I love actors! (and by this I mean people who act, regardless of gender. The trend among those of us who are actors is to use this gender-neutral term; see SAG Awards, which, unlike the Academy Awards given by the Academy for Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, are given to acting professionals by acting professionals.)
I am in the midst of rehearsals for an upcoming production of my new play Becoming Calvin and am working with some very gifted people. They are professional, experienced actors who know their craft, and really understand the subtleties of human communication. They know that the meaning of a sentence, of a single word, even, can be changed by a slight shift in vocal tone or inflection, a pause or quickening of the pace, or a physical gesture that underscores or undercuts the actual words. They know that what is actually being communicated is so much more than the lines they read on the printed page. When they are exploring a script, as my cast is now, it is fascinating to see the various permutations of meaning they explore for a single sentence. It is important, too, because the way that sentence is read can derail or propel the entire scene.
While we were having auditions for the play there were some actors who felt compelled to "embellish" the text and use it as a springboard for their own antics. The playwright in me was not pleased! There was much to mine in the words that were there. Why did these actors ignore them and overlay the text with tricks that got easy laughs? Needless to say, these actors are not in my current cast.
Watching rehearsals last night I realized (for about the millionth time) how subtle and nuanced human communication really is. No wonder so much of it fails so completely! If people aren't looking and listening closely they can miss important cues as to what is really being said. E-mail is full of these kinds of communications missteps; this has long been understood. But we need work at "being in the moment" for every communications exchange--personal and professional. That is of paramount importance if we have any hope of conveying what we truly mean.
Just take a cue from the actors!