Although opposed, on principle, to the filming of theatre productions (they're 2 different media, with different methods and goals), I nevertheless went to see the filmed Donmar Warehouse production of Coriolanus last week. And left at intermission.
But I did understand a little better 2 odd idiosyncrasies of mine. I fall asleep when I don't believe the actors. It's a strange kind of falling asleep. No drowsiness, no trying to stay awake, but instantaneous sleep. One moment I'm there, the next moment I'm gone.
Had it happen when I was a juror several months ago. Bailiff had to come over and wake me up. Embarrassing, and potential legal problem, so I have to give up jury duty, which I do love. In that instance, I fell asleep because the witness was lying.
I don't know what deep-seated past trauma causes this "I'm outta here" reaction, but it began a quarter-century ago during a performance of a rock opera. How could I fall asleep with a rock band amplified to the nth degree? I had no idea then.
But I had time to think about the why during my moments of wakefulness last week, and to notice that I woke up any time 1 of the characters spoke, and then I'd be back in la-la land. Not that there wasn't a lot of yelling going on, mind you.
And to think about why I couldn't hear what some of the actors were saying. Others in the audience were laughing at lines I hadn't heard. What was that about?
My hearing is very good. I make a living listening to students. But last week I misheard a student no more than 3 feet away from me. I thought she was singing "touching," which made no sense. She thought she was singing "ca-ching."
Both issues have to do with the use of the body. If an actor doesn't believe what they're saying with their bodies, not just their minds, I don't believe them any more than I believe a lying witness in a trial. The Donmar players were being marvelously athletic with their bodies, but only only 1 of them believed his lines all the way down his spine.
Shakespearean lines can be difficult for an actor—how to distinguish between the poetry lines and the prose lines, for example. And I did admire some of the actors' technical delivery. In between my naps. But I'm likely not to hear correctly what they're saying if they're not emotionally believing the lines, and emotion involves the body.
Decades ago, I had a high school student who was unable, or didn't want, to feel the emotion of the words she was singing in her body. Nothing I tried worked. Until I asked her to focus on the music instead of the words. That freed her to love the music, quite passionately. I could say, "You didn't love that A;" she could try the phrase again, loving the A, and the word she was singing became believable.
She went on to an international career, and I went on to use that method with other students who were afraid to access their emotions with words, and felt safer feeling the emotion in the more abstract music.
Our emotions are complex physical reactions to sensory perceptions. These reactions involve the muscles, nervous systems, the entire body. Closing down any of the physical sensations throughout the body won't make the emotions go away. But I'll fall asleep.