Leaf

Leaf

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Typewriter Monologue

Watching an acting student doing a monologue during voice class at the Lee Strasberg, months ago, I came to a few technical conclusions.

In the monologue, he's ranting against a literary agent who refused to promote his book to publication. His loud raving becomes the content of a letter the writer is typewriting to his agent.
The actor didn't find a typewriter for the scene, so he just pretended to have one simply typing the air.

I'm grateful for the many mistakes he made during his performance because I learned an important lesson.

From the beginning it was clear he didn't know how to type.
He typed on the typewriter the way he would type on a laptop, which just can't be. If you ever used a typewriter, you know very well that you have to crush down on those keys if you want to see some ink on the paper. So, the movement should have been much slower, heavier, with each of the ten fingers beating down on the the proper keys. If he had focused on that the way a real writer does, his lines would have come out just naturally, and he would have been too preoccupied with what is known as behavior to instead pull useless faces for the entire duration of his monologue because he had nothing better to do. Typing was the most important thing he was doing, but he turned it into a frill, an imprecise acting whim. 

This is not a criticism but a critique and, hopefully, it comes out as a constructive observation rather than an arrogant remark.
The acting student's mistakes gave me the confirmation of how important finding the proper behavior for the character is; then, it made me understand how crucial it is to perform it as correctly and precisely as possible. Only through behavior can truthfulness be achieved. Only through a fastidious search for precision can perfection be obtained.

Who still prefers to type on a typewriter rather than a keyboard?
Apart from me, that is.

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14 comments:

  1. I remember when word processers first became common in schools. As conscientous teachers who created copious work sheets and study modules a group of us learnt to 'touch type' on old fashioned typewriters in the school's commerce department. We did all the exercises until our fingers ached.

    Two results. Our fingers flew over the less demanding computer keyboard, and now I can type in synch with my thoughts. BUT my handwriting skills have atrophied through lack of use. A pencil is too slow for my thoughts - and a typewriter too much hard work : )

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    1. Mike,
      I of course use the computer for most of my writing, but I still write letters sometimes. And I keep small notebooks where I hand-write ideas or notes. I need to use a very smooth ballpoint pen though, or I'll postpone writing down the idea until I forget it.

      Delete
  2. That's an interesting comment and I agree with you about needing truthfulness - "doing" rather than "showing". Also, if this student had hit the keys with the correct force, it would have helped him express his anger.

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    Replies
    1. Tony,
      Yes, typewriting can actually save you the pangs of frustration and anger!
      Thanks for commenting!

      Delete
  3. I don't think I could go back to using a typewriter anymore. I am wondering if this actor has never used one? In these times, I think it is very observant of you to pick that up

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, he evidently never used one, and never watched anybody use one (there's a typewriter in almost each of Woody Allen's movie).
      If you act someone typewriting, you need to know how to typewrite. Learning to typewrite becomes the first step to building the character in that case, because the character expresses himself throughout his behavior.

      Delete
  4. I loved playing with typewriters when I was little. But I've spent most of my life with word processors and computers, and I have to say I prefer them. I can't imagine what it was like for someone to write a novel on a typewriter-- I'm just too spoiled with the instant gratification a word document provides.

    That said, it is nice to see others' mistakes so you can learn from them. I sometimes pick up poorly written books because sometimes you learn more from them.

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    1. Raquel,
      Thanks for passing by.
      Yes, we can learn a lot from mistakes. Especially our own mistakes.

      Delete
  5. There's something SO magical about a typewriter! I grew up with one of those waaaay old-fashioned ones...

    And you should see me right now... I'm totally air typing---seeing if I can act the difference between a typewriter and a laptop, LOL!

    Fun post, Jay ;)

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    1. Thank you, Morgan.
      Honestly, typewriters give me much more satisfaction than a keyboard. Although using one now would just be for the mere fun of it!

      Delete
  6. Although I have such fond memories from learning to type using these grand manual typewriters to this day, I much prefer my lovely electronic typewriter!! Now that was definitely a pc-type keyboard but at its most basic and it used to whizz and rattle and growl as I typed! Loved it!!! I still have it but unfortunately it is very hard to find the cartridge!

    Take care
    x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kitty,
      I never used an electronic typewriter. I have always been scared of the electric noise it makes! But I saw it many times, lots of years ago, in banks and other such offices.
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  7. Don't forget to post for the blogfest today!

    ReplyDelete