Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Freedom of the New

I just returned from seeing Undine, at Theater Off Jackson. Following the wonderful performance by Faith Helma, there was a panel discussion moderated by Brendan Kiley of The Stranger. The subject was the balance between creating new works (Undine was a new work) against the presentation of older, established works in Seattle.

I don't have much to say at length about theater -- I'm a baby actor by the standards of these people; definitely not one of the cool kids playing at the local fringe theaters.

What I do have is an observation, spurred by the statement of a young actor who sat behind me. He does new works because he wasn't getting cast. He didn't fit into the "suits" people expected him to fill (as a side note, he was also asian).

I could see the value in this.

Also, it comes to me that the draw of both presenting and seeing new work, for me, is that -- get this -- there is nothing to compare it to. True, that does not free the performer from putting forth good work, from breaking their hearts and backs for the audience. What it does do is free the audience from comparison to how someone did it before. They aren't seeing a presentation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and comparing it to a previous run at a fringe or established theater. They are free to experience the new, here, now, without the burden of past experience seeing that performance.

One of the things I have marveled in, and discussed with other actors, in doing new things is hearing us/them fret about getting a word in a line wrong. Letting that meta-worry get in the way of craft. When that happens, I remind them, and myself, that the audience has not read the script. They have never seen it before. Therefore you can free yourself of your petty fears and give them the best, the most fearless, the most risky performance of your life.

Then again, the are taking a chance on coming to see you.

That is the freedom and the risk of of new work.

And that is why it's worth doing.

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