Insight from the inside

Come to Your Senses – Part 3

Part 3 of 3
Young Performer Acting with Curiosity

This is the third and final part of a three-piece blog series by Mari Lyn Henry. CLICK HERE to go to the beginning.

Curiosity: The Seventh Sense

Curiosity drives our development when we are allowed to explore and discover. We need all of our senses, especially a sense of humor.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors or doing new things because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” 

Walt Disney

Curiosity is in our DNA, manifested in our imagination, the instinct to find solutions to problems, investigate, explore, be adventurous, take risks, make choices, ask questions, discover new ways to build a better mousetrap, find the ancient remains in the pyramids, climb the highest mountain, and dig deep for the indomitable human spirit that feeds our creative achievements.

Shakespeare used most of his mental and spiritual and creative powers evidenced by the breadth of his knowledge in all fields. He was a man of all the senses!

Unearthly shadowy apparitions, witches and black magic are in his tragedies and comedies. Hamlet’s father appears to him after death to avenge his murder. Macbeth sees Banquo’s ghost; the Thane of Cawdor says “Is this a Dagger I see before me?” Consumed by guilt, he imagines the dagger with which he will kill the King and take the crown as his own. The witches predict his death.

Hamlet’s most thought-provoking question in the history of monologues is open to multiple interpretations. “To Be or Not To Be”. To live or not to live, to die or not to die, to exist in the afterlife? Six words that have been analyzed by great minds for centuries. All of them curious to know the real meaning.    

I wish to share with you an excerpt from Maurice Morgann’s Essays on Shakespeare. He lived in the 19th century and was a renowned scholar who wrote: “The language of the heart explains the working of the brain… We preserve the true Shakespearean meaning through the eye of the soul before we see it through the eye of the mind. His creations are the ‘true and perfect images of life indeed.’”

The Bard of Avon was not an exceptional student; he went to school and learned the classical languages, mythology, great philosophers – Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Cicero, Ovid, Virgil, Plautus, Aristophanes. He was a botanist, a composer, a playwright, an actor, a theatre producer. He loved music; it helped him underscore a theme, alter or sustain a mood, herald the entrance of important persons, or create an atmosphere at a dance or banquet. He used instrumental music in his stage directions.

No one knows if he was a gardener but he studied flowers, plants, herbs from classical medieval herbal manuals. He knew about pruning, the forests, and landscaping. His botanical knowledge is evidenced in the roses in Romeo and Juliet and the lilies in The Winter’s Tale. He used the power of plants to evoke emotion and help tell his stories. The most notable example is the symbolism in Ophelia’s speech when she presents the bouquet to Gertrude. “There’s rosemary that’s for remembrance…”

He was also interested in old proverbs and customs. One, in particular, is cited in Much Ado About Nothing:

Did Curiosity Kill the Cat?

A proverb from the 1600s stated “A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays and for three he stays.“ – Cats can live more than one life.

In Much Ado About Nothing, Claudio advised Benedick to have “Courage, though CARE has killed a cat, thou hast enough mettle to kill CARE.” Care meant worry or sorrow.

Curiosity did not kill the cat; it made the cat more curious.

What will pique your curiosity? Mine was piqued when I researched the popular sentiment about our eyes referred to as the “windows of the soul”. I thought for sure it was from Shakespeare’s sonnets, poems, plays? I was wrong. With a teaspoon of research, it appears we must give credit to Cicero, the famed orator and Roman philosopher who said, “The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter.” A biblical reference from Matthew revealed that “the eye is the lamp of the body.”

If you wish to create a character as a living, breathing, feeling, human being you have to go beyond the external clues or just settle for face value. Beauty is only skin deep. The lens you use to go beyond the obvious surface needs all of the senses working together.  

The Seventh Sense is not a figment of our imagination. It is real and we have it in us without knowing it. When you are using all of the resources available to you, nothing can be hidden from the past, the present or the future.   

Tap into your seventh sense and ASK the universe a question. When you receive the answer as your own thought with clarity, the doubt is removed.

“Acting for me has always been an organic process that is absorbing my character’s reality allowing her to saturate the cells and fibers of my being.”

Cicely Tyson on preparation for Sounder

When Cicely Tyson was cast for the role of Rebecca in the film Sounder, the director had her in mind for a lesser role.

Her preparation for the part was a total immersion. In her words:

 “From the opening line, she crawled under my skin. I could see her, feel her, touch her… she was a part I could have played in my sleep, a character of substance, beneath a placid exterior lived a quiet complexity. I knew who this woman was… It was a challenge to do her justice. I was terrified to take the role, a sign that I should. Once I allowed Rebecca’s essence to dislodge my own, she began manifesting in my gestures… I had inhabited Rebecca in such a way that her voice could finally be heard.”

Always be curious. Listen to your inner voice. Embrace your psychic ability. Be unique. Be Memorable. Be Confident. Be proud. Don’t say yes when you mean no.

“Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible”. Enjoy the discovery and the challenge.


Mari Lyn Henry

MARI LYN HENRY, author, teacher, actor and theatre historian founded the Society for the Preservation of Theatrical History to reacquaint today’s actors with the great actresses and visionaries of the 19th and early 20th centuries. SocietyPTH.com

Her workshops on on-camera techniques, script analysis, auditioning and impression management have been very successful in cities and universities across the country. CAREER INTELLIGENCE Seminars about “The Business of the Business” are based on her best-selling book How To Be A Working ActorHowtobeaworkingactor.com

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