Good Actors Should Smell Good

Yi-Fu Tuan writes in, Pleasures of the Proximate Senses a fascinating discussion on the aesthetic of smell. His examples and descriptions on the sense of smell bring to mind some personal thoughts on the same subject. Tuan believes “smell, compared with sight and hearing, affects our emotions at a more deeply buried level”.

For actors this observation is helpful. Some years ago I hired an acting coach to help me with an audition piece I was preparing for on the east coast. I was having some difficulty connecting to the character. It was not "real" to me and therefore, as I played the role I felt "fake". He began to walk me through an acting exercise for "sense memory/emotion memory" (taken from Constantin Stanislavski, who us theatre folk commonly call the father of modern acting theory). He asked me to recall a memory that matched the emotion (not necessarily the situation) of the monologue I was playing. As I thought for a moment I began to recall my aunt’s wake. I was 10 years old at the time and this was my first wake. My acting coach asked me to describe the room – smells – sounds. As I did, I began to smell those carnation flowers that everyone seems to send for funerals (to this day that smell reminds me of death). As I described more details of the wake, tears began to well up in my eyes. A deep sadness and loss come from nowhere. This is strongly tied to smell for me, for the moment I began to recall the wake I began to smell flowers.

Tuan says, “ odor has this power to restore the past because… it is an encapsulated experience…”. The other senses cannot achieve this great and immediate of a response. 

Have you ever smelt a perfume or cologne that brought you back to a time and place – usually bundled with a heap of emotion? Some smells remind me of grandma. Others make me think of my childhood – the best times.

0 BE HIP! share your comments. Give your thoughts.:

Post a Comment

Leave me your thoughts.