An Actor Repairs

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Inside Out vs Outside In

In the vernacular of the actor the phrase “inside out”, or “outside in” has to do with an approach to the task of creating a character. Back in the day, near the turn of the 20th century, acting was very presentational. There are texts from that era that instruct a young actor as to what gesture and facial expression to use in a given circumstance. Constantine Stanislavski was a young man in Russia at the time and observed that the most moving performances he attended had some component that went beyond simple gesture or form. Through experimentation and practical work with a company of actors he codified an approach to building a character that took into consideration the internal life of the character.

Long, long story short—a revolution in acting occurred. Now, as audience members, we are very used to expecting a kind of emotional truth from actors that was not in vogue when Stanislavski began his experimentation.

For a while there, Americans and Russians had a corner on the market of the “inside outters” while the Brits and others worked from the “outside in”. These days things are much more mixed up. The classic examples are Marlon Brando who epitomizes the inside out approach, great for On The Waterfront but leaving something to be desired while mumbling through Julius Caesar. Laurence Olivier at the other extreme, would reach into his make-up kit, slap on a nose, and go from there.

Larry was doing a little Hollywood pic with a newbee, Dustin something or other….Hoffman, I think. It was dubbed, “The Marathon Man”. Legend has it that Hoffman was not eating, running miles each day to wear himself out, not shaving or bathing and really trying to LIVE the character. Trying to embody the essence of this hunted, tortured individual. Olivier, (who was playing a Nazi torturer) after noticing the condition of his colleague, took Hoffman aside between takes and said. “My dear boy, why don’t you just pretend?”

The same can be said for designing a space. How and where to begin. Sometimes it makes sense to begin “inside” (ie: mood, psychology, flavor, internal life, intention) and sometimes it makes sense to begin “outside” (function, a given object, period or style, a given circumstance).

This Talavera sink was our “beginning” for the bathroom (at least color-wise)

and, strikingly, the kitchen sink (picture to come) is where we got a lot of the color cues for the kitchen. Outside in. Pick something you like; a limp, an accent, a beard, a paunch, a chair, a sink, a rug, countertop…and go from there.


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