Wednesday, July 30, 2008

on Belief

more from William Ball's "A Sense of Direction"

A painter builds with color and line; a musician with tone and rhythm. A sculptor builds with shape. But the actor builds his profession on patterns of belief. An actor is working with the same tool that causes all events. That is belief. Belief is the power that causes things to happen, and actors are exercising their belief power all the time. If one says to an actor "Will you please believe this?" he will do so readily. It is difficult for him to resist the tendency to become whatever is suggested. The actor rises to the occasion automatically. He quickly enters into almost any situation and believes in almost any suggestion just as a child does. That belief power has tremendous force. We say that in the theatre we "make believe," just as children make believe. What belief do we "make"? The actor makes himself believe. Then he makes the audience believe. The actor believes in himself, in his character, and in his work. The audience believes in the characters, in the story, and in the players.

There is a great deal of belief going on around a theatre during a performance. Belief power is pervasive in a theatre, and belief power is tremendously compelling. This is one of the reasons that audiences will sit in the darkness giving their undivided attention to individuals who believe themselves to be other than who they are. The belief on the stage is so compelling that the audience starts to believe these individuals are who they say they are. When an audience believes and the actors believe, we have a tremendous concentration of energy. It is spellbinding. The more the audience believes what the actor is doing, the more the actor believes what he is doing, the more the audience will believe. It's a self-hypnosis of belief. It's a rapture of belief. It's an orgy of belief.

When the play is over, we return to our customary identities. The broker has been believing himself to be in real trouble; believing himself to be wrapped in love; believing himself to be in danger; believing himself to be in triumph, and on and on. When the final curtain falls, he returns to the belief that he is a husband, a golfer, Republican, a father. He has come to the theatre to "exercise" his systems of belief. The more exercise or stimulation his belief systems get, the more exhilaration and pleasure he receives. When he leaves the theatre, he may say, "That was a wonderful show! That was a great play! That was really absorbing!" The reason his spirit is so renewed and enthusiastic is that his belief systems have been awakened and exhilarated. During the course of the performance he contributed so much of his belief that new aspects of his identity have been awakened.