‘We are Members of a Dying Breed’: Mark Coleman on Practical Aesthetics

‘We are Members of a Dying Breed’: Mark Coleman on Practical Aesthetics

A fascinating read is in store for those of you who’ll venture to Mark Coleman’s Blog today. It seems after my Bothy Masterclass that my new friend has a bee in his bonnet, an axe to grind, and we see the pretty sparks.

Mark himself will admit he has never trained in Practical Aesthetics nor has he any formal training, but after many years as an actor, he feels in a position, to give a round ticking off to Practical Aesthetics for being too… (well his list is long, so read it yourself). I think the gist is that we’re soulless academics who’ve taken the (something intangible) out of acting.  He’s read Mamet’s manifesto and made a decision we’re offering something cheap and nasty, we’re the MFI of acting techniques. (Apparently) we offer theory where there should be practice. Ask my students if there is anything theoretical about Practical Aesthetics – anything that doesn’t relate to the immediate use of the technique to deliver tangible results.

It appears we’re too full of buzz words (transformational actor – oops, no, that’s not ours). We’re academics. We’re unconnected to the higher power of acting, or something like that. As soon as I hear this type of thing, my bullshit mudguards go up and I stop listening, but for the sake of my new friend, who articulately and eloquently attacks us for a lack of substance, I read closely, trying to connect to his concerns. Afterall, he can’t be completely wrong, right? And yet, I still came to this conclusion.

I suggest that our style of acting technique simply suits the type of soul we are: fits our needs, fills a void in us. Method actors have a need, (perhaps something that connects to their emotions) or desire for belief in the imaginary. MChekhov’s actors have another more spiritual need – a transformational need, and those that follow Practical Aesthetics require a type of pragmatism the others couldn’t offer. Are any of us wrong? No. But apparently to my new friend Mark Coleman, we’re the coming of the acting anti-Christ. Are we REALLY? Is it really that simple? Don’t we have to offer something: just as valid, just as exciting?

My students won’t really connect with Mark Coleman’s description of Practical Aesthetics, since they’ve experienced: living in the moment (is that some kind of reductionist buzz word?), really understanding a script, working off their partner and going home feeling like they’ve learned something they could use tomorrow.

I’ve got a 1 to 1 with Mark Coleman tomorrow or later today (as my insomnia points out). Now I’m not entirely sure why he’s coming, since he’s clearly made his own mind up about Practical Aesthetics. I’m questioning why he’s coming to show me his audition pieces – what can it profit him to spend an hour with an enemy if he so strongly disagrees? If he so strongly detests the thing we stand for? What can I offer but the Road to Hell? The sign of the anti-Christ and the mark of the Devil? Who knows, but it will be fun. I know that he will a good sport.

And yes, I do believe ANYONE could learn to act sufficiently well – and that scares the shit out of the actors that live on the dream that they are God’s Own People, because they’re not.

You’re gifted, you’re talented, you’ve got the goods, but you’re not alone – cos if you were, there wouldn’t be so many of you out of work. The more esoteric you make acting, the more spiritual, the less tangible, then of course people can’t do it, because you’ve made it such a convoluted, self-serving, maybe-try-a-therapist way of achieving ‘great acting’ that no one but YOU can do it. Okay, that was a bit harsh.

We make acting simple. We make it accessible and we make it beautiful, just as Stanislavski and Mikhail Chekhov desired. What’s wrong with that?

Mark: You have a fundamental misunderstanding of Practical Aesthetics – I’ll see you at 4pm.

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