Seeing the Actors!

Jul. 15th, Sunday

This morning, two actors, Alexandros Mylonas (who played Socrates) and Nikos Psarras (who played Just Discourse) from The Clouds came to Magda! I have to admit that as they slowly walked towards us through the garden, I could not believe my eyes. Last night, I could only watch them from a distance, amazed by the amount of power that’s conveyed through their characters on stage, but today, I got to talk to them face to face!

What surprised me further was that both actors had study abroad experiences in America. The actor who played Socrates, Alexandros Mylonas told us his study abroad story. During the dictatorship era in Greece, his father was imprisoned and exiled to an island by the government. In order to get an education for himself, Alexandros fought with the government to get a passport and made his way to United States and UK to pursue his childhood dream of being an actor. As an immigrant myself, I understand the amount of effort and courage it took to fight against all obstacles and to restart out from scratch in a new country. I guess that the reason he could become an actor and could still remain being an actor was that he always had faith in this profession and always fought with reality for opportunities. As both actors told us, being an actor is hard, no matter where one is. It’s not just because of the competition that’s existent, but also because it is challenging to remain truthful to this chosen profession and to always devote oneself to building worthwhile characters when external circumstances go astray. This reminds me of what Tim once told the class, acting is never about putting oneself into spotlight. It’s about creating and giving life to a new character. This process demands dedication and focus, with the endpoint not being perfection, but rather a step closer to perfection.

Hearing these words from two professional actors who devoted their lives to acting made me think a lot, not just about acting but about choosing a profession in real life. According to Nikos, the use of microphone in the performance last night was the director’s idea. He personally thought that it was too fashionable and would potentially infuriate the Greek audience who valued the tradition of performing ancient drama in original styles (with the use of natural acoustics). However, as an actor, he would only leave these doubts “in the dressing room.” I think this is not just true for being an actor. In every profession, and especially in performing arts industry, one has to balance personal needs to express and enact one’s own ideas with the group’s interest and harmony. As for acting, it is never about proving to the audience how good one is in acting; rather, it is about how one can best create a character that works best for the whole production as a whole. Also, Nikos gave us advice that if one wants to become an actor, reading and keeping oneself updated are always vital. As I learn more and more about acting from this seminar, I truly feel that in order to become a good actor, it is important to be well trained (voice, body, movements, etc.). However, acting is never just about these basics. It is a multidisciplinary subject. In order to create and bring to life a dynamic, powerful character, one first has to allow oneself the time to enrich one’s knowledge base about the world and to contemplate about the dynamics between countries, between cultures, and between people in today’s world. And these reflections are fuel for actors to generate characters that are relatable and powerful: characters in that trigger more discussions and thoughts amongst the modern audience.

This idea goes back to the discussion the class had a while back about performing ancient drama in today’s modern world. The reason that the stadium was still packed with audience for an ancient drama like Clouds is that all the humor and all the jokes generated in the production are relevant to today’s world reality. The ancient drama is powerful because they allow us to use the past as mirror to examine the present and that they trigger us to reexamine the past in creating a better future.

Alexandros and Nikos also allowed us to have a better understanding of the performance last night and the process of putting together such performance in the ancient theatre. The production intended to create a Socrates as an irritable and snobbish character and to contrast that with a narrator (a reflection of the real Socrates) who is controlled and scholarly. This contrast resonated with the contrast of the old school education and sophistry that was being presented in the show, escalating the tension of the show. As Nikos said, the purpose of the show is to have audience leave the stadium feeling “skeptical” about traditions, including the tradition ideal of Socrates. There were a few things that struck me through the discussion. One was the actors’ lack of effort in creating humor. When some of us asked the actors the mechanics of coming up with a big joke that would make everyone in the audience laugh, the actors looked at us in confusion and said, “we just come up with a few things that we know people will understand, and wait for it.” I think this is a valuable point for all of us to consider. A lot of time we think very hard to come up with a joke, but we forget about our audience. In fact, if we know our audience well and know how to relate to them, we will always have material for humor. Even if we come up with very hilarious content, but if they are not within the context for the audience to understand, there will be no effects. Also I was surprised about the amount of improvisations that were existent in the production. The actors revealed to us that a lot of the jokes that the actors came up in the production were in fact improvised on stage. This is another reason why theatre is so fantastic. The audience and the actors together create an energy. The actors rely on the audience’s response to make the energy more sustainable and more entertaining. The audience enjoys the performance but also takes part in the performance in a subtle way.

I really appreciate that Tim, Michael, Mariel and others work so hard to contact so many wonderful, talented actors, directors and professors to come and talk to us. They inspired me so much not just about theatre but also about life after college. In fact, more and more I feel that this seminar is not just about theatre, it’s about refining and broadening our own perspective as a young adult. Through theatre, we find a common energy, despite the differences in our race, our background and our values. Together, we raise questions about ourselves and about the world around us. Together, we face the obstacles present and reflect on our responsibilities as a world citizen.

Wow I wrote a lot. Sorry for not updating our blog often. The internet here is hibernating most of the time. Thanks to those who always followed our blog. Our hearts are with you guys…

Until next time,