“True and False” Quotes

I recently finished reading “True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor” by David Mamet. Here’s the quotes I found useful/interesting.

“It is not childish to live with uncertainty, to devote oneself to a craft rather than a career, to an idea rather than an institution. It’s courageous and requires a courage of the order that the institutionally co-opted are ill equipped to perceive. They are so unequipped to perceive it that they can only call it childish, and so excuse their exploitation of you.” (18)

“Part of the requirement of a life in the theatre is to stay out of school.” (18)

“The audience will teach you how to act and the audience will teach you how to write and to direct. The classroom will teach you how to obey, and obedience in the theatre will get you nowhere. It’s a soothing falsity.” (19)

“If you want to be in the theatre, go into the theatre. If you want to have made a valiant effort to go into the theatre before you go into real estate or law school or marry wealth, then perhaps you should stay in school.” (19)

“The study of acting consists in the main of getting out of one’s own way, and in learning to deal with uncertainty and being comfortable being uncomfortable.” (20)

“The actor has his own trials to undergo, and they are right in front of him. They don’t have to be super added; they exist. His challenge is not to recapitulate, to pretend to the difficulties of the written character; it is to open the mouth, stand straight, and say the words bravely – adding nothing, denying nothing, and without the intent to manipulate anyone: himself, his fellows, the audience.” (22)

“Find your mark, look the other fellow in the eye, and tell the truth.” –James Cagney (25)

“It is the audience that goes to the theatre to exercise its emotion – not the actor, the audience. And when they go, having paid to be moved, they exercise their right to their money’s worth.” (25)

“The actor creates excuses not to act and attributes her reluctance to everything in the world except the actual cause.” (29)

“Nobody cares how hard you worked. Nor should they.” (32)

“Any worthwhile goal is difficult to accomplish. To say of it “I’ll try” is to excuse oneself in advance.” (34)

“Those with “something to fall back on” invariably fall back on it. They intended to all along. That is why they provided themselves with it.” (34)

“Where in the wide history of the world do we find art created by the excessively wealthy, powerful, or educated?” (35)

“One could also say, “I see nothing else worth my time,” which is, I think, a rather strengthening attitude.” (35)

“It is the writer’s job to make the play interesting. It is the actor’s job to make the performance truthful.” (41)

“To serve in the real theatre, one needs to be able to please the audience and the audience only.” (42)

“The opinion of teachers and peers is skewed, and too much time spent earning their good opinion unfits one for a life upon the stage.” (42)

“You will not please either yourself or others in every aspect of every outing.” (48)

“They come to the show to be pleased, and they will be pleased by the honest, the straightforward, the unusual, the intuitive – all those things, in short, which dismay both the teacher and the casting agent.” (50)

“You have an enormously greater chance of eventually presenting yourself to, and eventually appealing to, an audience by striking out on your own, by making your own plays and films, than by submitting to the industrial model of the school and the studio.” (51)

“The audience perceives only what the actor wants to do to the other actor.” (56)

“Here, again, is your job: learn the lines, find a simple objective like that indicated by the author, speak the lines clearly in an attempt to achieve that objective.” (57)

“It is not necessary to believe anything in order to act.” (57)

“You have to learn the lines, look at the script simply to find a simple action for each scene, and then go out there and do your best to accomplish that action, and while you do, simply open your mouth and let the words come out however they will.” (62)

“For to you, to the actor, it is not the words which carry the meaning – it is the actions.” (62)

“What matters is what you mean. What comes from the heart goes to the heart. The rest is Funny Voices.” (63)

“Two things should happen in the rehearsal process: 1. The play should be blocked 2. The actors should become acquainted with the actions they are going to perform.” (72)

“An action is the attempt to accomplish something.” (72)

“Each character in the play wants something. It is the actor’s job to reduce that something to its lowest common denominator and then act upon it.” (74)

“The correct unit of study is not the play; it is the scene.” (75)

“The boxer has to fight one round at a time; the fight will unfold as it is going to. The boxer takes a simple plan into the ring, and then has to deal with the moment. So do you. The correct unit of application is the scene.” (76)

“The greatest performances are seldom noticed. Why? Because they do not draw attention to themselves, and do not seek to – like any real heroism, they are simple and unassuming, and seem to be a natural and inevitable outgrowth of the actor.” (79)

“If we devote ourselves to the punchline, all else becomes clear. The punchline is the action.” (83)

“You don’t have to become more interesting, more sensitive, more talented, more observant – to act better. You do have to become more active.” (84)

“Nobody with a happy childhood ever went into show business.” (87)

“Your concentration is always like water. It will always seek its own level – it will always flow to the most interesting thing around.” (94)

“The more you are concerned with yourself, the less you are worthy of note.” (95)

“The more a persons’ concentration is outward, the more naturally interesting that person becomes.” (95)

“It’s not your responsibility to do things in an interesting manner – to become interesting. You are interesting. It’s your responsibility to become outward-directed.” (95)

“Why not direct yourself toward the actions of the play? If they are concrete, provocative, and fun, it will be no task at all to do them; and to do them is more interesting than to concentrate on them.” (95)

“No one wants to pay god money and irreplaceable time to watch you be responsible. They want to watch you be exciting.” (97)

“Luck, if there is such a thing, is either going to favor everyone equally or going to exhibit a preference for the prepared.” (99)

“Leave the concerns of the street on the street. And when you leave the theatre, leave that performance behind you. It’s over – if there is something you want to do differently next time, do it.” (102)

“If you decide to be an actor, stick to your decision. The folks you meet in supposed positions of authority – critics, teachers, casting directors – will, in the main, be your intellectual and moral inferiors. They will lack your imagination, which is why they became bureaucrats rather than artists; and they will lack your fortitude, have elected institutional support over a life of self-reliance. They spend their lives learning lessons very different from the ones you learn, and many or most of them will envy you and this envy will express itself as contempt. It’s a cheap trick of unhappy people, and if you understand it for what it is, you need not adopt or be overly saddened by their view of you. It is the view of the folks on the veranda talking about the lazy slaves.” (110)

“You don’t have to portray the hero or the villain. That’s been done for you by the script.” (114)

“Most of us have learned something from a teacher. But I doubt if anyone ever learned anything from an Educator.” (122)

If you liked these quotes, please buy and read the book here.

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