The Three Way Transaction

Here’s some­thing to ponder.

All ‘suc­cess­ful’ per­form­ances rest on one thing – truth­ful con­nec­tion. It is hard to deny that whatever we are watch­ing (no matter how aes­thet­ic­ally or present­a­tion­ally pleas­ing) means very little if we remain untouched by what the play­ers are doing to each other. A little like eating fast food, it is imme­di­ately sat­is­fy­ing but in the long term, we remain under­nour­ished. Empty.

You may have heard someone say, when they were con­vinced of a cer­tain thing – that they ‘know in their knower’. Cer­tain truth’s register inside us on a deep and pro­found level and it’s almost impossible to be per­suaded otherwise.

I believe that as an audi­ence, we have very finely tuned ‘know­ers’ and, even if we des­per­ately WANT to enjoy a cer­tain pro­duc­tion or indi­vidu­al per­form­ance, we cannot per­suade ourselves that it works when it doesn’t. We have a haunt­ing, a sen­sa­tion of dis­sat­is­fac­tion inside us that whis­pers ‘this isn’t what you want it to be, this isn’t fully satisfying’.

You remind yourselves that the actors are really tal­en­ted, the design really impress­ive and the pro­duc­tion has been praised by one and all …but the haunt­ing remains.

You are unmoved.

In these instances, I would be will­ing to bet that the actors are not con­nect­ing with each other. They may look like they are, they may sound like they are but, they are empty ves­sels – full of sound and fury, sig­ni­fy­ing nothing.

This is not always their fault either. If not encour­aged prop­erly, actors can be side­lined by ‘style’ or ‘themes’ and drawn away from the thing they are primar­ily meant to do – change the other person.

In this sense there can be said to be a three way transaction…

If we want to move an audi­ence, we must move the other actor/s

You see, the audi­ence invest in the onstage/onscreen rela­tion­ships. When we onstage nod and wink at the audi­ence, trying to short­cut, noth­ing hap­pens. No one is moved.

All energy expen­ded by the actors on the audi­ence is, in effect, wasted. We should be spend­ing that energy on our scene part­ners and, by default, reach­ing the audience.

So, how do we move the other actors? With spe­cif­ic and truth­ful rela­tion­ship, that is –  spe­cif­ic and truth­ful connection.

There are many dif­fer­ent approaches to our craft and indeed, many won­der­ful approaches. Regard­less of meth­od­o­logy, I believe that we are always seek­ing to make con­nec­tion with anoth­er person in order to change them to suit our needs.

There is a won­der­ful book by screen writ­ing guru; Robert McKee called Story. In the book, he talks of ‘value char­ging’. He sug­gests to bud­ding writers that if a scene doesn’t work, the char­ac­ters are prob­ably not ‘value charged’.

What he means is, like people in life, each char­ac­ter enters a scene with a set of values, a set of beliefs about the world and how it should work. We spend the scene trying to get the other person to adapt to our values and see the world the way we see it.

This hap­pens regard­less of con­text, the scene may revolve around some­thing as mundane as the wash­ing up and still, we aim to change the other person so that things go our way.

In order to do that, we must reach out psy­cho­lo­gic­ally, we must affect and play upon our scene part­ners heartstrings while deal­ing with their attempts to change us. We psy­cho­lo­gic­ally nego­ti­ate under­neath the text, tac­tic­ally adapt­ing to whatever is thrown our way.

One of the main ways we can pro­mote truth­ful and effect­ive con­nec­tion is via ATTENTION. Taking our eyes off ourselves and pla­cing our atten­tion as fully as pos­sible on the other actor, remain­ing open to them and whatever they offer through­out the dur­a­tion of the scene.

The excel­lent voice coach; Bar­bara House­man talks about having ‘cam­er­as in and cam­er­as out’. There is a state of being where the actor can be so self aware that it is as if they have a camera con­sist­ently point­ing inward. An end­less stream of selfies so to speak. This leads to ten­sion, self con­scious­ness, held breath, lack of respons­ive­ness and crit­ic­al self judgement.

In order to become free of self aware­ness and actu­ally con­nect with the other person, we must have ‘cam­er­as out’. This releases us from self con­cern and guar­an­tees a great­er chance of honest, truth­ful con­nec­tion with the other person. With atten­tion firmly on the other actor/s, we are able to throw a meta­phor­ic­al rope over to them and remain con­nec­ted with them for as long as is necessary.

With ‘cam­er­as in’, we appear to be in rela­tion­ship with the other, we make all the right noises and all the right moves but lack fun­da­ment­al truth that comes from genu­ine interconnectedness.

Let’s work for atten­tion, let’s work for con­nec­tion, let’s work for truth.

Let’s work to play with and on our scene part­ners in order to change their values to suit ours. In this way, as a byproduct of our efforts, the audi­ence will be changed. The very thing that jus­ti­fies the ticket price.

To you, the artist.


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