By Paul Elsam
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Additional info for Acting Characters: 16 Simple Steps From Rehearsal to Performance
The most obvious way to use verbal status to claim top spot on the seesaw is to insult someone horribly, and sound as if you really mean it. The more unpleasant the image you can create in people’s minds, the lower you’re forcing the person being insulted. Helena and Hermia’s furious barrage of insults aimed at one another’s height in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s 24 01ACharacters 1/2/06 11:45 am Page 25 planning to act Dream, stands as a good example. I’ve marked the verbal status insults in bold; as you’ll see, the seesaw hammers up and down as speedily as the audience can follow it: HELENA … What, will you tear impatient answers from my gentle tongue?
The play ends with this private exchange between Crichton and Lady Mary: LADY MARY Do you despise me, Crichton? ) You are the best man among us. CRICHTON On an island, my lady, perhaps; but in England, no. 23 01ACharacters 1/2/06 11:45 am Page 24 acting characters LADY MARY Then there’s something wrong with England. CRICHTON My lady, not even from you can I listen to a word against England. LADY MARY Tell me one thing: you have not lost your courage? CRICHTON No, my lady. (She goes. ) So ends one of the greatest social-status ‘switch’ comedies of all time – with a warning, perhaps, to the audience of the time to look to their own conscience.
Lyons. Russell uses the narrative of his musical play to argue persuasively that if we use our various powers to treat people in radically different ways – praising one while chastising the other, favouring one while disadvantaging the other, and so on – then we are, each of us, complicit in influencing the way people turn out. 40 01ACharacters 1/2/06 11:45 am Page 41 planning to act Acting tips Once you’re aware of the importance of different types of power, you can start to use that knowledge to sharpen your sensitivity onstage.
Acting Characters: 16 Simple Steps From Rehearsal to Performance by Paul Elsam