IíOCCIDENTALE Rome 28th September 2008
Life as an actor or the art of making the invisible visible
Interview with Pasquale Esposito by Sara Melis
"Make the invisible visible in the knowledge that these two apparently opposite states have in nature the same root and through this act find myself confronted with questions such as: Who am I? What is the nature of reality? Making wind or heat appear in an empty space, and make them visible to the viewers, on their own skin, so that they can hear and feel... Use the movement of the grass to make the wind visible and show its intensity. Merely pointing them out does not signify representing them. To do that I have to live them, feel them, discover them first hand and share that moment in which it happened to me".
Pasquale Esposito, born in 1963, is an actor that we would define as a veteran. He lives in Rome where he starting working as an actor with Francesca De Sapio, before moving to New York for acting classes with Susan Batson and Greta Seacat. Dominque De Fazio has been his artistic director for years Ė in December 2005 he worked as an actor in the theatrical production of "18 songs of a nomad flute". Then came cinema with a film by his own mentor "Dancing on a dry salt lake", television with "La fuga degli innocenti", which won the public juryís prize, "Don Matteo 6" and much more. Up to now this reads like an actorís biography.
But at a certain point his life changes: I became a zen monk and received orders from the master Fausto Taiten Guarschi in 2000 at the Fudenji Temple in Fidenza and my life and artistic work inevitably changed. Today my artistic career takes place at the same time as my spiritual journey: I often organise laboratories, during evenings and weekends, for a variety of different sectors, but always bringing with me the teachings of zen. I am involved in integrated laboratories where I work with people who have handicaps, I also run training courses for support teachers and social service operators and a few weeks ago there was a meeting which was open to everyone at the Cine Teatro: This is a training centre for actors in Rome in which I tried to help everyone get in touch with their creative side - the aim was to allow participants to discover that a glance, a movement and a breath are not separate from their life and that a creative action is a holistic action, which relates to the act of receiving and "how I respond" to that which arrives to me. We start with theatre to then go through individual and group exercises as well as improvisations, including an exercise of meditation from the zen tradition.
A key concept behind this is an offer... Yes, there are some meetings such as that at the Cine Teatro where I ask for an offer, which can be anything, money, a coffee, a poem, a song. This serves to introduce the principle of offering and focus on the fact that there is a journey of discovery which is only possible when there is "participation without aim". And the ticket for this is the offer, the gift.
It is a slightly complicated concept... Only apparently because the moment in which you give something, make the offer, that very act places you in the position where you have no expectations; you donít use the person you meet to have something in return, and in that way you can have a real meeting. I practised Aikido for years and this discipline teaches how to meet someone as you would receive them, offering to welcome him and channel their own energy in accordance with how they arrives. Do not fight but greet - react to each gesture; an attack, a refusal, an offence, a pain... There is a law which says "everything you resist persists, everything you greet flows".
How does all this relate to his work?
"As I was saying, my life as an actor, has become the path of the actor, which through the oriental ways of "knowing yourself" has enabled me re-awaken my original nature as a human being. At the start of my career as an actor I thought I had to learn certain techniques, like make-up is applied to the face, whereas now I have understood that itís about the art of "not interfering". To listen to the experience of others, to listen to whatís happening around you, so that my response is spontaneous, new, fresh, unpredictable, whilst relating to something else. I can continue a dialogue as if it were a dance, unlike many actors who set up an idea and a monologue and are only prepared for what they want and have to say. I am a piece of something else, I do not exist in isolation and to get to know myself I need to I need to relate to something else (in the zen belief, the truth is in the mirror). We constantly run away from things, therefore the real art is to let yourself arrive, touch: in essence "receive". Instead of standing behind a window and looking at the world and the events as something separate from yourself, there is also the possibility of choosing to be an indissoluble part of the world Ė I change and the world changes at the same moment".
The art of acting is therefore being? "Yes, if one has to provide a definition, we can say that it is "being present", whilst clarifying immediately that being present does not signify being static. It is instead an event, which contains the dimension of happening now, like a river that is flowing. If you give a child a mask of Zorro and put a cloak and a sword on him, that child will not try to represent Zorro. He will think of himself and become the masked hero himself! Reawakening oneís own nature in that precise moment and relating to something invisible by making it visible. Only like this, for example, if you want to recreate heat, will the spectator be able to take part in a live and dynamic event. Otherwise it is just an act. In Japan in the No theatre they say that the show takes place in the crowd not on the stage".
But on the stage how does the interaction work with other actors who do not have your same training?
It works well because I can include these people even if they are closed initially. Slowly but surely they will open up, there is no battle to be won, there is no conflict. If the colleague on stage or on set has his own method, his own way, I donít have to defend anything, I can stay with him. If something is required then that something is "to participate", in other words be part of something else. Youíve got a big autumn ahead of you and more commitments...
"Yes, itís been a challenging but important year: in the spring I auditioned for the film "Angels and Demons" and in May director Ron Howard (director of "A Beautiful Mind") summoned me for a call-back in Rome. In July I took part in the film "When in Rome", a Walt Disney Production with Danny De Vito and Anjelica Huston and the director Mark S. Johnson. In the meantime I have been completing the filming of the costume drama "Tortured", an independent production for which I play the leading role, with the director Pat Battistini... In a few days we will be filming in the Parma countryside. Then Iíll have the Lux Videoís tv series "Paolo VI" for RAI. In March 2009 Iíll be in the cast for "The Absinthe Drinkers", which is written and directed by John Jopson, and IĎll be acting alongside Tim Roth and Alessio Boni". What is his aim? Not to have any, life is a constant change that is renewed constantly which "is to be lived" and not "lived for".