Mentors as tormentors | Inquirer Entertainment

Mentors as tormentors

/ 07:42 PM January 18, 2013

Some actors were shooting the breeze last week, and opinions clashed and sizzled as they compared notes on their directorial mentors—and tormentors—and what they had learned from them.

Some discussants recalled famous or infamous “terrors” and “monsters” who tried to push them to come up with better performances by scoffing at their phlegmatic efforts.


The “terrors” didn’t stop at insulting the actors’ capabilities, but went on to excoriate even their parents and grandparents—for having had the temerity to spawn them!

Thus did they push the young actors into coming up with their best portrayals, despite the negative effects of the low blows they inflicted on the actors’ confidence and self-esteem.


And yet, looking back after many years, some actors concluded that they had learned more from their theatrical tormentors’ “tough-love” treatment, than from the kind and forgiving directors who coddled and praised them.


An actor recalled that a “terror” director once confided to him that she intentionally cultivated her terrifying image to put her wards on their guard, and make them turn in exceptional performances.

She wasn’t really such an ogre but she just pretended to “eat actors for breakfast”—to save time!

Another discussant pointed out that many actors are poorly trained, so their directors don’t just  direct, they have to give acting lessons—and to spend even more time correcting the bad acting habits that their cast members have acquired through the years.

—Naturally, this makes them peevish and grumpy, so they nag and harass incompetent actors for wasting their time!

Other “monsters” cited included the famous director who used to slap actresses to make them cry (!), and the brilliant but emotionally “confused” mentor who fell in love with his production’s leading man—and, when the actor didn’t reciprocate his feelings, drastically cut down the uncooperative actor’s lines!


More positively, another director was cited for her insistence on promptness and discipline, to the extent that she would fire an actor, not for skipping a rehearsal, but just for being late!

At first, her actors protested—but, when she held her ground, everybody soon came to rehearsals on time!


From these and other encounters with all sorts of directorial “terrors” and “monsters,” the actors concluded that the most important lesson they had learned was that the theatrical and dramatic process was not about them, but about the larger vision of their director, whether or not he was an angel of benevolence, or the devil himself in his peevishness and intransigence.

When they worked with great directors, they said, they welcomed being pushed to or even past their perceived limits, because the director’s larger vision required everyone to do their very best work.

But, if they had their druthers, they would prefer it if their director treated them, not as unfeeling cogs or “bacteria,” but as fellow-artists in the difficult task of communally coming up with a fine piece of work for the stage, TV or film!

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TAGS: Acting, Actors, Directors, Mentor, talent, tormentors
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