Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category

Fragile Debbie’s Tough Enemy


What are emotions and where do they come from?

High schooler Debbie just split up with her boyfriend of almost a year. Now she is going through the first love crisis of her life. Nobody can console her; even her parents realize that at this particular time any intervention would be impertinent. She just wants to be left alone. Since the boy, in her mind, was almost “everything” worth living for, his disappearance from her life has completely dis-balanced her. Her fragile inner harmony is in pieces. She can’t find any relevancy in what she used to think of herself. Utterly crushed, she is unable to move in any direction.

As with every young person before the big love comes knocking on their door, Debbie has had her “crush setbacks” before. In eighth grade she liked a boy very much, but he didn’t pay attention to her. Later on, she danced at a party with another “Romeo”, and fell madly in love. He moved to another high school, and she quickly forgot about him. So why can’t she get the same pass now? It’s not that she hadn’t experienced disappointments before… Is it only because back then she was younger? That certainly might be part of the case, but there is something more to look into: before, she could handle the rejection, or, in the other case, the separation, because she was able to find logical explanations about what had happened. On the first occasion she had successfully persuaded herself that the guy was actually not that attractive, and the Romeo – well, his departure hadn’t been up to him, so – no threat to her self-esteem. This way she had arranged the attacks on her girl’s pride in a rational order, subdued them, and managed to restore her inner balance. Her self-protection drive had been strong enough to meet, fight, and ultimately digest the bad news coming from the outside.

But now it’s different. Since a big part of her self-concept for the last year had been building itself around the presence of her “true love”, at this point she is already too weak to climb back to harmony once her sweetheart is gone. The painful awareness of his “ultimate betrayal” has found a way around the reasonable. It has penetrated her deeply hidden insecurities and fears that she initially had been unaware of. Like the muddy flood water pouring through the door frames and window sills, covering the ground floor at first, and then starting filling up the basement, threatening the stability of the entire structure, the fact of the split has reached the very depths of her being: her subconscious – stirring it up, forcing it to spew upwards the ragged pieces of some long forgotten dark past. A past, which she even might not have experienced herself. From the small signs of neglect by others, which she had simply brushed off, or even not noticed at all at the time, to our all-human, deeply embedded experience of rejection – all these bits of information have now become overwhelming. They shake up beyond control her vulnerable young personality.

Our subconscious looks a lot like the floor of an old forest. Its surface is covered with the leaves fallen from the trees not that long ago. These are our memories. Then, the deeper you plow, the more decay you find. The leaves – same as our memories – start losing their color and shape, until, lifting up layer after layer, you get to the soil, where leaves have turned into earth. This layer is the experience of previous human generations. Like the soil for the living vegetation, it feeds the existence of every individual. It is an essential part of his or her subconscious.

Roots draw nutrients from the soil and carry them up to the tree; in a similar way our consciousness is connected to the enormously rich reservoir of our subconscious that bears our unregistered or forgotten experiences, as well as the genetically induced experience of mankind. The nutrients our subconscious feeds us with are like the juices reaching the leaves. Let’s explore how they are being formed…

A tender look or a frown, a nice smile or an ironic remark, a compliment or an insult – in itself each of these facts entering the circle of our attention might remain mere signs of attitudes, bunch of sounds, shapes, or stories that leave us indifferent – as long as they don’t fly past our rational minds, and make a splash into our subconscious. Right there, to the extent they connect with its highly subjective nature, these simple facts are being assimilated by the “sleeping cells” of latent individual and archetypal experiences. The resulting highly volatile mixture shoots back into our consciousness, affecting its functionality. The facts turn into circumstances, and boost “the juices” towards our rationality. The “mixture” is impossible to analyze. Each of its molecules – similar to the flashing images in a dream, contains tiny pieces of information that are utterly unrelated to each other. Their minuscule size, together with the intensity of their flow, is beyond our mind’s comprehension capacity. Yet, as they reach our consciousness, we can’t help but act upon them.  Or rather, react to them. We might embrace these circumstances (if they relate to our self-advancement drive), or – as in Debbie’s case – try to fight them (if they relate to our self-protection one), but in either case they inevitably determine a significant part of our behavior. This is how we are being driven not only by the action stirred by our minds, but also by our reaction to the irrational flow of the inexplicable bits of information coming out of our subconscious. The only difference between these two “columns” our behavior is built on is that the latter is unjustifiable, even in our own eyes. This is why we have come up with a very special term for it: emotion.

Our brains process an extremely small amount of our surroundings. The rest “falls through the cracks” of our rationality, and heads straight to the well of our subconscious, which, once provoked, feeds our minds back with new, unfamiliar information, to which we react. Being a product of our subconscious, emotions are actually a type of action – if we deprive the term “action” from the charge of the intentional. After all, action is a process of dealing with inner and outer circumstances, and circumstances are exactly what our subconscious constantly attacks us with. We either choose, or are being forced to act upon them.

Our consciousness and subconscious constantly and uninterruptedly cooperate with each other; their unbreakable bond regulates our every step. But the black-white, left-right division never works in explaining human behavior. There is never, not even for a second, an absolute domination of the mind, and neither there is a full, uncontrolled triumph of emotion. Our rationality and our emotional world are not two distant poles, with nothing in between, or separate walls that shield our path from two separate sides. They are rather two streams flowing in one direction, constantly mixing their waters, vying for a bigger portion of the river bed. The victory in this “love-hate” relationship is relative, because it changes hats frequently, often with lightning speed.

The ability to control the flow of these streams is crucial for the actor. It starts with understanding (and training on) the mechanism of finding the precise triggers which would electrify the subconscious to start sending the right impulses to the mind, release the desired emotions and determine his/her unique behavior on behalf of the character.

Candidates for the role of Debbie? Anyone?…

© 2017 Peter Budevski

The Value of Truth


Theatrical Review of

 A play by Stephen Mallatratt
 Based on the novel by Susan Hill

 Whitefire Theatre, Sherman Oaks, California
 Director Gabrieal Griego
 Premiere April 22, 2009 (more…)

The Show in front of Our Eyes


Why do people go to the theatre or the movies? Certainly, they want to enjoy the experience. But what experience? Just seeing the show? I believe there is something more to it. It is called collective emotion. (more…)

Why Study Acting

Thursday, November 20th, 2008


If you are a kid and you want to call yourself a musician, you must play your instrument every day for hours and hours. To be singled out as a talented young writer, you must learn the grammar well and read a lot of books. People might call you a born ballet dancer only if you have spent months in training the basic positions – one through six. And even though every child can draw, to attract the attention of others you should have worked hard on your shapes and colors… (more…)

A Tribute To Stanislavski

Friday, November 7th, 2008


“Human life is so subtle, so complex and multifaceted, that it needs an incomparably large number of new, still undiscovered ‘isms’ to express it fully.”

Konstantin Stanislavski

After working in theatre for more than 20 years I find myself compelled to acknowledge, that, no matter what great minds I have encountered on different stages of my career, I am a follower of Stanislavski. Why did it take me so long to discover this? It has been a difficult relationship, full of doubts and contradictions, swinging from blind repetition of his postulates to fierce rejection of his “old-fashioned” attachment to realism. (more…)

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