The Advice of Anna Magnani To Anyone Hoping To Be An Artist



Journal Entry, 1982

According to Tenn, Anna Magnani was approached by several actors--many of them deeply embedded--hopelessly, Tenn believed--in the study of the Method. Magnani found their work lacking, not to mention their spirits and their stamina. Frustrated, she turned to them and told them that they needed to answer some basic questions before they began their work, and they were foolish to look to any one teacher for reassurance.


Magnani asked the assembled if they were willing to ask themselves the following questions before they even began to tackle a role.

1. What did your mother smell like when she held you in a moment of crisis,  and 
    comfort came?  If it did.
2. How did the wind feel on your skin when you first felt the rush of love?
3. What were you eating on that occasion when fear pierced your heart and forced the
     breath out of your lungs?
4. What texture of wood did you reach out to touch when you were hiding or lurking
    and heard something not meant for your ears or your sensibilities?
5. In what time do you feel you are living? 
6. When did  the groundlessness that perhaps only you feel or recognize or warn 
    against  begin?
7. What is missing? Do you know its location? Are you willing to share it?  To lead others
    to its promises, often unfulfilled.
8.  How brave are you?

One of the actors present claimed that these were precisely the type of questions asked by Strasberg in classes at the Actors Studio. "Yeah," Magnani replied, "but he has never asked the questions of himself, has never applied them to the art of acting. He strokes himself and the paying acolytes with the questions, but they are applied to the circle of love you have there, not to good work and good intentions."

"And that," Tenn claimed, "was the day the scales fell from my eyes, and I began the retreat from the toxic yet seductive spell of Lee Strasberg."


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