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You can't act a negative

It's old advice but I really understood it today. Giving advice to a friend who was practising her entrance to the stage for stand up. Trying to enter already "in character" rather than as herself. I said I can see you in this moment, and in this moment. So she tried to eradicate that. She tried to do it as "not her". Tried to remove herself. And of course she couldn't.

The character she was trying to do is based on something she improvised, so foolishly it seemed to us that if we eradicated every moment that we recognised as herself, what would be left would be the character. But it doesn't work like that. It tied her in knots. Then she tried doing it as someone else. Another character, close but different, from the one that she was trying to do. She did that and her "character" reappeared. The problem was solved. She was playing something, imitating someone, rather than trying to take something away.

Why we didn't think of it before I don't know. Maybe because it seems too simple, too easy. It feels a bit like cheating. And the character she was copying was not a perfect fit, but of course it changed when she did it and became right. But even if it is slightly wrong it's far better than the alternative which is nothing at all. You can't act a negative.


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