CAE Reading and Use of English Part 6
Read four extracts from drama school blogs about the acting process. For questions 37-40, choose from the reviews A-D. The extracts may be chosen more than once.
Playing a part
Four aspiring actors comment on how drama school training helps them prepare for a new role.
Some actors have little rituals that they have to carry out every time they start a new part, which may be based on superstition. For them, acting involves a deep personal investment. However, there are also practical considerations when taking on any new part. Is it better to learn all the words by rote, or through some kind of emotional memory? The script itself is fixed, but there are a million ways in which an actor can imagine saying the lines. Wherever this imagination comes from, the actor must first draw on things that they have experienced and know to be true. Because of this, actors are not necessarily the best judge of their own performance since they are too close to it, but if they use the practical techniques learned in drama school they will be better equipped to take on demanding roles and face their critics knowing they have performed well.
It’s a strange thing that the world of the theatre is often connected with deceit and lying – after all, that’s the stuff of good drama, and actors are simply playing a part. But really it’s the opposite, as acting is essentially connected with bringing out some kind of truth. The fact is that truth is everything to do with humanity. And the best part of an actor’s job is to convey that and change the way people think about it. If an audience doesn’t believe in a character on stage, it’s not worth doing. In order to get an audience to believe, there has to be a shared understanding of what truth means; that involves the actor in thinking, evaluating and planning every move beforehand. That’s when acting is at its most demanding, and learning the lines is actually quite mundane. When a performance is a revelation, and completely truthful in what it says about life, it lifts both audience and the actors on to a different level. So much of what is done in drama schools is based on achieving that.
Most acting workshops teach actors to be flexible and loose in their approach to a role, to use their imagination and be as open as possible. This is key to the success of actors when establishing a new character. When it comes to fixing the emotions of character, there is no point in trying to create unrealistic emotions because what people in real life do is reach to other people around them; they don’t walk around summoning up states of anger or fear at a moment’s notice. Actors have to do the same thing night after night, and may lose the ability to see how well it is being done or even engage emotionally. The irony is that actors must appear to be spontaneous, yet they know what the other characters on stage are going to say. The audience must believe in their characters and understand a greater truth. Yet clearly, the actor is simply playing a part, and how well he or she does that is for others to judge.
Drama schools teach aspiring young actors that there is no one right way to do things —there are different approaches to developing a character, although the practical techniques of voice projection and so on are clearly the same. Some actors totally immerse themselves in the character they’re playing, even staying in character when off-stage. Other consider this self-indulgent, and rely on imagination and spontaneity to carry them through. After all, imagination is not something concrete that can be manipulated and the aim of the actor is to convey his or her version of the truth of the play to the audience. Every actor wants to achieve a performance that really reaches an audience and helps them look at something in a new way.
Which blogger …
37 expresses a different view from the others about what’s important when preparing a role?
38 has a similar view to A about an actor’s assessment of his or her own performance?
39 has a different opinion to the others about what makes a good performance?
40 shares B’s opinion about what is most satisfying about acting?
CAE Reading and Use of English Part 7
You are going to read an article about the impact of the Internet on our lives. Six paragraphs have been removed from the article. Choose from the paragraphs A-G the one which fits each gap (41-46). There is one extra paragraph which you do not need to use.
How the Internet is altering your mind
Like most newspapers’ content, what you are about to read was written using a computer connected to the Internet. Obviously, this had no end of benefits, mostly pertaining to the relative ease of my research and the simplicity of contacting the people whose thoughts and opinions you are about to read.
It often feels as if all this frantic activity creates a constant state of twitchy anxiety. Moreover, having read a hotly controversial book about the effect of digital media on the human mind, I may have very good reason to feel scared. Its thesis is simple enough: not only that the modern world’s relentless informational overload is killing our capacity for reflection, contemplation and patience but that our online habits are also altering the very structure of our brains.
The writer then argues that the Internet’s ‘cacophony of stimuli’ and ‘crazy quilt’ of information have given rise to ‘cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning’ – in contrast to the age of the book, when intelligent humans were encouraged to be contemplative and imaginative.
Dr Small, the director of the Memory and Ageing Research Centre at the University of California, Los Angeles, is a specialist in the effects on the brain of the ageing process. ‘Even an old brain can be quite malleable and responsive to what’s going on with technology,’ he tells me.
When I ask him how I might stop the Internet’s more malign effects on my own brain, he sounds slightly more optimistic than Carr: ‘Try to balance online time with offline time,’ he tells me. ‘What’s happening is, we’re losing the circadian rhythms we’re used to; you go to work, you come home, you spend time talking with your kids.’
‘His argument privileges activities of the skimming and browsing kind. But if you look at research on kids doing this, or exploring virtual worlds such as Second Life,the argument there is about immersion and engagement.’
This all sounds both comforting and convincing, until I return to The Shallows and read a particularly sobering sentence: ‘We are welcoming the frenziedness into our souls.’ There’s something chilling about those words and even twenty stupid minutes on YouTube and an impulse buy from Amazon cannot quite remove them from my brain.
A But here is the really important thing. Carr writes: ‘If, knowing what we know today about the brain’s plasticity, you were to set out to invent a medium that would rewire our mental circuits as quickly and thoroughly as possible, you would probably end up designing something that looks and works a lot like the Internet.’
В The Shallows is a book by Nicholas Carr. It is an elegantly written cry of anguish about what one admirer calls ‘the uneducating of Homo sapiens’ and a rewiring of neural pathways and networks that may yet deprive the human race of the talents that, ironically enough, drove our journey from caves to PC terminals.
C ‘The point is, to play successfully, you have to pay an incredible amount of attention to what your team-mates are doing, to the mechanics of the game. You can set up a thesis for The Depths, just as much as The Shallows. And it seems to me that to say that some neural pathways are good and some are bad – well, how can you possibly say that?’
D ‘It’s a basic principle that the brain is very sensitive to any kind of stimulation. If you have repeated stimuli, your neural circuits will be excited. But if you neglect other stimuli, other neural circuits will be weakened.’ Carr argues that the online world so taxes the parts of the brain that deal with fleeting and temporary stuff that deep thinking becomes increasingly impossible. As he sees it: ‘Our ability to learn suffers and our understanding remains shallow.’
E Among the people with walk-on roles in The Shallows is Scott Karp, the editor of a renowned American digital media blog called Publish2, whose reading habits are held up as proof of the fact that plenty of people’s brains have long since been rewired by their enthusiastic use of the Internet.
F I get a more convincing antidote to the Carr thesis from Professor Andrew Burn of the University of London’s Institute of Education. Equating the Internet with distraction and shallowness, he tells me, is a fundamental mistake, possibly bound up with Carr’s age (he is fifty). ‘Is there anything in his book about online role-playing games?’
G But then there is the downside. The tool I use to write can also double as many other things. Thus, while writing this, I was entertained by no end of distractions. I watched YouTube videos, bought something on Amazon and at downright stupid hours of the day – 6 a.m. or almost midnight – I once again checked my email on either my phone or computer.