Hey all, Annelise here! I’m playing Sigi Sleeplessness/Awakedness and understudying Conrad. I’m still a little new to the Dream Theatre (I started working with them this past March), so I’m excited for this process!
Tonight’s rehearsal really brought home a few things about technique that I’ve learned from Dream Theatre in the past six months. It was the first time I got to take a crack at Conrad (with admittedly mixed results). In a way this jumps off Michelle’s lovely post about how to act like a child.
Most adults, myself included, have these lovely layers we drape over what we think or feel. For example: adults who observe the rules of propriety don’t cry in public (as the Devilish Children tell us). If someone whom Person A loves puts her down, she will process the insult, feel the hurt, cover it with a façade of composure, and change the subject to something quotidian, like the weather. Nevertheless, it’s likely that an undertone of A’s hurt will carry through and she’ll still sound a little upset. As an actor playing that situation, I’d normally identify those hurt feelings, get comfortable with them, and cover them back up with the civility. Children, on the other hand, don’t do that. Most children haven’t fully internalized all the rules of normal social conduct. They wear their hearts right on their sleeves. So it seems as though playing a child should be easier, right? Just leave out that last step, don’t cover up the emotions!
Sadly, it wasn’t that simple tonight, mein Lieblings, primarily because as an adult, I’ve already internalized the rules of socially appropriate behavior as part of my acting technique! I’m used to adult characters who rarely say what they really mean (at least in contemporary texts), and so have a knee-jerk reaction hide my character’s full emotional world: I think what my character really means, then cover it up a little bit. So tonight, I read Conrad looking for both the emotion and a way to cover it up at the same time! Yikes!
It’s my thought that to play a child, you have to speak on the thought. Young children don’t have an internal monologue – they say what they mean when they mean it. You can’t really play a child honestly by placing yourself in the child’s situation and bringing the character down to you. If you try to do that, your adult brain will run amok with the clarity of your character’s thought process. You truly do have to lift yourself up to the character and alter the way you mind works (check out Jeremy’s post on the 4 rules of acting).
One last fragment of a thought: the children in this school, though they know the lessons of the civilizing process through and through, have not fully internalized them. They do have some adult qualities, for example the ability to deceive, but they also have moments when they revert back to their child-like straightforwardness and play. They seem more like they’re in limbo between the children that they were before they came to the school and the little ladies and gentlemen they’ve learned to be.