Actors Are An Excellent Thing

Photo Wendy Rouse

I don’t say he’s a great man. Willie Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.

Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman

We saw Philip Seymour Hoffman in Death of a Salesman on Broadway a couple of years ago: a great American actor in the greatest American play. Hoffman was a  performer of demon strength and intense vulnerability, and his recent death was a tragic loss.

We should remember always to celebrate the never ending genius of actors – not with glittering prizes – but with our attention and, when it’s due, appreciation. It’s remarkable really, what actors do. They put themselves out there to show us the best and the worst of what we are.

The writer A L Kennedy fell in love with words because she saw a Shakespeare play as a child. Watching actors recording one of her own plays for broadcast on radio, she says she did think, very loudly, bloody hell, what kind of job is that for human people?

Imagine how permeable proper actors are to language. Imagine people who genuinely possess levels of recklessness/talent/training/sensitivity/whoknowswhat and being allowed to hear them let words – your words –  penetrate and operate and become what they need to be.

A L Kennedy

Now read the next bit out loud. Go on, just read it and hear your own voice saying the words. If you’re in a shared office, you can whisper it, but whatever you do, you mustn’t cry:

I stopped in the middle of that building and I saw — the sky. I saw the things that I love in this world. The work and the food and time time to sit and smoke. And I looked at the pen and said to myself, what the hell am I grabbing this for? Why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be? What am I doing in an office, making a contemptuous, begging fool of myself, when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am! Why can’t I say that, Willy?

Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman.


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