Saturday, March 7, 2009

There's Nothing Wrong with Game-Playing

From Michael Shurtleff's classic Audition:
First let me explain that by game playing and role playing I don't mean insincere behavior. No matter how often I insist that game and role playing are real, actors persist in believing they are examples of pretense, make-believe, unreality, insincerity.

When we play games, it is for real; when we take on different roles, it is sincere conduct, for it is a way of dealing with reality, not avoiding it.

Let me use an example: I come to my classes, I play the role of teacher. The actors play the roles of students. If we meet at a cocktail party, we play the roles of peers: who can be the wittiest? We no longer observe the student-teacher roles but invest ourselves with new ones. We are the same people. We are not less real at a cocktail party, we are simply making a different adjustment to a different situation. We play the game...

Every relationship we have demands a different role, in order to be successfully fulfilled. Every situation we are in is a game with different rules. All real. All meaningful to us. The rules of the game tell us how to act in the life situation, don't they? So they also tell actors how to "act."
Sometimes people are incredulous when I attempt to explain theirs or others behavior in terms of signaling. But of course they are manipulating and reacting to other people's impressions of them! We all play signaling games all the time that we interact socially. The salient question is not whether it is being done but how and why people are doing so and what that reveals about the situation.

Audition thus far is very good; I'll post the rest of my notes and thoughts when I've finished reading it.