Friday, May 25, 2007

Actors, writers, and their selves: Public and private

Here’s what I wrote to Carlin Romano, in response to his interesting comments on current biographies of Shakespeare, who is as enigmatic as every great artist must finally be.
Thank you for your lovely comments on Shakespeare. Yes, perfect. He was channeler, not a source, of wisdom. I think, myself, that a great writer must be like that.

Any doctrine the writer seeks to directly propound, no matter how deep and true, must surely distract because it is an abstraction, and we want people.

Incidentally, my lead author Mario Beauregard (The Spiritual Brain, Harper 2007) studied, using neuroimaging techniques, the brains of actors while they were preparing for a role. He discovered (it will not surprise you) that whatever circuits the actors used for channeling feelings for their actual life were the ones they used when recalling the events (as technique for getting into the role they assume.

Thus, when an actor speaks of "getting into" the character, the character is also getting into him for a while. In that curious sense, a dramatist's imaginary characters become real while they are being performed.

When I was young, back in the Ordovician era when everything was, like, totally and completely dull, people used to make fun of actors because they had highly emotional private lives. Looking back on all that from nigh on fifty years, I think they didn’t understand that the actor must take on basic archetypes of the self for the audience - and still find some private time and space for a personal self! Perhaps it is no wonder that the artist’s life is crowded with emotions ... so many possible selves, so little time ... Maybe ... Anyway, Romano’s review is great. Read it.
My other blog is the Post-Darwinist, detailing events of interest in the intelligent design controversy.

Toronto-based Canadian journalist Denyse O'Leary ( is the author of the multiple award-winning By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004), anoverview of the intelligent design controversy, and of Faith@Science. She was named CBA Canada's Recommended Author of the Year in 2005 and is co-author, with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of the forthcoming The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul (Harper 2007).

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