Brook continues his argument something like this:
Merely because of their presense, audiences demand of actors that they do what writers do, namely compressing and intensifying their subject. But while the writers' subject is life, the actor's subject is themselves. In order to really do this, actors have to fully integrate and fire on all cylindars the following things: thought, emotion, the body. Only then can a real "theatrical event" take place. Brook defines a theatrical even thusly:
Can we say that those five seconds were filled with such purity, such quality, possessing such elegance and subtlety at every moment that they were unforgettable?... Only if you can answer yes, and if at the same time you can also say that "It seemed quite natural" only then can you consider what you have just seen a theatrical event.
Wow. Okay. That's a pretty fucking high standard, isn't it? I think holding ourselves to this is both a powerful encouragement and an impediment... becuase it's kind of unreachable. So perhaps for me, the idea set forward in the above quote is the Quixotic goal rather than the actual goal. We strive for it, knowing it's impossible to do at all times. (side note: still interested in what he means by "natural" i think i get it on an intuitive sense, but i couldn't explain it. beckett is never natural to me, but he's one of the people that brook singles out on this one... hm...)
Anyway, Brook wants to look at why theatre frequently fails to reach the standard set out above. And, while he doesn't really say it concretely, that question leads him to look at acting, and what it should do, and this inevitably leads him to discuss the body. Why? Because physically, western actors (and citizenry in general) are physically underdeveloped. Actors need to tune their instrument and, in order to do so, need to train. But the training must have as its end the art of acting not physical fitness or the training itself. Brook writes "To have an expression of outer life, one must have strongly marked types, as each of us represents a certain type of man or woman. But it is important... that the body that is fat and clumsy and the one that is young and quick must be equally fine in their sentitivity."
I personally couldn't help but think of John Conlee, the star of Pig Farm, who, although a big guy, moved with a shocking amount of grace and precision at all points and was, as a result, riveting to watch. Far more so than Logan Marshall Green who, although clearly in much better shape, lacked Conlee's precision and presense. It also brought me back to the fact that I've been working out and dieting for a couple of months now and have lost 20 pounds but also feel no more in touch with my body than I was before I started. I'm hoping a month of yoga classes down in Richmond will fix this, but who knows? It's just a way of noting that the Western way of looking at the body (tool, prison, whatever) leads to a kind of separation and alienation from it. Whereas viewing it as Brook does (as a musical instrument) or as simply oh I dunnoourselves might lead us to different places.
So, having mastered the body, and standing on the edge of the stage, waiting to become present and perform, what confronts the actor? According to Brook: fear. Of the unknown. Of the void. "It takes real confidence to sit still or stay silent. A large part of our excessive, unnecessary manifestations come from a terror that if we are not somehow signalling all the time that we exist, we will in fact no longer be there." According to Brook, it is this fear that leads actors to fritter their energy away from the common goal of creating that life on stage.
What do you think about that? Again, I'm unsure where I stand. I do think that there's a nervous activity that people do that fritters away the focus and energy necessary to be great actors. I'm not sure that that nervousness is fear of emptiness, fear of not, however. At the same time, I have experienced first hand many times the compulsion that people have to fill the void. Be it a momentary pause in conversation, or the blackout in between scenes. This leads to a kind of speediness that stops real though, action, development and listening in its place. If there's no time to just connect to the environment we're in, the conversation we're having, the moment we're experience, how are we supposed to be able to do it?
And what to do, as an actor, with the thoughts in your head? Is Brook really arguing that we throw all that reasoning of the rehearsal process aside when we step onstage? Well... kind of, yes. "What are the elements that disturb the inner space? One of them is excessive reasoning. So why does one insist on preparing things? It is nearly always to fight against the fear of being caught out." What Brook is arguing is rather radical (and fits rather neatly with some ideas I've been thinking through lately) that we need to rehearse plays as a process of consistently not knowing and forcing ourselves to do the creative activity rather than the conventional process of pursuing our knowledge and expansion of that knowledge, setting of that knowledge etc.: "If one doesn't search for security, true creativity fills the space."
And then flowing from that (this is me talking here) what are the implications of this? What do we do with the practices created for the more knowing-based western systems of making theatre? It's like research. Is research a way for a director/writer/actor/whatever to figure out what all the answers are, or to get to the next question? Is reasearch about facts or inspiration? How do we create plays if knowing the answers can be antithetical to creativity?