz (1986-2013) wondered if learning to lean into the pain of cognitive dissonance helps, if it means not flinching from perceptions that challenge your self-assurance, not reaching for ways to rationalize the discomfort away, not trying to shrug off any challenge that was made.

But for all intents and purposes, there are silencing spells in real life, junctures of pain and denial at which the intensity of cognitive dissonance can make speaking out (or being heard) seem impossible. Moving around them is one thing – but pushing through them is considered a condemned effort.

Whereof one cannot speak,
thereof one must be silent.

– Ludwig Wittgenstein

This preference not to have uncomfortable truths articulated in a way we cannot pretend not to understand is a sorry reason for the doctrine “show, don’t tell,” or the article of faith that some truths are the business of God to impose on each of us through revelation alone.

Can this be logical? Aristotle’s grammar of meanings in qualitative reasoning (The Categories) uses living beings as “primary substance” examples, not rocks or fingernail shavings, unlike the definition of substance used in thermodynamics to which the principle matter cannot be created or destroyed applies.

In this approach to logic, a living subject capable both of reason and of misunderstanding or dissimulation is implied. For such a subject, being and not being are unambiguous – only from outside the box is the existence of Schrödinger’s cat in living form uncertain.

Perhaps we have always known how to get ourselves boxed in by these irrational fears, and exasperate the man of action with notions about “not being” as an alternative to having substance that is possible to experience, and is to be feared. Of course, Herakles has a retort no different from the question for this commonplace: “Being and not being are very different things .. We’re all mortal you know. Think mortal.”

For believers like Aquinas, the coming into being and passing away of these observers meant there must be an untouched survivor and initiator of all effects – a magician or mathematician, but above all, one who knows better than the rest of us, whose view of the cosmos is not petty or defensive, one who has nothing to fear. A prior cause in a receding series of origin stories for cause and effect paths that seem to draw thin lines across the darkness in the passing along of perceptions that seem to have more than continuity of experience tying each to the next when ascertained in passing.

prestige

How can he not know?

Fear of some unspoken-for uncertainty that stands in the way of acting on reason for what it is worth? We want to see such a further capability in ourselves, but risk abandoning all that we are able to do in favor of what seems impossible, to wait on the unprecedented to show itself within ourselves instead.

In the Pythagorean cosmos described in The Republic, “the harmony of the parts of the cosmos, on the one hand, and of the parts of the human psyche, on the other, were seen as the basic elements of the same universal order” (from The Untuning of the Sky). All earthly music was an effort to evoke the more perfect music of the spheres, that is, the great sounds caused by the rushing past of the other planets.

None of us can see much of what lies ahead. What we do see coming can feel deterministic, but secrecy, miscalculations and ignorance hardly give rise to free will.

And even in “real life” there can be such a thing as a definite experience, a sense of certitude that defies all recourse to learned skepticism about one’s ability to make sense of the world as it really is. Something to write home about. Actors know too well that just because there are multiple solutions to the true interpretation of a role (hence, multiple solutions to the authentic delivery of a line), doesn’t mean the players can suit themselves.

Subjectivity by degrees, rather than an absolute sense of incommensurability, is how perspective-taking can be grounded in a shared interest in the real – instead of relying on the assumption that word games are played with tokens for which there are no shared understandings about their referents.

“The histrionic truth is in the natural lie.”

October 8, 2012

The twinned masks emblem for acting establishments never appeals to me as an image or metaphor, frightening for being facile and loud. Just like that.

A dare to expect more, that should not have needed saying?

I found a poem by Robert Browning that says barely enough about acting to justify inclusion of the subject in a metrical project that is all commentary and no substance, remarkable more for its use of rhythm and form than for its images or rhetoric. I found it looking for uses of hexameters that stood some test of time in the English language, and decided these lines were quotable out of context.

carnival_king

Only because the narrator’s most plausible rhetorical flourish was in comparing himself to actors. He may be none, but he attempted to flatter himself in the right general direction.

It addresses acting briefly, and revolves instead around the members of the audience who like to construct “unflattering” comparisons between themselves and those on stage. The witticisms that make best use of the comparison, of course, are those that play up the questionable implications of the “pretty boy” theory of who will or will not be an actor.

So the poem’s narrator is the one looking implicated, when he tries to compare himself to actors for dissembling in a way that honors the little truths one cites in building up a lie.

Since this is a 19th century poem, it seems remarkable that Browning was already commenting on the search for truth in a performance as characteristic of stage play.

What little those of us who enjoy film or theater tend to think we know about acting is a notion about “method acting,” one influential approach to preparing a role first taught by Stanislavsky and popularly associated with either authorial self-expression by a celebrity star actor, naturalistic verisimilitude in performance, or both. But Stanislavsky was actually a stage name, used by the famous teacher to keep his profession from embarrassing his parents back in 1884.

Mirror

The poem is long, but without much context this passage says all the poem has to say about how the actors come across, so addressed as a subject in passing while the narrator courts a girl in their milling audience at a carnival.

“Mistake his false for true, one minute, – there’s an end
Of the admiration! Truth, we grieve at or rejoice:
‘Tis only falsehood, plain in gesture, look and voice,
That brings the praise desired, since profit comes thereby.
The histrionic truth is in the natural lie.

Each has a false outside, whereby a truth is forced
To issue from within: truth, falsehood, are divorced
By the excepted eye, at the rare season, for
The happy moment. Life means – learning to abhor
The false, and love the true, truth treasured snatch by snatch,
Waifs counted at their worth. And when with strays they match
I’ the parti-coloured world, – when, under foul, shines fair,
And truth, displayed i’ the point, flashed from everywhere
I’ the circle, manifest to soul, though hid from sense,
And no obstruction more affects this confidence, –
When faith is ripe for sight, – why, reasonably, then
Comes the great clearing-up. Wait threescore years and ten!
Therefore I prize stage-play, the honest cheating; thence
The impulse pricked, when fife and drum bade Fair commence,
To bid you trip and skip, link arm in arm with me,
Like husband and like wife, and so together see
The tumbling-troop arrayed, the strollers on their stage
Drawn up and under arms, and ready to engage.”

– Robert Browning, Fifine at the Fair

He means little by it when he trades on the appearance that they know just what they do. It’s not clear he knows that, but that is the implication he would trade on in saying this much. Today it is conventional to take the notion seriously from the audience point of view, regardless of how little acting methods are understood in the attempt to ascertain what happened in performance.

As a very serious acting fan, I wasn’t thrilled to find these comparatives in the mouth of an unreliable narrator. The entire poem is addressed by a fictional character to one of two women he’s courting at the same time.

The actors described in this poem do come across as more honest than the member of their audience describing them so, but they are not naïve either. The girl addressed by the poem’s text, one assumes, is the only one who would believe the message was a courtly invitational, for fun.

miamivice2006

This is as good as an explicit goal for actors: to excel in discovering the truth about human behavior. If for no higher purpose than that finding the truth in a lie is the trick to selling it, perhaps while obscuring any higher purpose from those so abused in the service of it.

Consider this description of an exercise actors used to prepare for a famous ritualistic theatrical production that was called Dionysus in 69, which to me is a terrifying illustration of the courage involved in navigating the gauntlet of exposed self-awareness that characterizes this performance art:

“A question or statement is made which, according to the rules of the exercise, must ‘cost something’. An answer is given that is equally revealing or difficult.” After everyone has contributed at least once, the actors turn on a sacrificial victim, who “had to answer the questions, but could not ask any.”

This final interrogation would continue until the victim has to admit he can’t continue – when his “opacity [is] sufficiently pierced” he then says, “This is mortifying.” The exercise ends. One of the performers in this production said of his role, “I am not interested in acting. I am involved in the life process of becoming whole. I do many technical exercises which organically suit the process. They act as a catalyst for my ability to let essence flow, to let my soul speak through my mind and body … Dionysus is my ritual.”

– from the book Theater, sacrifice, ritual: exploring forms of political theater

Though calling acting therapy or ritual or both sounds like a caricature today, this is why I trust actors to do more, in the sense that for me, a line of dialogue stands or falls on its delivery. The page would tell me less, with few exceptions.

The actor finds credibility in it or fails to do so. But once given the words have no independent credibility outside the actor’s interpretation of the speaker’s role, until and unless they are taken up in production by some other actor “ready to engage.”