Saturday, December 5, 2009

Sudsy Performance


I don't know about you, but to me, Hollywood actors  - like James Franco, pictured to the left - are entertainers rather than artists.  I make that distinction between theatre people as well as in the film world.  Entertainers, to me, are those that like the familiar and are not interested in seeing how far they can stretch an art form.

In theatre these are the folks that would love to do Sweeney Todd (or insert the name of any popular play that is at least 10 years old) again, for the 5th time.  In film, those are the folks that like to do the big blockbusters with cars exploding and breasts exposed and people being killed and/or mutilated.  I'm not saying there is anything wrong with this, it's just something that I've noticed. 

Then there are the people, in both theatre and film, who long to stretch the boundaries of their genres.  They aren't happy unless there's some way to do something differently to make a point or to perhaps give new life to a text.  I consider these folks the artists of their genres.  That's why Viewpoints training (movement training) was so important to me as both an actor and a director.  It was a way to re-conceptualize a show or a portion of a play.

Back in 2003, I was accepted into the Director's Lab West workshop held that year at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena.  It was a great learning experience and I now get group emails from folks who do the workshops each year.  This morning Dan Wilson told a tale of eating lunch in front of the TV and watching a soap opera in which Franco appeared.  Franco, if you don't know, was in both Spiderman and in Milk.  Later he caught an episode of Fresh Air, the NPR show, in which Franco called the soap opera gig a performance art experience!?!

He included a link that was in the Wall Street Journal - who knew that bastion of fiscal conservatives would have any truck with performance art?  Even if you think much performance art is pretentious (and I agree with you on some of it), please read the article HERE.  It might make you think twice.  I know that I've changed my concept of Hollywood actors thanks to Franco!
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