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El Lozy Provides Insight into Acting as a Profession
El Lozy Provides Insight into Acting as a Profession
Mahmoud El Lozy, associate professor of performing and visual arts, delivered the third Provost’s Lecture this semester, drawing frequent laughs from attendees as he humorously explained the challenges and benefits of life as an actor. El Lozy, who has acted in numerous films and plays and most recently played Duraid el Samurai in Philip Haas’s film "The Situation," began his lecture by explaining that “the actor has from time immemorial been in the position of defending himself.”
The actor’s defense, explained El Lozy, must be mounted on several fronts. Actors have relationships with their role, audience, critics, and with reality versus the imaginary world of acting. Thus, it is from these groups that actors must defend themselves from accusations of falsity, as well as critiques concerning lack of spontaneity and transparency of their roles.

According to El Lozy, the purpose of acting is to create illusions. However, at times, the strength of the illusion created also keeps actors from the praise they deserve. “Actors are viewed both as mere parrots who can only memorize and recite lines others have written and as children who have never stopped playing,” he said. “Even the word ‘play’ shows how insignificantly the role of actors is viewed. Yet, after seeing a play, people are always in disbelief that one person memorized so much and was able to so convincingly disguise himself. This challenges their assumption that acting does not require work or study.”

At other times, the strength of the role is such that it threatens to overwhelm the actual personality of the actors, and the fictional character created surpasses reality. El Lozy described how, after playing an evil dwarf in a children’s theatre show, the children continued to be frightened by him even after the costume and other characteristics of his role were gone. He observed the opposite situation in a production of Pinocchio where a young girl was playing the role of Pinocchio. “The children refused to create a relationship with the character and accept the lie being told, instead saying ‘That is a girl, not Pinocchio,’” El Lozy explained.

This over-acceptance or refusal to accept the illusion created by acting has caused problems for the actors themselves, El Lozy said. Historical views of actors saw the profession as disreputable. Before the French Revolution, actors did not have rights in France and were treated as inferior members of society. “In France, actors were often not buried properly or left like trash,” he noted. “In Egypt, actors were not allowed to testify in court because they were seen as professional liars.”

The challenge of acting, concluded El Lozy, is the ability to balance the relationships created through the role and continue to have spontaneity, even with hours of rehearsals. “Actors must be spontaneous despite all the work they have done previously at rehearsals,” he explained. “It is the success and apparent ease of this spontaneity that leads the audience to mistakenly conclude that acting is easy.”

Rather, acting is a profession that asks much of its subscribers. As El Lozy noted, acting demands that actors feel the words they are saying. “Actors must be lovers of language,” he said. “Actors are required to keep their wounds open to draw from those experiences and relate to them fully. If actors are human, then acting is a big memory.”