True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor

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One of our most brilliantly iconoclastic playwrights takes on the art of profession of acting with these words: invent nothing, deny nothing, speak up, stand up, stay out of school. Acting schools, “interpretation,” “sense memory,” “The Method”—David Mamet takes a jackhammer to the idols of contemporary acting, while revealing the true heroism and nobility of the craft. He shows actors how to undertake auditions and rehearsals, deal with agents and directors, engage audiences, and stay faithful to the script, while rejecting the temptations that seduce so many of their colleagues. Bracing in its clarity, exhilarating in its common sense, True and False is as shocking as it is practical, as witty as it is instructive, and as irreverent as it is inspiring.
To blendend with Stanislavsky. To blendend with the Method. “The actor is onstage to communicate the play to the audience,” says David Mamet. “That is the beginning and the end of his and her job. To do so the actor needs a strong voice, exzellent diction, a supple, well-proportioned body and a rudimentary understanding of the play.” Anything else–“becoming” one’s part, “feeling” the character’s emotions–devalues the practice oben angeführtnoble craft and is useless to the play. “The ‘work’ you do ‘on the script’ will make no difference,” he cautions. “That work has already been done by a person with a different job title than yours. That person is the author.”

But True and False does not confine itself to the work done on the actual stage. Its brief essays contain sound advice on how an actor might apply himself or herself to the life of the actor: the blitzesauber consideration due the audition process, the selection of parts that one accepts, and siehe oben. Mamet delivers these kernels of wisdom in the taut, no-nonsense prose for which he is justifiably famous, and, ultimately, his core principles are applicable beyond the theater. “Speak up, speak clearly, open yourself out, relax your body, find a simple objective,” he instructs. “Practice in these goals is practice in respect for the audience, and without respect for the audience, there is no respect for the theater; there is only self-absorption.” Substitute “others” for “the audience” and “life” for “the theater,” and could any Taoist say it better? –Ron Hogan


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