Today as I was driving back to the church after accompanying a family to meet with a director at a local funeral home, I was listening to “Fresh Air” on Oregon Public Radio. Today was an interview with Denzel Washington who is up for double honors for his roles in both “American Gangster” and “The Great Debaters”. I haven’t seen “American Gangster” (and don’t really plan to from what I hear about it) but I eventually hope to see The Great Debaters.
In the interview Terry Gross questions him about a scene in one of his older films, “Training Day”, where he is holding two guns on a person and he scrapes the guns against one another like they are two knives that he is sharpening. She asks if that was “a bit of business [he] came up with while [he was] holding the guns?” He replies, (in his cool, insouciant style): “Of course…it’s just rhythm. Acting is like music. You improvise. It’s like jazz. There is no rhyme or reason to it. It’s not a plan. I just did it. It’s a rhythm. Stanislavsky said that you cut 90%. You do all your research; and you prepare, and then you let it rip. And that’s how it is. You practice the music, you know, and then you just play it.”
In looking back at years of preaching, if I were to self-critique myself in one area it would be that sense that I am too self-aware. I have prepared the sermon. I know the material. But I stick “religiously” (sorry…) to my notes. I am not ready yet to fly naked, but I think that is part of what makes Denzel Washington such a phenomenal actor…you BELIEVE that is is each of the characters. And he plays very diverse characters (like Johnny Depp does). But he does his homework, his research, and then he “lets it rip.” He simply lives out how the character that he has studied to be would act or react in the particular scene in which the script has placed him.
Perhaps it is a fear of failure on my part, but in fact by not communicating in a heart-felt way (by sticking to a rote manuscript) I am failing. (I am not really as awful as this post makes me seem. But I am so strongly desiring to improve in my preaching and to discover ways to help others improve in theirs that I resort to my bad habit of overstating the case.)
How to get from point A to point B (from reading a movie script to flying like a Denzel Washington) is a huge question for me. But I need to try…
The audio interview can be found here.