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If you are new to this series, please read the introduction.


Re-Create Yourself

Do not accept the roles that society foists on you. Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience. Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define if for you. Incorporate dramatic devices into your public gestures and actions – your power will be enhanced and your character will seem larger than life.
The man, who intends to make his fortune in the ancient capital of the world, Rome, must be a chameleon susceptible of reflecting the colors of the atmosphere that surrounds him - a Proteus apt to assume every form, every shape. He must be supple, flexible, insinuating, close, inscrutable, often base, sometimes sincere, sometimes perfidious, always concealing a part of his knowledge, indulging in but one tone of voice, patient, a perfect master of his own countenance, as cold as ice when any other man would be all fire; and if unfortunately he is not religious at heart - a very common occurrence for a soul possessing the above requisites - he must have religion in his mind, that is to say, on his face, on his lips, in his manners, ; he must suffer quietly, if he be an honest man, the necessity of knowing himself an arrant hypocrite. The man whose soul would loathe such a life, should leave Rome and seek his fortune elsewhere. I do not know whether I ampraising or excusing myself, but of all those qualities I possessed but one - namely, flexibility. Cassanova, 1725-1798

The character you seem to have been born with is not necessarily who you are; beyond the characteristics you have inherited, your parents, your friends and your peers have helped to shape your personality. The task of the powerful is to take control of the process, to stop allowing others the ability to limit and mold. Remake yourself into a character of power. Working on yourself should be one of your greatest and most pleasurable life tasks. It makes you, in essence an artist - an artist creating yourself.

The first step in the process of self-creation is self- consciousness - being aware of yourself as an actor and taking control of you appearance and emotions. As Diderot said, the bad actor is always the one who is sincere. People, who wear their hearts on their sleeves, are tiresome and embarrassing. Despite their sincerity, it is difficult to take them seriously. Those, who cry in public, temporarily elicit sympathy, but sympathy soon turns to scorn and irritation, at their self-obsessiveness.

Good actors control themselves. They can play sincere and heartfelt, can affect a tear and a compassionate look, at will. They externalize emotion in a form that others can understand. Method acting is fatal in the real world. No ruler or leader could possibly play the part if all the emotions he showed had to be real. So learn self-control. Adopt the plasticity of the actor, who can mold his or her face to the emotion required.

The second step in the process of self-creation is the creation of a memorable character, one that compels attention, that stands out above the other players on the stage. This was the game Abraham Lincoln played. The homespun, common country man, he knew, was a kind of president that America had never had but would delight in electing. Although many of his qualities came naturally to him, he played them up - the hat, the clothes, the beard. No president before him had a beard.

Imagine the Greek sea-god Proteus. His power came from his ability to change shape, at will, to be whatever the moment required. When Menelaus, brother of Agamenmon, tried to seize him, Proteus transformed himself into a lion, then a serpent, a panther, a boar, running water, and finally, a leafy tree.

Good drama, however, needs more than an interesting appearance, or a single standout moment. Drama takes place over time - it is an unfolding event. Rhythm and timing are critical. One of the most important elements in the rhythm of drama is suspense. The key to keeping an audience on the edge of the seat is letting events unfold slowly, then speeding them up at the right moment, according to a pattern and tempo, which you control. Great rulers from Napoleon to Mao Tse-tung have used theatrical timing to surprise and divert their public.

Remember that overacting can be counterproductive - it is a way of making too much effort to attract attention. The actor, Richard Burton, discovered early in his career that by standing totally still onstage, he drew attention to himself and away from the other actors. It is less what you do that matters, than how you do it - your gracefulness and imposing stillness on the social stage counts for more than overdoing your part and moving around too much.

Finally: Learn to play many roles, to be whatever the moment requires. Adapt your mask to the situation - be protean in the faces you wear. Bismarck played this game to perfection: to a liberal, he was a liberal; to a hawk, he was a hawk. He could not be grasped and what can not be grasped can not be consumed.

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