Jumbo shrimp, working holiday, military intelligence, living dead, student teacher, mobile home.
What do these phrases have in common? They are oxymorons.
An oxymoron is the placing together of contradictory ideas in a phrase. There's a kind of push me - pull you nature to them. And today as I was sitting having a cup of tea in the branch of Waterstones on Sauchiehall St, after the launch of UWS’ new MA in Filmmaking, I was reflecting on what a contrasting and contradictory thing it is to be an actor.
You need to be sensitive, creative, artistic, vulnerable, emotionally available, directable, talented, malleable, hard working, naive, impulsive, visceral but also:
Committed, tough, reliable, resilient, intelligent, confident, motivate, focused,
Patient, mature, organised, positive, hungry.
Many of these things simply don’t go together. And yet they are expected of you. However, the greatest oxymoron is the combination of uninhibited silliness coupled with iron discipline. It's a contradiction that so many actors and acting students struggle with.
They must balance the absolute rigorous professionalism with the capacity from utterly free playfulness followed up by a return to focused professionalism.
This is harder than it looks. When they are called upon to be silly, they put on their game face and get terribly serious about the business of silliness. When asked to focus, the silliness rises to the surface.
So much of the actor’s job is a contradiction. But it is important to understand when to bring the particular quality that's needed to the circumstances demanding.