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Text and Subtext: Defining Good Acting

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Text and Subtext: Defining Good Acting

Engaging in the Art of Performance: A Journey Through Our Creative Writing and Drama Course

The art of acting is an intricate tapestry woven with skill, emotion, and a profound understanding of both the overt and the covert - the text and the subtext. Our recent creative writing and drama session's goal was to delve into these complexities.

The Group's Exploration

Our session kicked off with a discussion around the essence of good acting. Participants shared varied perspectives, focusing on elements like believability, precision of movement, and the critical aspect of distinguishing the actor from the character. This conversation set the stage for a deeper exploration into the world of performance.

Acting Techniques and Genres

We then journeyed into the realm of acting genres. Experimenting with Hamlet's iconic line "To be or not to be—that is the question," the actors infused it with different intentions. Some students chose to sing it, some performed it dramatically, and some chose to add repetitiveness to it to emphasise it's poetic nature. This exercise illuminated the limitations of genres in anchoring specific character work. Instead, the concepts of physicality and subtext emerged as more practical and potent tools in an actor’s arsenal.

Shakespearean Acting Conventions

Our discussion briefly touched upon the evolution of acting conventions, especially in the context of Shakespeare. Recognizing that the acting style of Shakespeare's time might seem alien today without understanding its historical context, we suggested further research into this area.
For example, in Elizabethan times, costumes and masks were often used to signify character types, status, and gender, as women were not allowed to perform on stage and male actors played female roles. Costumes were usually elaborate and indicative of the character’s social standing. Interaction with the audience was common, and acting was generally more stylized and less naturalistic than it is today, partially for technical reasons.

Dialogue Exercise with Subtext

The session continued with improvised scenes where actors were challenged to infuse the given text with underlying intentions. One such example was a parent-child debate, which allowed actors to experiment with layering their performances with complex subtexts. In the process of analysing each other's performance, we came to the conclusion that more emotionally resonant and character-specific intentions are important. Subtext is significantly easier to convey when the characters and their roles are more specifically defined.

Homework Assignment: Video Monologues

As a challenge, participants were given an optional homework assignment. They were encouraged to record short video monologues exploring subtext. We are curious what the outcomes will be!
The goal of our course is not just to learn how to act and/or write; but rather to embark on a journey of self-expression and deeper understanding of texts.
In our next posts, we will continue to cover our progress and share interesting moments.