ArtsLink: Power of Pause on Stage and Parallels to a Pause and its Impact in the Current Situation We Face

By Jason Young on April 16, 2020 from A&E Blog via

There can be great power in the pause. 
Actors and directors use different words to describe it: a beat, a moment, a breath; but we all know what I am talking about. It’s that moment in a live theatre performance, in a TV show, in a movie, when the action stops, when it falls so perfectly silent that we, the audience, lean in, waiting and wondering, with anticipation, for what happens next. 
It’s a delicate thing for an actor, the pause. A lot of actors can be too precious about it and pause constantly; other actors have unpaid tickets because they miss every stop sign. For the pause to be meaningful, powerful even, it has to be well timed, well placed, for the appropriate duration, and most importantly, purposeful. 
Jeffrey Ingman is one of my mentors. He was one of my professors and one of my directors when I was at Fairmont State. I loved being in a rehearsal room with Jeffrey. He is a ferocious pursuer of the truth in every moment of a play. He has a laser focus and a critical eye, and he had this innate ability, no matter how big or small your role may be, to trick you into working much harder than you thought you ever could. He taught me about the pause. 
He would tell us that we had to “buy our moments.” At first I didn’t understand the phrase, but now I use it with actors constantly. What he meant was very simple: If you pause too often and let everything be of great importance and everything be a precious dramatic moment, then nothing is really important or dramatic. It’s the acting lesson version of the boy who cried wolf. In order to buy your moment, you have to use the pause deliberately and with purpose, not waste it on lesser thoughts and beats within the play when the action could stop. You have to wait for that absolute perfect moment when the action must stop. 
Good playwrights can lead an actor there. Really good playwrights, like Tennessee Williams, William Shakespeare, and especially Harold Pinter, serve it up to the actor. But sometimes, well most of the time, you have to feel it; and if you can’t feel the pause inside of you, then the audience won’t feel the pause at all. 
I have been thinking a lot about the pause during these stay-at-home days. We didn’t really have a choice but to take this moment. Maybe some great playwright has served this pause up for us. I am such a Jeffrey Ingman disciple that I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can make sure my pause is purposeful. How can I make the most out of this moment? Or is the better question, how can I make the least out of this moment?
I have, like I am sure many of you have, seen the Facebook posts and the links to the articles about the pressure to be productive during this pause. I felt it too for the first few days. I felt trapped knowing that I couldn’t really do any of the same things that occupied my “normal” day-to-day life. It eventually got pretty bad. I felt like if I couldn’t work, if I couldn’t create, direct, teach, or perform then I couldn’t be who I was meant to be. I couldn’t do what I know I was put on this planet to do. It was a harsh and strange feeling. It felt like failure. 
I am past it now. It was a moment. But now, slowly, I am learning to pause with greater purpose.
I have redefined my role in this show we call life. Right now I can’t be as much of a creator or a teacher. I have almost no chance to be a director or a performer, but I can be a husband, I can be a son, and I can be a friend. I can be a communicator, an organizer, a chef, a handyman, a dog walker, and a inhouse clown. Take all of that and balance it with what little creating and teaching I can accomplish, and that’s a pretty big role. Not the star of the show for sure, but enough to keep a character actor like me busy. 
I have also scratched my creative itch by focusing on being adaptable, by exploring and learning new ways to make and distribute art. Certainly, it’s less pleasing and less exciting than the “normal” ways. So I am trying very hard to not let perfect be the enemy of good; another lesson I learned during my days at Fairmont State. 
Right now, during this pause, the majority of us have become the collective audience, leaning in, waiting and wondering, with anticipation, for what happens next. Pauses always end. This pause will end as well. The action of the story will resume. So for now, I wish you a most purposeful pause; whatever that means for you. Take this moment. Feel it. Use it. Then once the time comes, we’ll all move on to the next. 

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