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The Joker and Personal Growth

A Streetcar Named Desire…

“In the film A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche DuBois, sliding into insanity, is one of the greatest and most challenging roles available to an actress.  In recent years, Ann Margret lost ten pounds and grew depressed and anxious playing Blanche. Jessica Lange got panic attacks.”
- National Public Radio, All Things Considered

The Joker …

Constantin Stanislavski developed an acting technique known simply as, The Method. Marlon Brando, Ann Bancroft, Robert DiNero and Christian Bale are just some of the more well-known method actors. Stanislavski detected a profound relationship between the human spirit and the body.  He taught that the careful altering of body motions and the conscious directing of the mind’s thoughts, could actually change a person’s chemistry and have a dramatic effect on feelings and emotions.  Researchers studying the same actor playing a depressing role and later a part from a comedy, reported that, “…data suggested that there was a correlation between the type of personality being performed and immune responsiveness.” The Method may have even contributed to one actors death. After being cast as the Joker, Heath Ledger locked himself in a hotel room for a month to “become” the psychopathic clown. One person recalled that, “Heath refused to talk to anyone out-of-character. If you tried to communicate normally he ignored you. He hung out on his days off still in character, freaking everyone out. Toward the end of filming, it was almost like he couldn’t connect with those who cared for him anymore.” Ledger died of an accidental overdose of sleeping pills before the film was released.

…And a Mystic

“External movements have the ability to awaken internal feelings
and emotions.  Though feelings often seem to be out of our
control, by consciously acting in a certain way, we can
gain mastery over our feelings.”

- Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, 18th century scholar and mystic

None of us is perfect. There are aspects of ourselves that we would all like to change. We all strive to develop ourselves, to polish our character, and to grow. Sometimes, when it comes to growth and change, to transforming aspects of our lives, it’s okay to be an actor. If you want to be a more patient person, try acting like a patient person even though you don’t feel like it.  Likewise, you can act the way a loving and empathetic person would act, act the way a responsible person would act, or act the way a generous person would act.

Long ago our tradition taught us what method actors have recently discovered:  That playing a superficial role has the power to trigger a deep transformation.

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Comments icon July 10, 2009


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