The Onus and the Outrage

The Stage. The one place where you honestly, truthfully can be anything you want to be. Thespians often transcend their identity to form a self-image outside of what is expected of their kinfolk. People are by nature complex and varied. The craft of acting falls into this category just the same.

There is a dividing line between political correctness and creativity. Film and TV studios dictate who plays what role and what stories are told to target audiences. Independent artists create work not domineered by any studio or voice. They have the freedom to create anything, for any purpose. Studios, on the other hand, have a responsibility to reflect the public’s interest for two reasons: 1. To make money, and to a lesser extent: 2. To affect change for the greater good. The system isn’t perfect, but is slowly making strides in terms of representation in cinema.

There is an awareness happening now in regards to when actors portray characters that aren’t like them in terms of genetics, sexual orientation, or identity. Prior to this, there was a movement shining a spotlight on white actors portraying characters of color. The movement has validity. Conversely, as an actor who has trained in theater, the general rule in casting should be that an actor can and should play any part they can believably portray effectively to an audience. While a variety of voices need to be heard and represented, the onus for inclusivity in media is on the studios. The onus for hearing more voices is on all of us.

These two opposing forces (inclusivity vs. creativity) enter a complex battle arena. I believe in the freedom of the artist. I do not believe in censorship. I also believe that creators have a responsibility to be inclusive. I believe that the actor has trained to become anything they have the power to imagine. The profession would be entirely tedious if we were limited to only playing ourselves- otherwise, why do it? It would be one long scripted reality show, and no one wants that. The magic is in the transformation.

Performance is the human condition as portrayed by the person who has spent their entire life training and educating themselves on how to live in another person’s shoes. Trust the experts. It’s a fallacy that if an actor shares the same background as the character, somehow they will deliver a finer performance. I couldn’t stress more that the best performances most often come from those who are the farthest removed from the character they are portraying. Give a man a mask, and he will tell you the truth. The mask is more powerful than you can imagine. The mask will set you free. The mask is vital to the honest performance. The mask is everything.

the actor by Picasso

The Actor, Picasso

-Satu

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