Example of a Drama Artistic Statement
Example of a Drama Artistic Statement
Sean Stack is a 2016-2017 recipient of the William R. Kenan, Jr. Excellence Scholarship program, the most prestigious scholarship program at the UNCSA.
Drama Artistic Statement
By Sean Stack
The commuters on my 6:57 a.m. Metrorail ride are the characters I play onstage. The scene is an odd mosaic of people scattered throughout the train car, each preoccupied with their own inner-monologue. This is where I do my character research. By treating the world as my classroom, I find truth in my acting.
Contained in this single train car is a perfectly eclectic gathering of unlike people, a microcosm of Miami life: the single mother who works overtime, the dozing homeless man who occupies three seats, the medical intern who opts to save fuel. First, I mimic their body language—neck angles, back curvatures, forehead creases. I absorb their personalities and their circumstances—how they move, how they speak, where they hold tension—anything to help me understand them better. I then collect their conflicts and contemplate their inner desires. What do they want? What are their obstacles? Below the elevated track, rush-hour traffic builds as the first rays of sunshine spill over the waking city. The conductor’s voice breaks my concentration as I catch a glimpse of my school approaching. I then part ways with my fellow commuters, if only for a moment – when acting class begins, I will recall their identities.
This has not always been my strategy. As a kid, the stage was my escape from the homophobic soccer field. Indeed, it is no surprise that my high-pitched voice and emotive facial expressions helped me to thrive onstage. I needed theater for personal validation – performance justified my atypically “big” personality. In reality, however, I had no sense of discipline. Nuances in technique were irrelevant.
High school was a painful slap in the face. I quickly understood that my passion for acting had been founded on the idea of theater, rather than on a workable craft. Teachers restructured my rudimentary concept of theater, emphasizing the catharsis of the audience—not of the actor. They stressed that my goal, as actor, was to provoke emotion in the spectator, rather than to use the stage for my personal therapy.
I understood that I could change a person’s mind—words being my only weapon. In an impersonal world, I felt obligated to use this weapon—injecting a hostile society with doses of humanity. And I wanted to be at the forefront of this battle.
But, how could I make an audience of strangers feel something, especially if I was playing an unfamiliar character? The answer could be found, in part, on my morning commute—a daily research study.
But, how could I make an audience of strangers feel something, especially if I was playing an unfamiliar character? The answer could be found, in part, on my morning commute—a daily research study. Because scripts provide only a sparse outline, much of the character choices were mine to make, but what I could accomplish during two hours of rehearsal was not enough. During that finite amount of time in front of a director, I would confine my characters to the one-dimensional state they occupied in my script; I was cheating these printed personalities of their struggles and joys by relying on my first impression of a role. I was doing them a disservice by limiting my character research to the acting studio. Instead, I had to locate these people, not on Wikipedia pages or in history textbooks, but in their natural habitats: a train car, a coffee shop, or a park bench. There, I saw people stripped down to everyday life. Next to switching brains, this approach was the best way I could understand a character’s perspective. The result was truthful acting—the type that stimulated viewers and animated me.
By finding truth in my acting, the audience can empathize with my character’s struggle. If I establish a connection between my character and a viewer, the “catharsis” my teachers talked about can happen. But, it will not be mine; it will be the viewer’s—the person who relates to the single mother’s exhaustion, the medical intern’s stress, or the homeless man’s plight. By honestly portraying the often-gritty reality of the character, I encourage my audience to reflect on their lives. If they leave the theater with new insight, I have done my job. By sparking their introspection, I hope to inject the world with the communication it lacks.