Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Matters of life and death

Vie et mort.

As a writer (and person!) I think about this endlessly on several levels because we make decisions based on this fundamental life or death core of our being every moment without having the awareness that we do.

When I help actors find the innermost element of the characters they portray .. we seek whatever makes that character feel like they are experiencing a "life or death" moment.

For example, if you are a punctual person and you find yourself running late, the sensations you experience in your stomach, lungs and heart don't feel like it's a matter of being on time or late - nope, it feels like a matter of life or death!

Now, in reality it is not normally a matter of physical life and death (except in the most extreme cases), but it certainly *feels* like it is.

Some people feel like it's a matter of life and death when they make a mistake - even a minor error; some when they are "exposed" to be doing - or not doing - whatever might be embarrassing or humiliating specifically to them.

One person's embarrassment or humiliation is another person's joke. For example, to Ted, dropping ice cream on his boss's shoe is mortifying (mort=death "creating"), to Wendy, it's a source of laughter (laugh=life "enhancing").

Life or death.

That's the key to our character.

Who we are at our core.

Whatever triggers your life or death moment depends on: who you are (personality), childhood experiences, life or relationship experiences, spirituality, counseling and of course how you relate to whatever or whomever might set off the trigger.

For example, the person with post traumatic stress disorder will experience a different trigger at a different level than someone who has not been exposed to serious trauma.

"Life and death" episodes run deep - there is a keen sensation of fright and the need to protect ourselves.

More, the way each of us responds to them is different. Some can be extreme, others more mellow.

Whatever it is - the more we are in touch with that life and death emotional axis in ourselves and the character, the more we know ourselves, the more we know the character.

The more we know our own life/death apex, the more we can control our responses; the more we know this in the character, the freer we are as actors to respond as drastically or as minimally as the situation compells her to!


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