« Comic View | Main | Actors: What Are You Doing During Strike? »

Character Studies

In_character Photographer Howard Schatz takes the old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words to heart in his handsome collection In Character: Actors Acting. One hundred actors, from major stars to journeyman professionals, were given a character, a scene, and some brief direction, then Schatz shot them as they improvised. A short paragraph from each subject explains his or her background and acting process, but the highlights, of course, are the photos. An introduction suggests looking at the pictures first without reading the instructions and trying to guess the actor's intention. Even without the specifics, emotion and character burst through the page in Schatz's crisp close-ups.

A random sample: Ellen Burstyn's pursed lips and blazing eyes as a woman scorned; Marianne Jean-Baptiste laughing hysterically as the Wicked Witch of the West setting the Scarecrow on fire; Ron Rifkin as a 5-year-old hiding from his uncle and then as a rookie detective practicing his best "bad cop" face.

Acting students will benefit from examining the choices; almost without exception they're not the obvious ones. Instead of exhibiting purple-faced rage, Edward Herrmann, as a father hearing his daughter's tale of abuse by her husband, places his hands on the sides of his head and listens sadly with a closed, blank expression.

The commentary is insightful and fun, from Chevy Chase's ruminations on fame to Rosemary Harris' memory of her stage debut at age 7 playing a disdainful queen. Perhaps Fred Willard best sums up the joy of performing: "I love acting because when it's time to speak, everyone else has to shut up before your cue."

In Character: Actors Acting by Howard Schatz, Bulfinch Press, 2006, hardcover, 264 pages, $50.

-- David Sheward

Dig This


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Character Studies:


The comments to this entry are closed.