I’d like you to consider the relationship between the theater and being a trial lawyer. As a trial lawyer you need to be a script writer. Not in the sense of making up facts, but in the sense of deciding how to tell the story. The framing you select and the characters you decide to introduce from the actual facts of your case. You need to be the director. You have to decide h0w to present your client’s story and who the characters are you will introduce plus the sequence of doing so. You need to be the main actor in your play. Not by pretending to be someone you are not or putting up a front, but in exactly the opposite way. By being totally open and genuine at all times. To accept the enormous power of telling the truth. Just as an actor must adopt the role of the character he or she is playing, you must full step into the shoes of not only your client but gain an understanding of every witness, the lawyers, the judge and the jury. Put yourself in their shoes. How do they view what you are presenting and how they present it.
Here are some thoughts about acting and the theater you may be able to apply to being a trial lawyer.
Oscar nominee, after William H Macy as said: “there is a popular notion that great actors have to be brave and willing to suffer. While that is true, strangely I find the harder thing is to be brave enough to be simple. To stop when you’ve done it. That’s more frightening than anything.”
Being Genuine: In Fred Rochlin’s book Old Man in a Baseball Cap he writes: “the greatest gift we can give another is to share ourselves. To do that we must take the mask off and then take off the mask under that one. We reveal ourselves in stories we tell. Stories about ourselves and our experiences. Some are true and some we only think are true.”
Adversity teaches In the play The Teahouse of the August Moon Sakini, an interpreter for the American army, Begins to play by walking down to the footlights in introducing himself to the audience. He describes to them how Okinawa has been conquered many, many times. He says this is helped educate his people. Then he says: “not easy to learn. Sometimes painful. But pain makes man think. Thought makes man wise. Wisdom makes life in durable.”
Being heard Rex Harrison’s book A Damned Serious Business talks about touring with a theater production. He says that it is an invaluable training ground because you are forced to hold the attention of a restless audience and keep them quiet. You learn to judge the back wall of most theaters and practice hitting the wall with your voice. You need to become experienced at “bouncing off the back wall.” He also discusses self-consciousness. The average human being, if stared at by a lot of other human beings, does get self-conscious. On the stage we were constantly being stared at by people it auditoriums. The great trick in losing it is in thinking right. If you’re thinking that part right, you should be too occupied in your head to think about your own body.”
Here are some quotes about acting:
- Talk low, talk slow, and don’t talk too much. – John Wayne
- acting is the most minor of gifts and not a very high-class way to make a living. After all, Shirley Temple could do it at the age of four. – Katharine Hepburn
- you can pick out actors by glazed look that comes into their eyes when the conversation wanders away from themselves. – Michael Wilding
- acting is standing up naked and turning around very slowly. – Rosalind Russell
- a lot of what acting is, is paying attention. – Nancy Reagan
- actor is a guy who, if you ain’t talking about him, ain’t listening. – Marlon Brando
- Tennessee Ernie Ford was a well-known singer who said: “don’t get bigger than the person buying the ticket.”
- In the movie The Empire Strikes Back Yoda says to Luke Skywalker, “do or do not. There is no try.”
- acting is happy agony. – Jean – Paul Sartre
- I want to give the audience a hint of a scene. No more than that. Give them too much and they will contribute anything themselves. Give them just a suggestion and you get them working with you. That’s what gives the theater meaning; when it becomes a social act. – Orson Welles
- In Italy or three years, under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed – they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo de Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. – Orson Welles
- a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. – Christopher Reeve
- a true priest is aware of the presence of the altar during every moment that he is conducting a service. It is exactly the same way that a true artist should react to the stage all the time he is in the theater. An actor who is incapable of this feeling will never be a true artist. Konstantin Stanislavisky
- we have all, at one time or another, been performers, and many of us still are – politicians, playboys, Cardinals and Kings. – Laurence Olivier
- all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, is ask the seven ages. – Shakespeare
- You’re only as good as your last picture. – Marie Dressler
The ability to paint a picture with words The sports writer Bob Dolgan of the Cleveland Plain Dealer once wrote that when Indiana broadcaster Jack Graney was doing play-by-play, “you could smell the resin in the dugouts, feel the clean smack of the ball against the bat and and see the hawkers in the stands.”
Fear Cus D’ Amato was a boxing trainer. He once said” fear is your best friend or your worst enemy. It’s like fire. If you can control it, it can cook for you; it can heat your house. If you can’t control, it will burn everything around you and destroy you.”
Being Nervous The actor Donald Sutherland has said: “I have made 101 films and I still throw up at the beginning of every one.”
Attitude & self confidence Howard Hawkes was a Hollywood movie director. He once said: “I have seen actors go along for years and are no better than satisfactory. Suddenly they become brilliant because they found confidence confidence brings poise, style and polish to an actor.”
First impressions In a biography about the actor W. C. Fields, it was pointed out that he was a star when to be successful in vaudeville you only had an act that was 12 to 18 minutes long. You have to follow other acts, grab attention of the audience, sell your show all in a very short time.
The story must make sense In the Greek theater there was a phrase “God from a machine” to describe a solution by a director of a play where he could not think of a logical explanation. Instead they would lower a statue of one of the Greek who would ordain the outcome. This was considered very poor talent for a writer or director. Our trials have to have logical explanations to be acceptable to jurors.
Hard work In the 1933 movie A League of Their Own Tom Hanks playing the role of the baseball manager says to Gleena Davis, playing the role of the star catcher on the team, when she tells him she plans to quit because it is just too hard: “it’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would be doing it. It’s the hard part that makes it great.”