Konstantin Stanislavski's "An Actor Prepares" is one of those books that can help you no matter what your job is.
The great theater director (1863-1938) developed what became known in the United States as "The Method," which revolutionized acting. The best way to see what Stanislavski did is to dredge up a movie from the 1930s, in which actors strut around and pose, intending that their poses represent whatever emotions their character is supposed to be feeling. Then watch Brando.
Stanislavski's book explains, to a great degree, why Mitt Romney is so inept, and why his presidential campaign, today anyway, appears to be doomed. (Thank God for small favors.)
Stanislavski describes a lesson he devised for his students. He had them stand around a grand piano and lift it. With the piano in the air, Stanislavski asked a student to recite the multiplication table for a one-digit number. The student got as far as 14 or 21, then stumbled. Stanislavski had them put down the piano, and explained the lesson.
When you are expending a great deal of effort doing something, it's difficult to do something else at the same time. Even something you know very well how to do.
That's why Mitt Romney's campaign has been so inept. So stupid. Because the guy is acting, in the old style.
He's posing. He is assuming a stance. He's not living the part.
He's trying so hard to do something - appeal to the increasingly repressive right wing, and their irrational arguments - that he can't do simple things, such as think.
He can't even recite the political times tables.
This was revealed, for good and all, in the video that appeared this week, in which Romney told a cadre of rich donors, at a $50,000-a-plate fund raiser in Florida: "There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it - that's that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. ... These are people who pay no income tax. ... My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
If that's what Romney really thinks, then he's an ignorant prig. And since Romney believes that "corporations are people, my friend," I suppose that General Electric is one of those 150 million freeloaders. Though Romney neglected to say that.
The most charitable view one can take is that Romney he said this to appeal to his audience: that he was trying so hard to pose that it became impossible for him to think.
The third alternative, which is the same as the first, is that Romney was, for once, being himself, with his own class of people - the only people he understands - and saying what he really believes.
Romney's remarks elicited a devastating column from David Brooks, The New York Times' conservative Republican columnist, under the headline "Thurston Howell Romney," comparing Mitt to the foppish millionaire in the idiotic TV show "Gilligan's Island."
Say what you will about President Obama - and I have been extremely disappointed by him - he never has shown such inept dishonesty: such a deer-in-the-headlights brain freeze under pressure. He's a much cooler customer.
Romney's fund-raising speech was not just ugly, and bad acting: It exposed a character defect.
I don't want a president who acts like that under pressure.