Thursday, December 17, 2009

Book 24: True and False: Heresy And Common Sense For The Actor by David Mamet

My favorite part of this book is the dust jacket. Alec Baldwin says something to the effect that every actor should read this even though Mamet is talking out his ass most of the time. And he is right on both counts.

I have stayed away from talking about acting, actors, directors, etc. on this blog. The reason is quite simple. I want to work with even the people I would deride. I have done imitations of a certain Hollywood starlet that brought entire bar rooms to uproarious laughter and I hope to cringe in remembering it the day I act opposite her in one of her films.

I am VERY uncomfortable judging those who have the same aspirations and yearnings. The aforementioned starlet for example. She probably grew up dreaming of being an actress. She made it happen to an EXTRAORDINARY degree even though I personally can't stand much of her work. But should my opinion of her carry any weight whatsoever? I sort of feel like it shouldn't. Her accomplishments stand outside of any subjective view I might have.

Music is different for me. It is more personal, less collaborative, singular in a way that movies and acting is not. Being a singer/songwriter myself I feel quite comfortable calling out those that I have an aversion to. I don't quite understand this juxtaposition. I am fiercely protective of those actors/actresses who make me roll my eyes. But I'll tear Jewel a new asshole from the highest mountaintop. I am not saying this is how it SHOULD be, or that it makes any sense. Just how it is.

I would venture to say that David Mamet thinks this way. He seems to cherish the very fact that actors/actresses exist. He revels in their insanity, their willingness to put on various chicken suits and dance for us. But he has little patience for those of the breed who have any pretension. Who won't get their hands dirty. Who take themselves too seriously. Who don't take themselves seriously enough.

I bring up my dichotomous ethics in remaining neutral on actors/actresses but villifying musicians willy nilly because 'True And False' seems equally schizophrenic. One minute Mamet is championing those actors who are fearless to such an extent that they shock us with their choices. The next he is scoffing at actors who seem so into making choices. He barely seems able to go 2 pages without contradicting himself.

Several times in reading this book I rolled my eyes and thought, "Oh, sure, this sounds good on paper but try doing the 'To be or not to be' monologue that way, David Fucking Mamet. See how fucking easy that is, douchebag."

And that is what makes this book so much fun for actors. We are at once inside the club of 'good' actors as we read it, able to chastise those without our sensational skill, and outside Mamet's bullshit understanding of how we do what we do. Double pleasure. Double judgment!

I can't say how much fun this book would be for a non Theater person. For those of us forever caught up in stage left stage right shenanigans, it is like coffee after dinner and dessert. Not necessary or even healthy but just what we need all the same.

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