Sunday, November 30, 2008

Can Writers Act?



What is life without stupid questions? I live by stupid questions and am fed a multitude of them on a daily basis. So...let me wax annoyingly and offer up a musing of my own: Do you think writers are good actors?

I thought about this recently while sitting at my desk reading dialogue out loud. It's something I do. It's probably one of the reasons I went the longest time without a date before getting married. I held off the readings out loud until after the wedding, and then to my amazement, she didn't seem to mind.

That being said, when I do my readings, I am incredibly animated. I sometimes think it would be a good idea to get a bunch of costumes and makeup and keep them by my computer to help me get into the mood. Wait..was that too personal? Rewind.

When writing, I try and become the character, I want to hear that character's voice, hear his thoughts, imagine that when he does something on paper that it is true to who he is. Having read much about acting and having played Felix in a bad amateur production of "The Odd Couple" (some people are even now gasping---Felix? The clean, finicky guy? Not the grumpy, messy one?), I think actors and writers share some appreciation and empathy for character.

It's amazing to sometimes listen to writers read their work. Often when we do, we are one dimensional. We pretty much read in one vein. Jon Zech is usually folksy and reads like that guy who does the Disney voice overs for the nature films, for example. Chuck Zaglanis reads with this welcoming come-hither tone. Me? I chew the scenery, relishing in description that will shock people around me...and have been known to improvise as I read to truly offend. Even when reading a child's poem.

But reading out loud is one thing.

I still wonder, if you put me and Chuck in dresses and told us to star in a remake of "Some Like It Hot" (somewhere out there Ferrel Moore just went running out of the room), would we be able to pull it off with aplomb? Could Jon Zech handle Hamlet?; how would Charles Gramlich do playing opposite Sidney Williams in a new version of "Inherit The Wind"? How about Mark Rainey in a musical based on the life of John Wayne Gacy? Ferrel Moore in an imagining of "Dr. Strange" (someone will have to tell him who that is). I try and imagine people in the Royal Oak group and wonder if Joe could submerge himself into a reimagining of Darth Vader, Kim as Princess Leia, Aubreii and Gwen as female versions of Hans Solo and Obi-Wan respectively. Just trying to think out of the box.

Does creativity transfer to other forms? Is it plug and play? Can writers act? 

27 comments:

Rick said...

To anyone that claims you are a deeply weird man, I saw this posting proves them wrong. What say the rest of you?

laughingwolf said...

i'm deeply disturbed :O lol

Lana Gramlich said...

I don't know if writers can act, personally, but I sure did laugh inside at the thought of y'all remaking Some Like it Hot or Inherit the Wind! Thanks for that. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

I've always fancied myself a kind of modern day Clint Eastwood. I even star in my own Gumbo Westerns, like A Fistful of Crawfish, and For a Few Gators More.

SQT said...

Well, I was told I was pretty good in drama class. Does that count?

I think writers have a good chance at being pretty decent actors. To be a good writer you have to be able to get into a character's head and the same applies to acting. Obviously it would vary from person to person, but both careers rely a lot on creativity-- so I bet yeah, writers can act.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Rick..bite me.
Laughing Wolf, you talk about being disturbed as though it is a bad thing.

Lana, I see you as Joan of Arc...maybe a musical version, something with a lot of tuba and a banjo. Ya think?

SQT, I'm seeing you in a new production of HELLO DOLLY. Yeah.

spyscribbler said...

Totally! Well, I'm a terrible speaker sort, but I think there is definitely an element of getting inside someone else's skin.

And creativity does seem to transfer, but if I use it up elsewhere, it seems to run dry for the writing.

Steve Buchheit said...

Acting in the "We are all act-tors here!" probably not. But it does take some method skills to fain excitement about $.05 or less per word (just kidding to all those editors out there).

Sidney said...

I had a class in college, in which the authors of the textbook contended that performing literature was a great way of studying it. I think that's true because the inevitable examination and repetition forces study.

I think reading our own work aloud could help on that front too. I've even revised things as I was reading them to groups before.

Sidney said...

Hey, by the way, if we stage Inherit the Wind, who gets to play the Clarence Darrow character?

Stewart Sternberg said...

spy
some people believe there are certain creative traits that cross domains. The question is whether one is sensitive to those traits and develops them.

Sidney...fight it out. Loser has to do reruns of "Angel".

Steve...stand up to those editors. Don't accept anything less than 10 cents a word, unless those words are long or end with ING, then add another 3 cent surcharge. Trust me on this.

Jon said...

Charles...I'll be Van Cleef to your Eastwood. Just call me Angel Eyes.

Stewart...I sound folksy when I read folksy. In darker stuff I am the Voice of Doom. And if you plan on keeping some costumes by your computer, why not go all the way and web-cam the whole thing. Could go viral.

Rick said...

I know why you haven't posted in the month of December- you're playing World of Warcraft, aren't you?

aubreii said...

Ha! I used to act and received some pretty decent reviews. No Star Wars, though. Other than writing it's the only other art I'm passionate about, and I think they run from the same creative vein, at least in me. When I read aloud it brings out that boisterous actress for sure! And by the way, I'm with Jon on the web cam idea. You could quit your day job!

Jon said...

...and it's why I miss reading aloud at the group. But I will. At Joe's place. Joe, you'd better lay down a tarp because Stewart's going to piss when I read "A Very Tangee Christmas."

Rick said...

Jon, can you videotape Stewart's reaction for me?

Stewart Sternberg said...

Yeah, that sounds like a ripping good time there Jon. Between A Tangee Christmas or whatever and a bunch of poets reading their work, I'm sure that my life would be complete. Maybe..just maybe...we could also have someone from the local the Emily Dickinson Society come and share their impressions of metaphysical masculinity as it might pertain to the creation of the myth of the American Adam. You think?

Rick, um....yeah...that sounds like a ripping good time. Maybe someone can bring tbeir leather working kit and blindfold us all so we can experience the creative process from a tactile only perspective. Yeah. Um. Yeah. Did you get the memo?

Aubreii you wouldn't want to webcame. I read naked.

Akasha Savage said...

Mmmm, that's a good question. I too get very animated when I read my writing out loud, but whether the quality of what I am doing is any good - I'm not so sure. My daughter is taking A level Performing Arts; she raises her eyebrows and smirks a funny sort of lop-sided grin at my antics. Once I was parading around our kitchen; getting into one of my characters, when my daughter came into the room with a friend. She just said, with a tight little grin: She's a writer. She may just as well have said: She's mad, because I could see that's what she really thought.
But whos royalties (if I ever get any that is!!) are going to see her through drama school?...huh?
:D

Akasha Savage said...

PS - I want to be Scarlett O'Hara!

JR's Thumbprints said...

Not too long ago I tried my hand at narration. Of course it wasn't too bad; I was recalling an event from my childhood (can't get anymore one dimensional than that!).

Virginia Lady said...

I don't think I'd have the nerve to get up in front of anyone. Maybe close friends. I'd more than likely forget my lines and then I'd have to improvise. Writing allows me to explore all the possibilities and still not completely embarrass myself. Storytelling is about as far into that arena as I've been willing to go.

Zoe Winters said...

I've always had people tell me that I could act. I've also got a little bit of an visual artistic streak (it hasn't been nurtured or honed nearly as much as the writing, but it's there.)

So yeah, I think some people can do more than one creative thing. I also dance and can choreograph dance.

Now, I can't sing worth shit, or play any musical instruments.

L.A. Mitchell said...

I'd much rather be a screenwriter and leave it to someone else.

Donnetta Lee said...

Stu: I took a few writing courses at a college in Florida this summer. In each, writers were called upon to read either aloud their own works or those of others. Oh, my. I never saw/heard such animation in my life! Not even in the classrooms where I've worked. These people fancied themselves to be Academy Award winners. I HAD to take my turn, of course, and later one of the participants (British) told me he would really like me to do something about my Oklahoma accent! hahaha Ah, well. I tried. D

Stewart Sternberg said...

Akasha, I can remember my parents faces. My father would look skyward..."A writer? Couldn't you be a political cartoonist?" (as if that was an easy field to break into). My mother: "What about law? You like to argue."

Zoe, I used to love to dance. Before the knee surgery. Sometimes though....sometimes I see myself in the tails and top hat, cutting a rug, and singing italian songs.

J.R., I can't imagine your childhood being a one dimensional interpretation by any means.

Virginia Lady...you should try it some time. I think it's wonderful for people to take risks. I recall one time trying out for an improvisational comedy troupe. I was terrified. I was dreadful. Glad I did it.

Donetta, it sometimes cracks me up when writers attempt to infuse into their writing something that's not there. It's why I think that while it's wonderful to read out loud, to listen to someone else read your work out loud, and what have you..nothing is a substitute for flat out silent reading in an environment that best reproduces how the average reader will encounter your work.

Avery DeBow said...

From personal experience, no. What I've found with my own work is that I can be incredibly animated and lively reading my characters. But, when I read other people's work, my voice starts to fall flat.

I did some theater back in the day, fancied myself an aspiring actor. From those experiences I can say with full honesty that this writer will never, ever, ever be a good actor.

Mark Rainey said...

I could never do Gacy. The BTK Killer, however... well, I'm a ringer. ;)