Method Acting

by dschapman

In life, when drinking a cup of hot coffee, you do not try to show that the coffee is hot. The coffee is hot, your senses know it, they react to it without your conscious awareness, and anyone watching you drink the coffee will know it is hot.

I pick a straight-back chair, without any armrests or upholstery, and I get into a comfortable sitting position. I am so comfortable that I could fall asleep, but I am not going to fall asleep. I relax my arms, shoulders, back, and neck, all of the places of obvious tension, like my eyes, my temples, and my mouth. I am ready to begin my exercises.

I try to see before my eyes a table, fully imaginary, and on the table a cup. I trace the outlines of it with my vision, letting my eyes fall on each part of it from the top down to the handle, the handle to the bottom, and back up the other side. I am imagining a very specific cup. It is a porcelain mug, upright, and steady. It’s dimensions are masculine but generic, it is not white but not creamy either, nor hardly a grey, or even an off-white. Like all natural colors, it is a color that cannot been named. Around it, written in a similarly masculine, but generic, type, is written the word “Gettysburg,” in capitals. The letters are blue and there are parallel lines of red running along the top and the bottom of the letters.

I focus my eyes on the exact location where I wish the cup to be, and it aids my concentration. I envision the colors and contours of the cup as a whole, something real and indivisible, there before me. I can see it, I can almost feel it, in the air, this very specific cup sitting there. I am anxious to hold it; my fingers move. I am anxious to drink from it. I am parched. I am aware of a parchness in the back of my mouth.

I reach my hand out, very slowly, and place my index finger through the cup handle. I gently lift the cup, becoming aware, remembering the shift in weight and balance as the cup is raised, as I can feel it press into my finger, lifted from the wood. The rest of my hand comes into place, because in life a full cup is never lifted with one finger alone. My arm and my shoulder are involved as well; all of my muscles are duly responding. My thumb and my finger do not touch, as is always the case when one lifts up a cup. My fingers are too curled; I am not giving enough room for the cup. I try to imagine the right amount of space between my fingers. It is important to judge the space of every object I pick up, and to consciously try to remember it, its texture, weight, its daily occurrences.

Now comes the crucial task of filling my cup up with something to drink. Coffee, I think. In life, I can close my eyes and tell if a cup is empty of full by feeling the shift in balance, as the liquid moves from side to side with every tilt; so it is that I can feel the coffee in my cup, sloshing back and forth so gently. This is not a pantomimic gesture; this is the real thing, an awakening, a sensory awareness.

I can feel the warmth of the liquid through the cup, the glazes and the porcelain. In life, I can tell if my coffee is too hot to drink by the temperature of the cup in my hand, the feeling of the seeping heat; so it is that I can tell my drink is too hot. I slowly bring the cup to my lips, beginning to realize its potent aroma. I can smell it, all of it, and I can feel the steam as it presses so softly against my face. I realize, so close to my goal, a fresh cup of coffee in my hands, that I am not fully relaxed, and I close my eyes and I fully relax. The cup is drawing near my lips. I can trace with my eyes the outline of the cup, and the color of the coffee in it.

It is important, at all times, that I, the “actor,” do not concern myself with my facial reactions. I have but one concern, one concentration of purpose: creation.

The moment is now; the cup is at my lips. I feel the rim as it rests against my lips, and I gently run my tongue around it, to make sure I am not imagining it. I am assured it is there, and I can feel the coffee, black and hot, so close to me; I tilt the cup upwards, and the coffee washes up against my lips, and I take just a taste of it. I take a moment to concentrate on what I am doing, on the sense of the heat, and the smell, and the taste. (I am careful not to spill it.) It is not sweetened, nor creamed. It is cheap, thin, and bitter.

As the coffee enters my mouth, I feel it make its drunken path; a little around the inside of my lips, under my tongue, up against and in between my teeth, along my gums, over the tongue to the back of my mouth, and then down my throat. Is there any residue left on the lips after the swallow? I swallow again, the rest of my sip. There is a sensation of the coffee falling down my throat, and into my stomach, where I can feel it nourish me.

I drink my coffee, satisfied.

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