Evolution of the Fourth Wall
: an imaginary wall that keeps performers from recognizing or directly addressing their audience.
Whether the director has just yelled ‘action’, the curtain has been raised, or the lights of the movie theater begin to dim, the idea of the fourth wall has been one of the pillars of acting since the movement of theater realism in the nineteenth century.
The acceptance of this imaginary boundary, by both the performer and the audience, has served its purpose wonderfully, but it is time to evolve.
As performers are we serving the story to the best of our ability by placing a wall separating us from those we are telling the story too?
I want to set the idea with you that the fourth wall isn’t in fact a boundary, but a porous membrane that allows the performer to consciously influence the audience in a way that best serves the story. The operative word is consciously. This idea is not only for live theater but also in regards to working in film or television.
It is our duty as story-tellers to both serve the story and guide the audience.
Leading the audience is a form of seduction; changing their energy & direction to get what you, your character & the story needs. Get them to follow. Now, the rub comes in not showing the audience the leash being held by your performance. They need to be completely unaware that you are putting down the breadcrumbs & leading them on a pre-set path.
Are we removing the fourth wall? No, we are just allowing it to evolve through our art & actions.
Think of the fourth wall no longer as a boundary, instead know it is where art & life converge.
The fourth wall is where the actions of the artist intercept with the life of the audience and for a moment, become singular.
by William Arnold