What You Have, and What You Were Given

“Let the artist live, let him be enchanted, disappointed, happy; let him suffer, love, and live through the entire gamut of human emotions, but let him at the same time learn to recreate his life and his emotions into art.”
– Constantine Stanislavski

“Each and every day I will place before you all that I have lived for, lived with, and have learned from, during the ten thousand hours necessary in order for the artist within me to emerge.”
– Hk / 2010

I have allowed people to teach me.

And with it far too many questions arise. Is it because of the day and time I live in?

I learn, during the allotted twenty-four hour prescriptions, yet I find myself, creatively without the necessary skills to apply what I have earnestly striven to accomplish.

Why is it for many of us, the more skilled and adept at our craft we become, the less we see ourselves accomplishing all which we have set out as our life’s goals, or aspirations, dreams, and satisfactions?

Wandering through life’s numerous abstractions it causes me to often think about young children who come to our big party with a seemingly apparent learning disorder. Perhaps theirs is a version of mine?

What if we could slow down the twenty-four hour cycle by adding minutes to each hour for them? The new scenario would provide for classrooms with clocks, having faces displaying two extra hours of time.

And what if each of the children had their own button to press, which would set the clock back, giving them an expanded time period?

Do you think there might be a possibility some of those children didn’t have a learning disorder?

A man began by saying to me, “We’re going to practice some learning skills. I’m going to teach you a great way to learn. When you work on how to learn, the rest will come easily.”

He pointed out the power of our God-given senses. It was never a stock statement, like “I want you to pay attention.” I would hear things like, “Look at this, Harv.” I remember him saying this and simultaneously covering my eyes with his hand. Of course, I responded with the obvious, not being able to see with my eyes covered.

“That’s the point,” he said. “Always keep your eyes wide open, and try to see as many things as you can.”

The man had given me a method for learning, along with the precise instructions to go along with it. The process was a simple example (covering my eyes) followed by, “Always keep your eyes wide open, and try to see as many things as you can.”

During the ensuing years, I continually practiced what he had given me. When I was very young, I was under the impression I would be able to see more things if there was a way to open my eyes wider.

As we drove together, I’d be in the back, pressed against a window, using my thumb and index fingers on each hand to hold my eyes open as wide as they would stretch. When I discovered it would cause others who drove passed us to laugh at my birdman appearance, I took it to school with me and enjoyed the laughs it got. When one of my teachers (most of them resented me) witnessed what I was up to, she asked what I thought I was doing. “I’m practicing how to be an observer,” I replied. Most of the kids didn’t have a clue to what I was taking about.

(She has to be long ago dead, so I guess it’s okay to mention her name: Mrs. Kaplan.)

By now you must have guessed, the man responsible for all of this was, of course my dear father.

Mrs. Kaplan figured she had me now, so I was told to explain it to the class, and to come up to the front of the room, by her desk. Mrs. Kaplan was so in to herself, she had little idea of whom she was dealing with. After all, I was the class humorist. I loved that nomenclature (humorist), as opposed to being called the “class clown.” I wasn’t the kind of kid who might jump up on to a desk in order to get the students’ attention. That, of course, would be clowning. I loved disrupting the class by telling a story I had heard. In my eyes, it’s what Will Rogers or Robert Benchley would do.

In any event, there I was, in front of the class, along side Mrs. Kaplan’s desk.

Note: By now it was the fourth grade. I believe I was nine years old. My voice over career had begun. I was about to perform a living narration, explaining what a powerful tool observation was and could ultimately be. My daddy had introduced me to his way to practice when I was entering the first or second grade. It gave me a hefty three to four years of working out under my belt in preparation for this day in front of the class. The stage was mine. Eat your heart out, Mrs. Kaplan.

I asked my fellow students how many of them had a favorite baseball team. All hands went up. Not a tough question for any kids from New York, specifically a Brooklyn(ite) to answer.

I picked out one of the boys, and asked him to name each of the players on his favorite team (it was the Brooklyn Dodgers). He did so easily. Most of the kids who were Dodger fans instantly agreed. Now I asked them to give me the number of each player. They all did so in a snap, including the manager, all the coaches, and the team trainer.

We all agreed how easy a task it was. But then I went on to say, “You were all able to do what I asked, because you’re all observers. You’ve all been practicing by way of doing it over and over again. It’s called observing.” Even crab ass Kaplan liked that one, though she wouldn’t acknowledge I had done anything well.

So far I had only used up about ten minutes of class time. Then I picked out my favorite little girlfriend Miriam (last name deleted in order to protect the innocent). I had her come up and stand by me, with her back to the class. “Now Miriam,” I instructed, “Tell us the name of every one in this class in order of where you remember them sitting.” In nothing flat, Miriam did her thing easily.

* Both the naming of the Dodger team, and the placement of each student was done so by the ability to observe.

* The practice of observation creates the subconscious memorization of just about anything, when the observation itself is more than occasionally adhered to.

* People have been described as poor observers. The underlying factor however, is they are basically lazy.

Think about it. What I have just recalled is in direct alignment with my opening reference to Stanislavski.

“Let the artist live, let him be enchanted, disappointed, happy; let him suffer, love, and live through the entire gamut of human emotions, but let him at the same time learn to recreate his life and his emotions into art.”

And with a well-cultivated ability to observe, will come an automatic stimulation of the senses, our friend Stanislavski so adamantly advises us. They are the most vital of necessities, for every actor who seeks the reliability of substance.

For it is within the substance which we alone can become aware of an innate ability to look into, and dig deeply, searching for inner meanings of the writer’s intent. Only then could any actor possibly bring to, and present our audience with the total truth as he perceives it to be. Then, upon one’s perceiving it to be true, it will be so.

I became privy one day to a translation of a foreign language newspaper interview of Stanislavski. In it, the young reporter brought to the surface a comparison of an actor’s depth capabilities he was not expecting to hear. Most of the time the questions were of a benign nature, never requiring much more than a superficial answer, especially at this particular segment of the Stanislavski career. He was assuredly at the highest point he would ever attain.

It was well into the end of the hour when the reporter asked and received more than expected.

“How does an actor perceive the truth?” he asked.

“He reflects upon it from another era, or near space in his time spent.” More or less, the reporter retorted with how he didn’t get it. Stanislavski replied, “The more one lives, the more they have in their reflective arsenal.”

Propriety; impropriety; despair; elation; birth; death; ceremony, and celebration, when all are visually true, the verbal description or portrayal of the incidents may be interpreted as such. The audience will, without exception recognize the truth. They may find the truth disturbing: If they do, perhaps then true theater is an experience they too will one day reflect upon.

The audiences are the gods. Never lie to them.

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *