In memoir, actor Alan Arkin says life, work fueled by improvisation
From the age of five, Alan Arkin knew he was destined for a life as an actor. Fascinated by every play, every movie he encountered, he knew early on that he wanted to devote his life to “pretending to be a human being.”
As Arkin tells it in his candid, revealing and decidedly anti-showbiz book “An Improvised Life: A Memoir” (Da Capo Press, $17), it wasn’t from some childhood trauma or a lack of self esteem that he was so vividly drawn to the “need to turn myself into something other than what I was.” Instead, he writes, “It is in our nature to be creative.”
That, and it seemed to him as a young boy and now as a 77-year-old man that he never quite felt comfortable just being himself. It was always easier to observe and mimic someone else’s manner of speaking, of walking, of getting through life’s obstacles.
In fact, he writes with typical self-effacement, “Outside of my life as an actor I had almost no life at all.”
It’s that honest modesty and no-nonsense approach to his craft that informs this memoir, which is devoid of gossipy insider Hollywood stories and long on thoughtful and practical observations on acting and the creative process.
It’s no accident that his memoir’s title stresses the word “improvised,” because improvisation seems to be the driving force of Arkin’s creative process and of his career, which got its professional start at an early incarnation of Chicago’s now legendary Second City troupe, where he honed his performing skills and learned both the practical and spiritual powers of improv.
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