Video Research

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Often we find ourselves working with material that contains stories, characters, or facts that we know little about. You could power forward with an interpretation based only on what you know and what the source material tells you, and you might succeed. Admittedly, there are particular facts of life that need not be known to perform a piece. Still, as a performer it is your duty to be as accurate as possible.

There are certain times when relying on the material and prior knowledge is not sufficient. For instance, if I were to even consider doing a piece that dealt with mental illness I would place research as a priority. Anything that involves specific, physical ticks a character has are definitely research worthy. How can I know how a person with Parkinson’s disease accurately acts unless I have first hand experience? What do I know about drug addiction? Suicide? Abortion? Pregnancy? Notta, zilch, goose egg. Okay, I know a bit from extensive reading and film viewing. But watching One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest does not make me an expert on mental illness, nor does it make you one (despite the accuracy)!

Might I suggest a revolutionary thought? RESEARCH! Hit-up the library and internet for videos relating to your topic. Make sure your resources are non-fiction as well. As I hinted earlier, watching/reading fiction is not 100% truthful. I firmly believe in truth in art, but art is intended to deliver fact with theatrics. Spectacle intermingles with truth and we enter into the realm of Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness.” Yes, we learn from fiction and art, but we are only shown what the artist wishes for us to see. The ugly can become hidden or lessoned for effect.

Reading is a wonderful way to expand your mind on any terms or facts that might be necessary and useful in finding a truthful performance, but if you need observable fact videos are golden. With an abundance of videos on the internet (youtube anyone?), it seems lazy to not watch a few videos for research. When might videos be worthwhile? If your character has any physical characteristics, mannerisms, or an illness searching for videos where you can observe these physical influences can offer truthful, precise ideas for your performance. Observation is often the best way to discovery.

I suppose the bottom line is why bother with accuracy when your audience might not even be familiar with whatever affects your character? For starters, you don’t know if your audience is ignorant to what afflicts your character. The last thing you want to do is pretend to know something when a savvy audience member knows otherwise. Further, I personally find it hard to play a character that suffers an aliment without knowing a stitch about it. I constantly think I am being inaccurate and therefore lying through my performance. Also, trying to think of quirks/mannerisms becomes tedious when I have no concept of what really happens. Ultimately, taking the time to research not only makes crafting a performance easier, but it also ensures truth in art. THAT’S the bottom line: truth. And nothing captures truth quite like a video camera left on record.

I like this. Bringing some theatre technique to speech ;)

I would also suggest doing some people watching. When feasible of course.

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