I had a phenomenal experience this morning.
I was in the bathroom, sitting on the throne, surveying my realm, hanging out. And, as one does, I began to sing.
I worked my way through a couple of pop tunes, and then finally got to a favourite folk song of mine. It’s called “Will they Lie there Evermore.” Here’s a link below – its a gorgeous little ditty, full of the emotion and struggle of Newfoundlanders whose livelihoods vanished when the cod fishery collapsed.
And I was singing and singing, merrily along, as I sat upon my throne.
And then the weirdest thing started to happen. I started to Marv the lines of the song, and to let go of my rational thought – the part of my brain that knows that I am not actually a fisherman from Newfoundland, the part of me that realises that I do not have a deep emotional connection to the song.
Clarification: “To Marv”
So I’ve been working hard on the acting thing. Training, reading about it, analysing myself, etc. And this is what I’m getting:
- Acting (in the Naturalistic style that is currently “In” for film) is about truth. It is about living truthfully, feeling truthfully, being fully present – in circumstances that happen to be imaginary. But, while the circumstances are imaginary, your emotions and your actions Cannot be false, Cannot be imaginary – they must be real and true to life.
- Who makes those choices? the Actor does. You. Or in this case, Me. Sure, the writer has build their world, and the director will ensure your choices match their vision. But it is the actor who chooses. And good acting comes partly from good choices. The script contains hints towards who this person in that is saying those lines, and what they mean. But every single line comes from either an emotion, or a reason – nothing comes from nothing. Every word and look comes from an emotion, and that emotion is a response to the stimulus that the actor has chosen to include in this pseudo-reality.
- To live in these choices, you gotta turn off that little part of your brain that says “hey that’s not real.” Your rational and analytical mind are very important for making the choices, but then they need to turn off so you can just Feel and just Be in that reality you have created.
The process of going through the script and making those choices, is what I now refer to as “Marv-ing the script” as it is based on what I have been learning from acting coach Marvin Hinz. But you can see similar things in books about, for example, the Meisner technique. Marving is just the word I used.
Back to the Bathroom
So I guess all of my work on this has been doing Something. Because as I began to sing, I began to analyse the lines of the song, and find the emotion in them – essentially, to Marv the song. And then I began to let go of the rational part of my brain that ties me to Michael Masurkevitch in a bathroom singing on the can, and pull myself into the song. And slowly, I began to feel the loneliness, the betrayal, the worry and the pain of the song.
And that’s when the tears started coming.
Without meaning to, I had slid so deeply into the song’s emotion, that I was singing out line by line through a haze of tears. As I finished the last lines about potentially never seeing your child again (something that got me particularly hard as a father), I collapsed, sobbing.
My SO had been reading in the bedroom during this. Gradually she realised that something strange was happening. When the song ended and she heard my grief-wracked sobs, she ran to the bathroom to see if I was ok. She came in to find me crying, clutching the toilet paper roll like it was my last hope.
She had some questions. Like, “WHAT Happened??” … I explained that I had been singing, and that it had become an acting experience.
By this point she and I were laughing uncontrollably – the emotional energy that had powered my sobs was finally being released in the form of unstoppable laughter. It was a good time. She told me that no rational human would have allowed themselves to be thrown into a sobbing fit of grief about a folk song. I explained that this was exactly what I had been going for – the suspension of my rational mind, so that I Could throw myself with full emotions into an imaginary situation.
It was a great experience. The song itself really helped – not only by giving me the context and character, but by giving me an action to finish. The emotion made it hard to choke out every note, but having the next note to choke out gave me an end, a goal, to continue striving towards. It allowed me to shut off my rationality by giving it something else to focus on – the next line of the song. And it created a beautiful tension, where my character could barely sing the next line for his sorrow, but had to to finish the song.
All in all, I wish I had filmed it. I guess being that it happened while sitting on the can, that might have been a bit weird. Definitely not the weirdest thing I’ve done in the bathroom, but a fun acting excercise for sure – and a lovely stroll through insanity.