One of the previous tips offered here was about Building a Back Story with Significant Objects. This week, I would like to talk about endowing objects, places and people.
The great actress/teacher Uta Hagen used and taught the concept of endowment to make things real. As actors, we must hold the prop teacup (bought at the Dollar Store) and make the audience believe it is a delicate antique, handed down from three generations. The only way we can do that, is by endowing the prop with the qualities of the object in our story. (Note: the actor must also endow the sets and other actors with their own qualities in order for the audience to believe they exist.)
What are the qualities of that teacup?
Delicate and fragile, yet it has stood the test of time. It survived in our family through several wars and many, many physical moves; across the country and around the world. It symbolizes the love, not only that Great Grandfather had for Great Grandmother, but the faith that the family had in each other, handed down from each generation. It is believed to possess magical, curative properties, as it was used to administer liquid medicines that saved the lives of both Grandmother and Mother over the years.
As an actor, I must endow that cup with all those qualities. I must use my hands, my body, my face, my eyes, voice and breathing to handle the cup as if it were the real object. I must show some reverence for that cup. I do not merely grab it and swig the cold tea in it, I must lift it gently, as if it could break any minute, and the resulting loss would be devastating. I must also endow the liquid inside with heat, and the taste of Earl Grey. Blowing gently to cool the hot tea, sipping the bold, robust flavor.
As a storyteller, I must do all that…but without the actual prop to handle!