Thursday, January 17, 2013

When Secrets are No Longer Secret

As a younger person, you were envious of individuals who had secrets, were in a sense thrilled when someone, anyone, offered to share a secret with you.

"I'll tell you a secret, you have to promise not to tell," became the closest thing to a mantra you experienced.  You longed to have secrets of your own.  Feeling transparent, obvious to all in your lack of so much as one single secret, you began inventing them.  Years later, many, many years later, when you heard Neil Simon express his belief that anything beginning with "I've never told this to another person" was an immediate and profound lure, you sensed a connection with an essential dramatic truth.

Most stories are build around secrets and their discovery or, in some dramatic way, a revelation.  Some stories made much of the fact that what one person considered a secret either was not nor had never been a secret or was nothing of significance.  Thus material related to secrets and secrecy could be scary, funny, ironic.

All the while you were growing toward what you have become, you longed for secrets the way a miser longs for a hoard.  At one point, barely into two-digit age, you thought you had a secret, which was the fact of an incredible crush on Rena Passacantando, a crush you nourished for days, weeks, which at the time were considerable spans.  But It was Donald Munn who told you that your secret did not amount to much because not only did he have a crush on Rena Passacantando, but so too did Archie Triponi and Sal Fado.  Every boy in the fifth grade, with the possible exception of Joseph Cherniss, had a crush on Rena Passacantando, and he might have, but he was notable in his slow development in that area.  Well known among boys in grade five, Public School Number Ten, was that Joseph had yet to experience his first boner, yet another facet of secret and secrecy and those who know and those who do not.

We all have secrets.  Some of them may be secret beyond the point where we are aware of them.  In those circumstances, others may notice our secrets, half expecting us to act on them, waiting, watching us as though we were a lit fuse.

You have secrets, including those you know about.  With certain individuals and in certain circumstances, you half expect one of them to inform you that you have the equivalent of a speck of spinach leaf on your tooth.  What better thing to say of an individual who is a friend.

A particular secret of yours is the fact of your introversion.  By your own standards and experience, an introvert is not as likely as you to be out in public, doing things before audiences, in some cases, either through words, deeds, or a combination, revealing secrets or expressing opinions you believe to run counter to convention.  In some cases, after such admissions of introversion, you are often met with surprise.  "But you're so--"  Struggle to find a word here.  Perhaps "--open." arrives.  Perhaps "--outgoing."

You are brought to this crossroad in what seems to you a natural series of circumstances, beginning with the fact of you bringing characters and notions out of your own swirl of impressions, experience, and imagination.  All these are of high idiosyncrasy.  Another person, having the exact experiences as you, could well have differing interpretations and expectations.

The writer, actor, and other expression-oriented persons of your experience (such as musician, painter, photographer) work their way up to personal boundaries, then, almost as a rite of passage, work their way through.  Your characters, for example, are able to do things social, moral, ethical, creative in nature beyond your own ability to do specific things.  You're constantly aware of actors who no longer even think about personal lines they would not cross when a part they are playing suggests to them the need to trespass.

At times when you pause to inventory events or deeds in your life of which you are not fond or comfortable with, you often arrive at things your characters have done that in your opinion outdistance your own trespasses.  In fairness, when you consider events and activities you'd include in your curriculum vitae, you see characters of yours who have gone well beyond your accomplishments.  This is an important metric to you because it means you have more or less unlimited freedom to push your characters in both directions, at the same time blending the two extremes within the same character.  They are as conflicted as you, except that their conflicting urges may be less apparent to them than yours to you.

If you are to maintain your interest in any character you bring on stage, for however brief a period, even for a no-lines appearance, you must maintain interest in yourself and the schism between your proud list and your broken taboo list.  You must also be willing to push them and you to greater trespass, the better to make them and you more tangible.

You have just enough experience performing as other individuals to understand how, your personal deeds of unpleasant behavior to the contrary notwithstanding, there are behaviors on both sides of the spectrum you can perform if you do so not as yourself.  This leads you directly to the place where the writer/actor steps beyond the self to offer a plausible entity beyond the self.  The writer/actor, through observation and practice, arrives at this vision, as you did, with the sense of having found someone else's toolkit, then being told to go forth and use it.

If you were at perfect ease rather than the more accurate sense of negotiated comfort with your own various components, the results could lead to the problem of all your performances being about you and based in perfect ease.  The fact of them housed in negotiated comfort means you need to be alert for inflections, insinuations, intimations that it is all about some comfortable you and thus vulnerable to self-interest (as opposed to self-discovery).

Trained actors can and do manage to perform with other actors for whom they feel no chemistry.  The audience, for its part, can often "tell" or feel the presence between two characters, which leads to a superb blend of presence and reality, a presence that makes being any kind of participant in a story a memorable experience.

This has you thinking about the value of some chemistry between your various, secretive selves, particularly those who have secrets from you.

What this comes down to is the way secrets and territory are defined by ordinary and beyond.  You need to keep your secrets from becoming ordinary, you have to develop a greater familiarity for trespass, all in the service of causing the necessary chemistry between you and your acting partners and your characters and, should the occasion arise, your partners in crime.

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