Flying

As with the other days, please remember this is part of a much larger conversation about Richard Armitage, and you would be pleased by checking out the rest of it here.

My apologies for the delay in posting, and no, today is not about Richard Armitage and Peter Jackson. It was supposed to be today, but I’m a day behind. Sometime I might tell you why.

This piece was originally titled ‘I Think Therefore I Am a Great Actor II,’ but my need for cuteness has waned, and in its place is an overwhelming desire to be understood. The need is so great that it’s also contributed to this post being tardy, and I began drafting it a couple of months ago! Actually, the post has been brewing from the day I started this blog. No, before that.

I knew fairly early on what overwhelmed me about RA’s portrayals, but the language to explain it has eluded me; otherwise, I would have explained already. My stumbling block is not in finding some words so much as it is in wishing to use words that have no inflammatory nature. If my ability to handle words were better, then I could deal with the dangerous ones while curtailing the seemingly endless qualifiers.

In case it wasn’t obvious in the last post, the drug I keep taking is the reality created by Richard Armitage’s characters. I would say truth, but people trip on the word truth. Maybe because it’s often assumed to be the sum of all truth instead of just a truth. That does seem to be the inference from a significant number of people when the word appears. And perhaps it is such an important aspect of our lives, it rightly deserves that reaction. To be clear, I do have a definite view of the source of the truth, but it has such a richness and depth, I could never sum it up. It’s not that simple.

And people aren’t simple. It doesn’t matter who. Everyone has myriad emotions for myriad reasons with myriad manifestations of them. For another person to portray this authentically, and I don’t necessarily mean realistically but rather a portrayal that gets to the heart of a person, certainly can’t be simple. It requires what Stanislavski called “the magic if” which is an actor accessing his imagination to give a character thoughts and feelings, and in turn mannerisms and personal habits in order to convey the inner man. When I first heard Richard Armitage wrote back stories for his characters, I wondered if he was a devotee’ of Stanislavski’s method, but it wasn’t until I read the Vulpes Libris interview in July 2009, that I was sure. Oh, what a wonderful piece. For all of the supposed intellectual resources of the major media outlets, an interview on a fairly unknown blog remains my favorite, because he shared in more detail, before or since, how his mind works with respect to his craft. Thank you again, Lovely Book Foxes! I think many of us would love to read those diaries. Maybe one day.

From that interview, something else began to be clear. This tapping into the imagination and using it to make a real point of connection is Richard Armitage’s obsession, and thankfully for us, his genius. When I was reading Craig, he made an illustration of a young man wanting to become an actor and how it wasn’t really about wanting to be an actor but something else:

Perhaps you quarrelled with your parents when you were eighteen, because you wished to go on the stage, and they would not let you. They perhaps asked why you wanted to go on the stage, and you could give no reasonable answer because you wanted to do that which no reasonable answer could explain; in other words, you wanted to fly. And had you said to your parents, “I want to fly,” I think that you would have probably got further than had you alarmed them with the terrible words, “I want to go on the stage.

Millions of such men have had the same desire, this desire for movement, this desire to fly, this desire to be merged in some other creature’s being, and not knowing that it was the desire to live in the imagination, some have answered their parents, “I want to be an actor; I want to go on the stage. — Edward Gordon Craig, from On the Art of the Theatre

I saw Richard Armitage in that. Oh, not the quarrel although there could have been a quarrel, but in the desire to merge with another creature’s being. And it occurred to me that for all its appearances, this is not flying:

The heart of these characters was never revealed in any way that was terribly meaningful to me. The entire time I was watching I felt like an outsider who didn’t understand the intense relationship between these two people but was aware on some level of the writers whispering into my ear, “This is the scene where you should care.” But oh, what do you think this part would have been in the hands of Richard? And I’ll bet Kate Winslet’s performance would have been world’s better as well. I could get faint if I think about all the possibilities, and especially as I’ve been learning what flying really looks like:

It’s made me want to fly too. It’s made me want to tell stories and express some things I never have or felt I could. A few months before I knew RA existed, I did start a journal, which was something to relieve tension and rant where it could do no harm to anyone — except perhaps me. It was never for me to be a writer. But as I watched his performances, I got so stirred up and eventually knew I wanted to do in written form what he is doing. Mostly, I want to create another world in which to reveal a reality. Isn’t that what Tolkien is all about? More on that later. :D

The next post is about Richard Armitage stretching himself professionally.

I Think Therefore I Am a Great Actor

Continuing on with my contribution to FanstRAvaganza 3:

I’m not going to pretend I understand all there is to know about Richard Armitage. Someone said earlier it would take at least a “40 parter” for that. May I suggest the parts would be infinite. I believe that’s the case for all of us. We are all complex. Some just make themselves look simple and in the doing of that lose our interest. Just know that this series is my attempt to shed a little light on what I’ve learned about this fascination with Richard and his characters. Also, there is no way I can do justice to Constantin Stanislavski, Bertold Brecht or Edward Gordon Craig within the confines of a blog post nor even a week of blogging on them. But I can highlight some salient points with respect to our guy.

When I first became aware of Richard Armitage, I just let myself enjoy the sensations his performances created in me. My greed for those feelings had me watching some of his shows over and over and over, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to feel like I was taking a drug. I’m fairly sure I appeared slack jawed to anyone who might have observed me in the process or shortly thereafter. And each time I came down from the high, I would intensely question myself about it. A common question was: how old am I? Never mind. :D The point is that I was old enough to know better than to be silly about some actor.

After I passed the initial euphoria, I had to explain (at least to myself) what had created it. A good looking guy with a great voice in a romantic role? That was it? I’m not quite so air headed or needy for male affirmation that it would generate this reaction. So I went in search of others who had a similar reaction. I lurked the forums for months, and there were some wonderful fan writings about the impressions Richard Armitage had made. Many others were overwhelmed by what they were seeing, but none of them (at least that I read) captured what was niggling in my brain, and candidly, I became frustrated by some of the rhapsodizing. I wanted it to answer me, and it just seemed like some were the same things said about every other good looking or compelling actor. I did watch other actors I appreciate for comparison — Edward Norton in ‘American History X,’ Gary Oldman in ‘My Immortal Beloved,’ Sean Penn in ‘Dead Man Walking,’ Russell Crow in ‘The Insider,’ Daniel Day-Lewis in ‘My Left Foot,’ ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being,’ and ‘In the Name of the Father’ and even Jimmy Stewart in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ All great performances, but it was abundantly clear they all had great writing and/or stories to propel them. Even with that, none of them had quite the same effect on me as Richard Armitage in much lesser roles and with less adept writing.

And what was the effect? An identification with something so real it made me feel I was there with the character and seeing the situation through his eyes. Some of those roles above had moments of that, but none were able to make me almost continuously see the story through their eyes — feeling their pain or frustration or joy or elation — as I have watching Richard Armitage. The only thing that has frequently had this effect on me is reading a well crafted book where a character or a scene has gotten inside my head, and I’m with them and in them, and sometimes I have to read books or parts of books again and again to experience the thrill of that moment of connection.

The scene in The Sun Also Rises where Jake is in the church trying to pray and then steps out into the sunlight is one of them. If there was ever a scene that I consider orgasmic, it’s that one. It nearly took my head off. There are others which come close, but that one I can barely speak of without almost having a meltdown, and I even got misty eyed typing these last few sentences. But with Richard Armitage, I was taken to that place of connection with almost no words. It was in his action:

Action or rather movement was integral to Craig, “theatre has sprung from movement.” Notice he doesn’t say words were the impetus. He does give deference to writing as the body of a play but movement was so important that he suggested the need for an Uber Marionette (sometimes described as inhuman) as the perfect actor who could be controlled by the director of a piece in order to achieve its vision. Richard Armitage has spoken several times of the importance of movement and his body to his craft, and he’s even spoken of smoldering with his back. Anyone who has seen the first episode of Robin Hood Series 3 knows how effectively he can use it:

But it is Stanislavski who explains how he is able to use his body to such great effect:

“if actors really mean to hold the attention of a large audience they must make every effort to maintain an uninterrupted exchange of feelings, thoughts, and actions among themselves. And the inner material for this exchange should be sufficiently interesting to hold spectators. The exceptional importance of this process makes me urge you to devote special attention to it and to study with care its various outstanding phases.”

Through Tortsov the Director he goes onto explain about self-communion, which is a way of facilitating intercourse within yourself and specifically between your brain and feelings, and communion between individuals, which requires you to first seek out the other person’s soul and inner world. At the train station when John Thornton looked at Margaret Hale, I felt he was looking at her soul, her inner world, and mine too. He was getting in my head.

I’m tired, and I’ve still got more to say, but I bid you adieu for now. More of this later. And hey, I got some pictures in this one. :D

Today’s Conversation found here.

edit: the thoughts in this post continue here.

Understanding Richard Armitage

The question of Richard Armitage has intrigued me for awhile. He played a great part in a mini-series and in several other tv series. But how many people would that describe? Several. Maybe not legions but several. He’s good looking. How many fit that description? A bunch more. He’s very masculine. Even more fall into that category. Oh wait he also seems like a nice guy. We like how he presents himself, and his co-workers like him. Yep, a few more are like that. And did I mention he’s smart? I’m going with my gut on that one. The guy is smart, and I completely trust my instincts about this — instincts that have rarely let me down when taking an accounting of someone’s grey matter. So is it that he’s “the complete package?” Maybe. But that’s still not quite it. I have actually known good looking men who were smart and talented in something aesthetic (read that: they were sensitive enough to be talented in something aesthetic) and also very masculine and nice guys. Yes, I’m telling the truth! I worked with a man for years who had played football at Michigan State, was brilliant, super good looking, helluva nice guy, could sing really well, and he had a great sense of humor. Sometime I’ll have to tell you his story — it’s a doozy — but not today.

So what makes Richard Armitage special? Let me rephrase that? What makes Richard Armitage special to me? I have mentioned before that I think he’s special? Oh I haven’t? What the hell do you think this blog is about?! Or does me saying that he’s special to me make you feel weird? I know it’s made me feel weird. It made me feel so weird that I had to find out why I thought it. Since SO is the love of my life (despite our ups and downs and all arounds — plenty of those) and having four great kids… yes, dammit, I’m biased; they’re great, and I don’t want to hear anything else :D…I did not understand what was going on in my obsession to watch Richard Armitage.

Of course some people have distractions like this, and I’m not going to say I’m above having a distraction like this. Not at all. But watching his stuff is not merely a distraction from all of the really tough things going on in my life. Yes, there are some really tough things going on in my life. No, you don’t want to hear about them, and granted, some of watching him has been a distraction from those things. I admit it! But that’s not why I’m writing this post. That’s not why I started this blog. I do have an obsession, or am otaku as my friend James describes it. But my obsession is not Richard Armitage. It’s something else, and I think Richard is obsessed with it too.

I’ve said several times I wanted to avoid getting in Richard Armitage’s head, but my friends, I can’t help it. I had to get in his head in order to understand. Since I wasn’t going to do anything invasive with respect to his privacy, because frankly, I would be very upset if someone did that to me, I decided to investigate some indirect evidence of what may be in his head. This required a look at the influences on his professional life. Of course Miss Pat and Pattison’s College were of interest. But it was too difficult to glean much without crossing boundaries. So I’ve consigned that experience to one that will have to wait for RA or some biographer to tell us a good deal more. I concentrated on LAMDA and some of the ways of thinking he was exposed to there.

As part of study at LAMDA, the students are required to have some proficiency in the history of the theater, its evolution into the modern theater and in part what we now think of as method acting, which I’ve learned can be a bit of a nebulous term. Since the term has become a little fluid, I went back to the sources that RA was expected to go back to. Namely Edward Gordon Craig, Constantin Stanislavski and Bertold Brecht. You may be thinking, “I don’t want to hear about those guys. I just want to know how Richard Armitage does what he does.” Go back and read this post from the beginning again because there is no way to really understand unless you know a little something about these people. And let me say that reading the works of these three guys and a handful of others was life changing for me. I don’t make a habit of throwing that comment around without good cause, so I hope you will respect what I’m saying here without knowing anything yet. LOL!

And I’ve written so much on this and don’t really want to edit, that I’m going to do the unforgivable and leave you hanging until tomorrow.

edit:

The thoughts continue here.