In the third exploration of the Higher Ego classes with our intrepid group searching to identify , trust, and place their Artist in the comedic space, we embarked on a joyous series of ensemble games which made us explore what we felt the act of performance was and how we connected to the Artist/Higher Ego, working with it in a practical way. Michael Chekhov talks quite a bit about this, how we give in performance and what act actually is, and through a series of gesture/statues we explored what the act of performing meant to us individually.
All our exercises have invited questioning about performance and the way we operate as artists.
Does connecting the Higher Ego and a sense of joy let the evil characters off the hook when we perform them with this sensibility? Or does feeling this Artist’s mission to present and explain a tyrant’s motivation allow us this joy, without exonerating the character? When I play Macbeth am I exonerating him if I play him with some degree of compassion or understanding? Does this lightness in our Higher Ego allow us to make definite comment and criticism of the character or not? In a Brecht play for instance, like Arturo Ui I would say it does, in Macbeth I am not so sure…
We did not have answers for these complex questions just possibilities.
Someone said they felt that acknowledging the lightness freed them to express heavier atmospheres around them; but then, did allowing this lightness to live whilst we tried to express some darker qualities, somehow belittle or devalue those darker feelings , betraying them and making them superficial?
I would say that in my own acting training (many moons ago) that the idea of Higher Ego, the objective eye, the inner artist etc. would have been frowned on by many as something which sounded dangerously superficial. You had to be ‘in’ the role. This I now understand (and have discussed in earlier pieces) to be a difficult and actually fraudulent position because you are never wholly ‘in’ the role, only for certain sections of the play to a lesser or greater degree when you are drawn to be. It is all about how you play your instrument. It seems that what the exploration of the Higher Ego suggests to us is that the Art of Theatre is an amalgamation of many levels of experience going on at once (I am sure there have been several PhD studies about this) and in order to explore them and how they work in you you need to do many practical exercises, really listening and experiencing your subtle movements of energy. This class is teaching me that finding out how we all personally play our instrument is what is the most important joyous and empowering thing of all, releasing our creativity to our audiences and ourselves. What an acknowledgement of the Higher Ego can do is give to the artist a strong sense of self when navigating and expressing the character without sacrificing the character’s authenticity.
Next week we focus on Creative Individuality.