Michael Healy says that the emotional states are the same but that on stage, depending on how far the audience is away from the stage, the emotions might then get “tweaked” or “adjusted” to be understood by the audience. Essentially, the emotions are made “sharper” in order to be read from a distance. Sandy Bucholz states that the emotional states are the same but “what causes it, the spark” is different. Kathryn LeBlanc explains that it changes depending on the circumstances. When she is doing an exercise in class, “what you see is what you get”. If the character is jealous, she, Kathryn is jealous at that moment. However, when she is performing in a show on stage for a paying audience the awareness of her other tasks (blocking, props, etc.) comes to the fore and the experience changes. She puts this down to “awareness”. Mark Rosenwinkel is of a similar mind. He says that the experience of the emotions is the same as in “real life”, but that on some level his awareness of the audience must be having an effect even though he “is feeling those same emotions as I do in everyday life”.
Two actors, Wesley Broulik and Jacob Mills, offer a kind of distillation of the situation. Broulik, who says the experience is different, notes that as long as he is reacting to what he is given, it does not matter if the emotion is “real”. He says that what is important is that the audience sees “what you are going to do about it”. The state is not what is important; it is the reaction that is vital: “because in real life you can be paralyzed and mope about it for days”, and you can’t do that on stage “because the audience would go…they maybe want to see you react but then there’s the ultimate question of ‘alright you’re paralyzed, now what are you going to do about it?’” Jacob Mills says that the states are similar, but in a minimal way. He discusses the issue in terms of mask work. “When you have a mask on, your body is doing the thinking instead of your mind, so your mind isn’t going ‘oh I’m gonna have to cry’, your body is portraying that emotion…it’s your body that’s thinking instead of your mind” The emotional state is “real”, but it is experienced through the body and is therefore not quite the same because in “real life”, Mills feels that the mind registers an event, reacts to it in an emotional way, and then the body eventually follows.
As the quotes reveal, despite taking one side or the other, the actors in this population appear to agree with each other. The emotions they experience on stage are the real emotions they might feel in everyday life, but they are not necessarily viewed as the “same” emotions. The differences can be viewed as either stemming from the fact that the actors are being watched, that the stakes are different, or that it is the character feeling the emotion and not the actor. Regardless of how the actors in the study qualified their responses, there does appear to be some common understanding.
If we attempt to tie together the various questions and responses gathered in this study in regards to how actors view the relation they have to the role they are playing, it becomes quite clear that for this population, there is a separation between the actor “self” and the character “self”. During the interviews this came out in many ways. As described above it might have been that the “emotions are not mine, they are the character’s” as David Coral put it, or that the “emotions are mine but they aren’t really being felt” to quote Kate Eifrig. There is further confirmation of this idea.
In the course of the discussions, the actors were asked directly if they felt that there was a separation between themselves and the role they were playing and they were also asked if the emotions from the scene they were performing “came offstage” with them. The answers were almost universally “yes” to the first and “no” to the second. Letitia Lange said that the emotions “don’t belong to me” and that “you can’t bring it home”. Wesley Broulik states that “it’s my anger, but it’s not my anger”. As noted previously, David Coral refers to the character onstage in the third person when he exits the stage. When he gets to the wings he “leaves it onstage”. Craig Johnson explains that the “emotions are mine in service of the play”, but when he gets off stage, “it stops”. Christine Nelson describes her relation as not being “able to separate it, but it’s not completely me either”. Peggy O’Connell speaks of being “very emotional, but separated” from her characters and that she always “leaves it onstage”. Kate Eifrig discusses the relationship as there being a kind of “spirit or ghost present”. Regarding emotions she says: “they’re not mine, but I feel them”, and when she exits the stage there is “a palpable residue” of the emotions she’s been experiencing that is physical rather than psychological. Mark Hahn, a non-paid actor, says of his characters: “I’m not going through what they are”. Tim Gadzinski says “it’s you, but a different version of you, that’s why you can leave it onstage”. In many cases, the interviewees discussed the character as another physical being. As David Coral stated several times “that’s not me, that’s the character”.
A final perspective from which we can examine the separation between actor and character came as the final question in the interviews. This question was taken directly from the survey. #54 asked:
When playing a character falling in love, it is important to fall in love with the other actor so that it is real.
The results were very much one-sided. As the graph, right, reveals, more than 79% of the 324 respondents answered “Of course not”.
The comments written on the questionnaires were often quite vehement. Of the many respondents that chose “1 – Of Course Not”, Respondent #456855 said “That’s silly” and #456793 said “yikes, what an abyss into which to fall”, and #457068 said “ridiculous”. In the more thoughtful responses, the comments tended to be similar to this response:
You can fall in love with the other character without having to fall in love with the other actor. (Respondent #463773)
A response with more explanation comes from #862285:
You don't fall in love with the actor, your character falls in love with the other character. On stage, if you are in the moment and 'being' then the feelings in the midst will seem very real. Outside the scene, stage, theater, you go back to being you and back to your loved ones at home. (Respondent #862285)
Again, we see a very distinct belief that the character is separate from the actor. The comments from the respondents that chose “5 – Always” are quite revealing as they are not necessarily advocating “falling in love”.
I don't 'fall in love' with the other actor, but I find 'things I love' about the other person. I picture what it is about that person that someone could fall in love with...I leave myself open to physicalize the relationship--either accepting touch, or initiating it. I find what in that person reminds me of someone I have loved. I feel ultimately, it's about allowing a level of vulnerability that one has only with a loved one. (Respondent #474239)
Two other respondents that chose “5” made similar comments:
In the context of the play, yes. I don't actually fall in love with the actor, but my character falls in love with the other character each night. (Respondent #473049)
In the virtual moment onstage absolutely. In actuality no. (Respondent #3526771 UK)
What we see here is that despite a few respondents stating that it is important to fall in love with the other actor if the characters are supposed to fall in love, there is still this view that it is the characters and not the actors that fall in love. The difference seems to be in the interpretation of the question. Respondent #457395 sees a particular distinction, despite having marked “4 – It Can Help”:
I think it's more important to fall in love with the character. I loved the character that was my last love interest on stage and I had a bit of a crush on the Actor. The character was supposed to be horrible and no one could understand why my character loved him but I completely got it. But it's impractical to say that you have to fall in love with the other actor. Acting is make believe after all. (Respondent #457395)
Finally, there is this simple explanation from someone who marked “1”:
You can find things to fall in love with about the actor. You can love them in the moment on stage and yet not be in love with them as an actor. (Respondent #503406)
In the interviews, the question regarding falling in love was asked again in order to get more specific opinions from the actors regarding this notion. Each actor was asked the question and reminded of their response on the questionnaire. What was of great interest to me was having the opportunity to speak with someone who chose “5 -Always” on the questionnaire. In fact, anyone who chose 3 or higher was of interest because one is forced to wonder how the actor feels that they can actually fall in love with the other actor and avoid the many pitfalls that might come with that as the comments on the survey alluded. It also calls into question the notion of there being a separation between the actor and the character. If the actor believes that s/he must fall in love with the other actor in the scene, then that would indicate that there is no separation for some actors if they are actually “falling in love”. Is it possible that the respondents that chose the higher numbers on the scale had a different idea about what it is to “fall in love”? Once the interviews commenced, the answers from both the actors that said “Of course not” and the actors that said “Maybe” or “Always” were, like so many of their responses, highly revealing and not quite as different from one another as it might have been supposed.
The most common response from the interviewees was that in order to play falling in love, it was best to find a specific part of one’s scene partner to fall in love with. For example, Cynthia Urich, paid, union actor and one of the few who marked “5 - Always” on the questionnaire, uses the example of the interviewer’s facial hair which reminds her of an ex-love that evokes a special feeling in her: