Stanislavsky asked (and I paraphrase), 'Why, when the violinist, the artist, the poet and the writer practice their art daily, does the dramatic artist see fit to sit around coffee houses all day and pray for the gift of Apollo in the evening?'
I can reliably report to you that indeed the coffee houses of L.A are full of actors sitting around drinking coffee. The same can be said of the coffee houses of New York and London too. That's a lot of coffee. Of course, in between jobs, when they are not drinking the stuff (and you may wonder if actors really need all that extra caffeine) they're serving the stuff.
Yes, an entire industry would collapse if there were simply more acting work to go round.
Some answer Stanislavsky's question by saying that to practice acting one needs other actors. Unlike painting a picture or writing a poem, acting cannot be fully realized alone but elements of the actor's work CAN be addressed and should be, such as physical conditioning, vocal warm-ups, cold reading and speech exercises.
Actors will be hanging around coffee houses until the end of time. They are a sociable bunch, bless them and there is real validity in socializing. Artists are notoriously bad at selling themselves so if his/her morning Mocha gives the actor an opportunity to network, then good! Let the execs keep their golf course, the actor has the coffee house.
Have just read Peter Simpkins' article for The Guardian, 'Is Judi Dench right - are young actors only obsessed with fame?'
It's an interesting debate and I think Simpkins gets it right by coming down on the side of young actors. He suggests the industry is to blame, driving young performers from diminishing opportunities in theatre, towards slightly better chances of survival in television, film and commercials and I can see how one could therefore conclude that there is a mercenary, fame-game element to the contemporary actor's approach to the industry.
Admittedly, there are some poor, deluded, young souls out there who are in it for fame. The culture of reality TV, undoubtedly has something to do with this.
Most reality programs are aimed at a young audience and often focus on transforming the wannabe actor/musician/dancer into a celebrity.
Ironically, reality TV robs the schedules of drama programs which are far more expensive to produce and as a result, there is less work available for the jobbing actor while more wannabes flood the industry.
It's a rather unsavory subject to begin a blog with but....
Returning from my afternoon run yesterday I reached the home stretch and promptly stuck my foot down a pothole in the road, severely twisting my right ankle. It was a classic, top-drawer, Norman Wisdom moment. I'm not adverse to such comedy moments - I did the left ankle about six months ago as I rallied towards the baseline during a game of tennis, trod on a stray tennis ball and ended up in a heap on the ground.
In a shameless attempt to milk as much sympathy as I can from the tragic events of yesterday afternoon and for general amusement, I am posting a picture of the remains of my right foot below. Be warned! It ain't pretty!
'Plates of meat' (cockney rhyming slang for 'feet')
The upside of being confined to the house for a few days has been in tackling the towering Colossus - a stack of books that lie gathering dust on the bedside table. Among them, a volume of Wilfred Owen poetry.
Iambic Pentameter wasn't Shakespeare's domain alone and has, of course, been the lifeblood of English poetry for the past 700 years or so - Chaucer, Dryden, Pope, Wordsworth, Keats, Tennyson, Yeats, Browning, Frost and Wilfred Owen...but for many, Shakespeare's use of the meter remains unparalleled.
For me, Owen gives The Bard a run for his money.
During that brief period between January 1917, when he was first sent to the Western Front and his death in November 1918, Owen reached an emotional and spiritual maturity which he brought to bear on a body of work that to my mind, quite simply represents some of the finest poetry ever written.
His mastery of prosody is sublime. His use of iambic pentameter, enjambment, caesura, quite flawless. His employment of consonance, in particular the use of full consonance in poems such as Strange Meeting, I find extraordinary.
In my own writings, I am currently attempting (rather poorly it has to said) a double Villanelle written in iambic pentameter. The modern exemplar and probably the most famous Villanelle belongs to Dylan Thomas (Do not go gentle into that good night).
As I grapple clumsily with the form, I can only marvel at the likes of Shakespeare, Owen and Thomas, their use of language and mastery of prosodic form and structure.