Friday, February 18, 2011

Act Naturally

Worldly and sophisticated, I am certainly no stranger to the Seven Lively Arts (music, literature, drama, painting, dance, conversation and Fleming) but I remain as a child, in awe of the masters of each.  If I could write or perform music, write great books or plays, act in a movie or play, tap dance like Danny Effing Kaye, conduct colloquies with the likes of world leaders and those who should be, and remember to give my answer in the form of a question, I'd be one well-rounded citizen.  

And yet, given enough time, I could learn to play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on the harmonica, write some short story that might hold someone's interest for three minutes (Opening line: "Spring comes late to Carney."), smear some paint around in the impressionist manner, or talk with Obama or Castro.  But acting? No. Forget it. Couldn't do it.

We tend to forget that there is such a thing as acting; at least, I forget it.  We see stars such as, oh let's say, John Travolta.  We first saw him as Vinnie Barbarino on "Welcome Back, Kotter" and every role since has been sort of variation on that theme.  We had Greaser Vinnie in "Grease," Disco Vinnie in "Saturday Night Fever" and so on down the line, right up to Goon Vinnie in "Get Shorty" and Firefighter Vinnie in "Ladder 49."  And listen, people still want to see him in movies, so it's all good.


Old timers like Phil Silvers - cocky, strutting, wiseacre burlesque comics - were in movie after movie, always pretty much the same guy, too...a cocky, strutting wiseacre buddy with Victor Mature, or a cocky, strutting wiseacre Army sergeant. 

Lindsay, Lindsay, Lindsay!
On the other hand, I had always heard that Meryl Streep was a great actress, able to assume different personae in different movies.  Of course, you could have been handing out $100 bills to the audiences of "Sophie's Choice" or "Kramer vs Kramer" and I would still be without a $100 bill.  True, Peggy was able to inveigle me into seeing "The Bridges of Madison County," although I spent the entire movie hoping that Clint would suddenly turn into Dirty Harry and just go really Mad-ison, but no.  

Then, I went to see Garrison Keillor's movie "A Prairie Home Companion," and there she was, a New Jersey girl playing the part of a country singer from Minnesota! And then,  we watched "The Devil Wears Prada," and she was acting like a completely different human being!   I said, "Peggy, this shrewish harridan is nothing like Yolanda Johnson from Mr Keillor's movie!"



And Peggy, with the tenderness that we use to explain to children that Superman is just a made-up character, told me that she was able to appear to be different people by acting!


Phil Silvers! Phil Silvers! Phil Silvers!
Well, cut off my legs and call me Shorty!  Here's to all those who can do this sort of thing!  I can't act like anyone other than myself, which some will be quick to point out is a tragic shortcoming.  Here's to Meryl Streep.  And Phil Silvers, too.

2 comments:

Lisa Carter said...

I am glad to read this post, its an interesting one. I am always searching for quality posts and articles and this is what I found here, I hope you will be adding more in future. Thanks.. Best Theater Group

Mark said...

Thank you, Lisa. I come up with something new every day and I hope you'll like some of it!