Thursday, August 21, 2008

Acting Vs. Indicating on As the World Turns

Soap opera's are a "guilty pleasure" (OK, really an embarrassing pleasure since I don't seem to have the guilt gene). That said, it is nice that one of them has somewhat realistic gay characters.

As the World Turns has an actual gay couple, Noah and Luke, who fans affectionately call "Nuke." If you work during the day and don't feel like recording it, you can watch the show online.

As you might expect, the paultry air time Nuke usually get is really annoying, though it is good that there is a queer couple on the show. I understood immediately why that bothered me. However, there was something else that annoyed me, something I didn't know how to explain.

One of the other things that actually sets ATWT from its competition is the quality of the acting. However, Proctor and Gamble, which owns the show (a true soap opera), has been messing with that too. Grayson McCouch, one of the two best actors, left the show because TPTB (the powers that be) decided to get hard assed in contract negotions. He's coming back (his character from the dead LOL), but the other best performer, Martha Byrne, was pushed out.

Sadly, her character was recast by the mediocre Noelle Beck. I didn't know how to explain what is wrong with Beck's performances until WBAI's theater reviewer mentioned the difference between indicating and acting. has a great article by Jean Schiffman on what these terms mean and what the difference is. Here's a basic explanation:
Indicating, writes Alex Golson in Acting Essentials (McGraw-Hill, 2001), is what you do when you "show the audience what you are thinking or feeling" -- that is, showing instead of thinking, feeling, and doing. He advises, "Don't ever show; just do and trust that your feelings and thoughts will be discovered by the audience." Chicago teacher Ed Hooks, in The Actor's Field Guide (Back Stage Books, 2004), describes indicating as "the acting equivalent of one of those old paint-by-number kits." He explains that you mustn't decide what the emotion ought to be in a certain moment in the scene and then try to come up with ways to act that emotion. Certainly that's a more subtle approach to indicating than scrunching your face or cocking your head, but it's indicating just the same, because it's not being in the moment.

Earlier in the article, they gave a more concrete example:
Yet indicating happens. In discussing sense memory in her book Acting for Film (Allworth Press, 2003), Cathy Haase gives an example of it: "If it is supposed to be a sunny environment, the actor acts like they are in the sun. They squint their eyes, lick their lips from thirst, and wipe away the sweat from their brow.... [They] use a gesture to indicate what is going on in the environment. These gestures are generally too stagy for the camera." In most cases, they're too stagy for the stage, too.

In writing, they often say that you should "show, not tell." I guess this is the analogous thing for acting.

Now, I undertand the difference between Byrne and Beck. Beck is indicating, while Byrne was acting.

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