Tweets, Muscle Memory, and Selfies

Nappoholics Anonymous is a weekly column featuring twelve random thoughts by actor Tony Nappo. Some are funny, some are poignant, some bother him, and some make him weep from sadness while others make him weep for joy. Here are his thoughts: unfiltered, uncensored, and only occasionally unsafe for work.


2. Had a conversation with Aaron Poole where we reached the conclusion that the one big benefit to letting your mistakes be fuel for your actions and choices is that there is little to no chance of ever running out of it.

3. Pro lifers considering legalizing MURDERING those who oppose their PRO LIFE beliefs.

Yeah. You actually read that right.

4. Classic Ella

5. Since the duckface selfie seems to have passed its expiration date, I hereby submit, for your consideration, the bunny face selfie as its replacement.

6. If you send somebody a selfie while you are pooing, it’s called a soopie. Don’t ask me how I know that. I just do.

7. Bone spurs AND ball spurs.

8. One of my rare tweets

9. Apparently they are also cancelling a production of Come From Away on behalf of impotent men because, well, you can probably figure that one out on your own.

10. The smartest thing my sister has ever said in her entire life- “Who hasn’t tasted little Italy?”

11. I haven’t talked a whole lot (if ever) about muscle memory here in this column. Muscle memory is, basically, the idea of that when you physically repeat a thing over and over to the point where your body can do it without much if any conscious thought at all. Your body literally remembers what to do. A basketball player will drill how to plant and take a three pointer thousands and thousands of times in practice so that it becomes a natural reflex in a game situation. Anyone who has driven a car for any significant amount of time will do a lane change essentially the same way every time they do it. Their brain tells their arm and hand to hit the indicator light and that sets into motion a series of physical movements that they don’t need to think about: checking their mirror, their blind spot, turning the wheel enough to make the lane change, accelerating or decelerating, depending on the circumstance, and so on.

How muscle memory comes into play in acting is that as you rehearse, a play gets more and more “into your body,” meaning that your body knows (random example) that when the lights come up, you have the first line and that you say it after a beat or ten beats or whatever. It’s all very Pavlovian. When I pick up the glass of wine in act two, my body knows to go into this particular speech or to prepare for the pratfall I will take a half page later when I trip and fall from being drunk. The cliche question that is asked of actors all the time is “how do you memorize all of those lines?” The answer is you don’t. You learn them. Partly with your mind (knowing your intentions and what you want and WHY you say the lines) but also with your whole body. When I plop down on the couch, my body knows to say this. As I open the fridge, my body knows to say that. As the lights begin a slow fade, my body knows to say the other thing. The lines, the physical business, blocking, geographic location on the stage, emotional state of the body all become subconsciously incorporated in my physical journey as well as consciously connected to certain lines. You learn these lines partially the exact same way that a dog learns to stop at the curb to not get hit by a car or the way a teenager learns to parallel park. It’s learned conditioned behaviour.

I say all of this to give a nod of admiration to RH Thompson’s performance in Jason Sherman’s The Message playing right now at the Tarragon Theatre. What he pulls off is a little bit of a miracle combined with a whole lot of fucking work, I’m sure. Thompson plays Marshall MacLuhan. The play is set, essentially, in MacLuhan’s fragmented mindscape. It’s a very intelligent, dense, rapid-fire script full of incredibly complex ideas, clever wordplay and varying states of being (pre and post stroke) which severely limit or liberate MacLuhan’s ability to communicate. The script must have been a motherfucker to learn.

He also never leaves the stage. There is no scene he isn’t in and is not the centre of. The scenes themselves flow into each other, at times, without any obvious connective tissue. One scene alone repeats itself four different times with just enough variation in dialogue and actions to make them into a nightmare fucking obstacle course for an actor. And, again, they are wedged between scenes that take place in other time periods and other mental states entirely. It was only after I considered all this after seeing the show that RH’s performance as MacLuhan seemed almost Herculean.

In the specific context of muscle memory, Richard Rose has staged him sitting in a chair centre stage for the entire hour and forty minute piece. So, where another actor’s body might have the benefit of connecting a particular speech to a specific piece of blocking, Thompson doesn’t. He has no blocking at all in the play. He is sitting in a chair the entire time. Of course there will be subtle muscle memory cues because there is very subtle blocking movements within the chair and there are different people in the scenes with him, different lighting states and a couple of surreal, visual cues. But those are more mental and visual aids. He does sit in different positions, there are props he uses, and the different directions he faces as the stage revolves below him but that is very different than opening doors, entering and exiting, standing or sitting.

If you haven’t seen the play yet, this may be an interesting thing to pay attention to as you watch the performance unfold. I think Bobby T’s performance is a bit of a master class in focus and concentration in this regard. And if you have seen the play, I am, as always, open to your positive or negative feedback.

12. Comment of the year!!

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Tony is Italian, he’s from Scarborough, he’s an actor, he’s a father, he’s a really good house painter, and he doesn’t believe that most things matter, ultimately, at all.