Acting is Truth Telling
I’ve heard actors referred to as “professional liars.” This description bothers me, because it seems blind to the purpose of art (not to be confused with artifice, which I consider to be “art made for the wrong reasons”). Acting, just like any form of art, should serve the opposite purpose: to reveal the invisible, to make the unknown (or the ignored) real and relatable. As Michelangelo “freed” a statue from the marble, so an actor reveals the character who already exists inside of him – inside all of us. And like sculpture (or any form of creation), acting is a craft concerned with patience, discipline, and observation. Incredible observation.
Here’s another tale from the Renaissance: Brunelleschi’s dome. Brunelleschi was a talented young Italian architect who had designed an unusually large and top-heavy dome for the Florentine Cathedral. The city officials requested to see his model, but he refused them, instead throwing down a gauntlet:
That whosoever could make an egg stand upright on a flat piece of marble should build the cupola, since thus each man’s intellect would be discerned. Taking an egg, therefore, all those Masters sought to make it stand upright, but not one could find a way. Whereupon Filippo, being told to make it stand, took it graciously, and, giving one end of it a blow on the flat piece of marble, made it stand upright. The craftsmen protested that they could have done the same; but Filippo answered, laughing, that they could also have raised the cupola, if they had seen the model or the design. And so it was resolved that he should be commissioned to carry out this work. (Source)
And Brunelleschi’s vision remains untoppled to this day:
What separates Brunelleschi from his peers is what separates a charlatan from a visionary: great artists have a knack for making choices no one else considered. It’s so boldly original, so truthful, it can feel like magic. But it’s no illusion, only revelation. Art finds a new path through a familiar world.
Leave lying to the amateurs. Acting is truth telling.