- And Then, You Act: Making Art in an Unpredictable World
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At first glance, Anne Bogart's title And Then, You Act could seem to imply that this is a book for actors about acting. Well, it is and it is not. Actors will definitely find it useful, although it is not an acting handbook and does not illustrate acting techniques. It is Bogart's call for action through art. In it she urges theatre artists-actors, directors, writers, designers-to make art that matters. In this thin book, Bogart takes a penetrating look at the post-9/11 sociocultural reality in the US and theatre's place in it, and proposes a way into action for theatre artists.
In the introduction, Bogart expresses her urgent need to intensify the way her art affects the audience and to empower others to do the same. This sense of urgency in the face of trying times underlies the entire book. Each one of the eight chapters focuses on an element that influences the artistic process in theatre: Context, Articulation, Intention, Attention, Magnetism, Attitude, Content, and Time. Bogart argues that, if recognized and used, these elements can help "make the music more intense" (5). Though none of these elements is new, Bogart's observations and insights, posed as a reaction to the difficult times contemporary theatre is facing, situate them as spaces of cross-influence between life and theatre, where there is a potential for change and intervention in both. Bogart demonstrates how to recognize those elements in life and in theatre, and how to apply them to the creative process.
I found chapters three, five, and seven ("Intention," "Magnetism," and "Content") to be the most practical chapters in the book. These are also the chapters Bogart divides into titled subchapters. Chapter three, dealing with intention, follows a series of questions that provide a twist to what we usually ask in traditional play analysis: who, what, where, when, and why. Here Bogart invites artists to ask about themselves and their art: "Who are your colleagues?" "What are you tempting?"1 "When does art happen?" "Where does your work belong?" "Why do you create?" Through these questions Bogart provokes us as readers to rethink our art as part of the culture we live and create in. The last question in this chapter-"How do you proceed?"-is followed by a list of suggestions. This list does not provide a recipe but rather sets the tone, giving certain principles that would shape the character of the work and would make it more relevant and vibrant. Taking intention, one of the most important elements in contemporary mainstream acting techniques, and detaching it from character work, from acting as such, represents another step in Bogart's critique of the Americanized Stanislavski approach (see Bogart 2001:37).
The rest of the book is sprinkled with practical advice and directional signs. As in chapter three, the advice remains general, implying a disposition but keeping away from delineating [End Page 168] specific action. In this vagueness lies an act of generosity and empowerment. Bogart never states what people should do-she leaves that to the individual artist-but rather she gives tools, or points of awareness for making art in an unpredictable world. This may frustrate readers looking for answers, as they will most likely end up with even more questions. It is both the strength of the book and its weakness. Bogart's underlying assumption is that in order to create effective theatre, each artist must have technique, passion, and something to say (6). This is stated in the introduction but might be forgotten or overlooked by a reader who is not versed in Bogart's idiosyncratic language.
As in her previous book, A Director Prepares: Seven Essays on Art and Theatre (2001),2 she takes the reader through decisive moments in her personal and artistic life, sharing the consequences and her artistic understandings of them. Bogart manages to engage provocatively with current sociopolitical and artistic...