I Believe This About Acting
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One of the most important ideas that I have learned from Eli Siegel is that one's purpose as a self and one's purpose as an actress must be the same. Purpose is not taught in acting schools. It should be. We actors would like to have a reason for acting which we can respect. Very often we don't know our reasons, and think if we did know them, we wouldn't like them. Actors, like other artists, are subject to the great danger of using their art to be superior to and contemptuous of the "ordinary world," including the audiences one hopes so much to impress! Aesthetic Realism is the first body of knowledge to give an aesthetic criterion for distinguishing between good and bad purposes in art and in life. 

I began to act seriously when I was about twelve. But I didn't know why I wanted to be an actress. I just had to be. I didn't like the "real" me (this is common), so I tried to escape me by being someone else. Ell Siegel told me what I heard from no acting teacher before: that I was trying to complete myself through difference. He said: "Acting shows that you don't have to be fettered to yourself. You can be other people. . . . The big question is whether acting helps you to find out who you are or to get away from who you are." 

At the beginning, I used acting to get away from who I was. I wanted to play heroic parts, like Saint Joan, or poignant, wistful ones, like Emily in Our Town, who says: "Goodbye. Goodbye, world. Goodbye, Grover's Corners." The ordinary world for me was dull and oppressive. Also, I didn't want my family to have anything to do with my career. They were in a separate, inferior world. 

It was soon after graduating from Performing Arts that I began to study Aesthetic Realism, and I was asked questions every actor needs to be asked. My feelings about acting, good and bad, were described, criticized, clarified. I felt: This is me.

An excerpt from one of my early Aesthetic Realism lessons shows something of the change that took place in my mind: 

  SIEGEL. Reality has three moods: beneath, divine, and homespun. Which don't you like? 

  FIELDING. Homespun. 

  SIEGEL. I thought so. What is the homespun? 

  FIELDING. Reality, I guess. 

  SIEGEL. Homespun is the ability to see reality not as a crisis. . . . Do you think if there is no crisis, things are boring? 

  FIELDING. Yes. That's one reason I want to act, I think. It seems like another world. 

  SIEGEL. What do you see as boring? 

  FIELDING. Sometimes a whole day is boring. 

  SIEGEL. That's not specific. Things are boring because you lump them all together. Do you see an empty cotton spool as boring? 


  SIEGEL. You say that with the full depth of your perception—that it is boring? 

  FIELDING. Maybe not.