November 23, 2001

True and False

Mamet strips the actor's profession to bare essentials, or perhaps beyond. He denounces Method and technique as delusion.

The actor does not need to 'become' the character. The phrase, in fact, has no meaning. There is no character. There are only lines on a page. They are lines of dialog meant to be said by the actor. When he or she says them simply, in an attempt to achieve an object more or less like that suggested by the author, the audience sees an illusion of a character on the stage.

The question of what actors need to know has profound impact on the feasibility of Thespian hypertext. Electronic fiction, like theater, is also illusion: we tell stories about things that never happened and people who never lived, and these stories can move and change us only if this illusion succeeds. The tension between hyperfiction and its system is, I think, not unlike the tension between the playwright and the actor -- especially for those of us who write both systems and hypertexts. If the system is a show-off, or if it is at cross-purposes to the story, everything falls apart.

Mamet's slim volume is lively and controversial. Mamet is a wonderful stylist whether writing about theater, pool, whiskey, or scholarship:

Eleven o'clock always comes. In the meantime, may you know the happiness of working to serve your own good opinion. Invent nothing, deny nothing, speak up, stand up, stay out of school.