Alexander Chee is a novelist that I follow on Twitter, and who I recently got to meet when he was in Philly for work. When I made my Christmas wish list of books by queer authors for my Mom to buy me from Giovanni's Room, his debut novel Edinburgh was on the list, and is next on my "to read" list. (It was really exciting to support queer artists who I knew or that were recommended by PhinLi Bookings, who I love.) I also follow Alex's blog Koreanish and really enjoyed today's post.
What struck me was his discussion on the research that one must undertake to create authentic art, in his case a historical novel, a largely autobiographical novel, and a potential screen play. Even the autobiographical novel required research because, as he writes, "You may think you know your home town, Annie Dillard used to say in class. But chances are you don’t. What is the main industry? When was it founded? The population? What are the plants, throughout the seasons? She was speaking of the importance of researching even memoir." I felt like I was getting an artist to artist lesson here, and a reminder that our mentors need not be in the same room or even state as us, be speaking to us directly, or even know us.
This was particularly resonant with me because of the acting training which I just resumed with the start of a new class at the Ward Stduio. The level of excellence and dedication expected of us is incomparable to anything I have experienced in life, and I am extremely grateful for it. In our current class, Meisner Technique III, we are learning physical adjustments along with other text work. These include everything from dialects, speech impediments and physical disability to realistically acting pain, drunkenness, or anything else that would require adjustment to our physicality in order to be truthfully expressed on film or on stage. The expectation of our accent/dialect work is that we will unfailingly use primary source materials (or I'm sure immersion would be ideal if it were possible) in order to study and take on the accent, and that we will then use it 24/7 until we have mastered it. At the bank, at work, talking to Grandmom on the phone, giving driving directions to strangers and while fucking. All of the time. You do your research and you do your footwork and then (and only then) will you be the best artist you can be, writer, actor or otherwise. I appreciate Alex's blog as one more reminder of the hard work constantly required to master one's craft.