Poetry: Managing Anger | clivejames.com
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Managing Anger

On screen, the actor smashes down the phone.
He wrecks the thing because he can’t get through.
He plays it stagey even when alone.
If you were there, he might be wrecking you.

Actors believe they have to show, not tell,
Any annoyance that the script dictates,
Therefore it’s not enough for them to yell:
They must pull down a cupboard full of plates.

An actor wrecks a room. The actress who
Is playing wife to him does not protest.
Perhaps she doesn’t have enough to do
All day, and thinks his outburst for the best.

For God forbid that actors bottle up
Their subterranean feelings so that we
Can’t see them. We must watch the coffee cup
Reduced to smithereens, the shelf swept free

Of all its crockery. Another take
Requires the whole set to be dressed again
With all the gubbins that he got to break
The first time. Aren’t they weary, now and then,

The poor crew, setting up the stuff once more
That some big baby trashes in a rage,
And all that fury faked? False to the core,
The screen experience gives us a gauge

For our real lives, where we go on for years
Not even mentioning some simple fact
That brings us to the aching point of tears —
Lest people think that it might be an act.

Note (from Collected Poems)

An outstanding piece of angry male thespian shelf-clearing is accomplished by Val Kilmer in the movie Heat, with Ashley Judd betraying no sign of anger that she will have to clean up the ruins. She is angry, but for other reasons, one of which might be Val’s fixed pout, which stays in place even when he is redistributing the crockery. The propensity of male actors to wreck the room was pioneered by Marlon Brando in the Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire. Actors who wanted to be Brando were from then on encouraged to smash up the set by directors who wanted to be Elia Kazan. No union of stage-hands ever protested: putting the set back together got them into overtime. As usual, only the public suffered.