Off-Cut: Five

It is often difficult to clearly explain the way people operate on both a conscious and unconscious level.

As creating an image of a character who exists in this way is the goal of any actor in pursuit of "realism" the following edited extract from Jane Anderson's August '99 news letter is of interest. Jane is a dream analyst.

Dreams, Shadows, Complex People & Sub-text
"It would have made a great cartoon or comic strip. It was Wednesday evening and we were sprawled out on the sofa… watching the news on TV…. The camera zoomed in on the last eclipse of the Moon for this Millennium. We stared at the clear picture on the screen, trying to summon up some kind of feeling for the enormity - or otherwise - of this event … while the real eclipse was on show
right outside our window!

Realising this, we made the supreme effort of getting up and walking all of several paces to the front door….above us, glimmering in three-dimensional depth, much larger than the image on our TV, the final, real live-action lunar eclipse of the Millennium was screening against the dark sky just for us. The Earth's shadow was clearly curved as it spread across the lunar surface, helping me to experience the Moon as a sphere rather than a disc….The jolt of
recognition was electrical: that shadow on the Moon was cast by what was behind me - indeed the shadow included me!

Looking skyward I was not seeing the Earth as a physical reality and yet it was revealing itself in all its wholeness, in all its roundness, in all its enormity, through its shadow.

Aha! If you're into dream interpretation you'll have caught my theme by now! The Moon, being seen most clearly at night, often symbolises our intuition or our dream insight. In the depths of our unconscious night it is too dark to see our deepest selves, or to be aware of those unconscious thoughts and behaviour patterns which rule our life, unseen. In dreams we glimpse little pockets of truth through the darkness, seeing clearly in the moonlight of a
dream the gems and treasures we hide so deep within.

But our most rewarding dream insights frequently come from the darkest and most scary of our dreams….the 'negative' aspects of our personalities: the multi-faceted sides of ourselves we don't want others to know about. These are known, in dream therapy and psychology, as our 'shadows'….(for example) The defensive old man snaps unsmilingly, all the while keeping his vulnerable joyful shadow under wraps for fear of losing control.

For every extreme we generally hold a shadow at bay, crouching in the corners of the unconscious but all the time affecting, unseen, our every expression, thought and action."

A perfect description of the source of sub-text.

Every actor should have some idea of which 'shadows' haunt the character they are playing and why these 'shadows' exist. But remember, like unconscious thoughts in the every day world, in your character these 'shadows' also need to remain hidden. They should only be evident through the outcome of the character's actions. In Jane's example the only evidence of the old man's 'shadow' is his need to use his grumpiness to make sure he stays in control - to use her words "all the time affecting, unseen, every expression, thought and action."

As in life, so it is for the actor at work.

If you are interested in further exploration of dreams and the unconscious you can find Jane's web site at www.janeanderson.com.au

August 1999


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