Books and publications by Benjamin Lloyd:
The Deception of Surfaces
The year is 2020. The country has been transformed by a vast economic meltdown brought on by spiking oil prices and food shortages. The federal government has been split up into Economic Redevelopment Areas, and all resources are focused on essential services. As a result, all arts and cultural funding has been eliminated, resulting in the virtual disappearance of theatres, dance companies and opera groups. Performance training is guided by the marketplace, and so young actors are enrolled in programs focused on digital media and C.G.I.
Our heroine Alice Robbins is such a young actor. The book follows one extraordinary twenty-four hour period in her life in Philadelphia. In order to streamline the marketing of young actors, each actor in these training programs is given a category corresponding to physical and facial type. Alice is an “A2”: she has a centerfold’s body but an unusual face. She is known as Petey to her friends, a nickname derived from the initials P.T., for “perfect tits”. Alice is like many young actors: seized with an anxious ambition and combating her own insecurity. She is also deceptively smart. She has recently given up the anti-depressants it seems everyone is taking, she is seeing a therapist and she has an interesting day job. Alice performs at a “Fantasy Palace”, having sex with other performers in front of discreet cameras and one-way mirrors, and getting paid handsomely for it. Pornography, as a social taboo, has disappeared in 2020. And one other thing about Alice: she is obsessed with Shakespeare. But in this brave new world she lives in, she has no place to explore it.
On this day, one of her classmates, a strong silent type named Henry, invites her to come along with him to see a show at The Retreat. Alice has heard of The Retreat: a converted factory in the Northern Liberties where a guy named Andy Fallon puts on shows with a rag-tag bunch of guerilla actors. The rumor is a faded movie star is visiting The Retreat. Alice is intrigued. Even though she knows Henry has a crush on her, she agrees to come along. She is followed there by another suitor: a Lebanese girl raised in London named Fatimeh. The middle of the book describes their experiences at The Retreat: the extraordinary people they meet there, the performance they witness that changes each of their lives, and the gifts they receive there, even if unwittingly. As the tension of their love triangle develops, Alice gets a surprise in the early morning hours that forces her to make a choice that will alter the course of her life.
The Deception of Surfaces breaks new ground through the use of “hybrid fiction”. It blends narrative fiction with other writing genres to tell the story of Alice’s amazing day and night, and day. Flashbacks, fantasies and dreams are written as screenplays. Two entire chapters are written as stage plays. One chapter is written as a graphic novel. Verb tenses shift from past to present depending on the immediacy of the action. Alice’s first-person thoughts and experiences dip in and out of the story. But throughout, conventional third-person narrative is favored, and the other genres used as expressive tools and framing devices. To balance these changes in verb tense and genre, the novel relies on a relentless forward momentum and tight time sequence, as we follow twenty-four consecutive hours in the life of Alice Robbins.
Written with the iPad in mind, the book will ultimately be a multi-media experience: the reader will come upon actual videos of the screenplay sections, representing flashbacks and fantasies. The book will include rich illustrations and graphic content, a musical “soundtrack” enabling readers to listen to the songs Alice is listening to, and two one act plays ready for live performance.
These are just some of the ideas explored in the book:
- Aldous Huxley’s book Brave New World, which is used as a reference throughout
- the plays of Shakespeare and characters from them
- the effects of the market economy on creativity, especially performance creativity, and the tendency it has to turn people into objects
- how that tendency has sexual consequences
- the idea of art and creativity as a gift, a development of an idea explored by Lewis Hyde in his book The Gift
- the experience of performing as a gift
- what sex is for
- what bodies are for
- Philadelphia as it might look after a near catastrophic economic and energy meltdown
- the new technologies that might be at work then
- the role of spirituality and addiction in creativity
- the relationship between sanity and ambition for young the actor
- okay, this is cheesy, but here it is: how love is the essential gift
The book is a sequel to my published book The Actor’s Way (Allworth Press, 2006). Andy Fallon, a supporting character in The Deception of Surfaces, is one of two main characters in The Actor’s Way, which takes place in 2005. Andy’s wife Maya and his colleague Barbara Lewis also appear in both books. And a comic and casual reference to Uma Thurman in The Actor’s Way plants the seed for the actress to become a major supporting character in The Deception of Surfaces. The other main character in The Actor’s Way is an aging Quaker acting teacher named Alice Jones. The shared first name of both main female characters is intentional, and Alice Jones, long deceased by The Deception of Surfaces, appears nevertheless in a dream of Andy’s in the new book.
The Actor’s Way is a book intended for a fairly narrow market: actors, teachers and theatre people, with a smattering of adventurous spiritual seekers thrown in. The Deception of Surfaces is intended for a wider audience: the 18 – 35 year old crowd, who will resonate with the provocative themes of the book, and not be put off by its unconventional writing style. This new book is fun to read, and driven by the personalities, travails and desires of the main characters in it.
The video below is from Art Therapy, chapter six of the multi-media novel The Deception of Surfaces to be published in 2011. Written by Benjamin Lloyd and designed by Amy Grove, the book represents the transformation of the novel in the 21st century. The actors are Benjamin Lloyd and Melissa Lynch. The video was shot by Amy Grove.
The Actor’s Way (Allworth Press, 2006)
The Actor’s Way is a fictional series of letters between Andy Fallon, an anguished young NYC actor, and his Quaker grade school acting teacher Alice Jones. As the correspondence develops, they become more and more re-connected, and end up working together on an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, and participate in a workshop meant to help acting teachers become better. Through the year of their re-connection, Andy learns to teach the art he loves, and Alice is drawn out of seclusion to perform again. Through Andy’s journey, the book examines aspects of the actor’s life in New York City and Philadelphia, and the cultural lives of both cities are considered and celebrated.
The book is written as a series of “found documents” (letters, emails, notes and postcards) and is divided in three sections: “Winter into Spring”, covering letters between Andy in New York and Alice in her retirement home in Pennsylvania; “Summer”, covering Alice’s observations of Andy in the teaching workshop and the development of the Romeo and Juliet project; and “Fall into Winter”, covering Andy’s development as a teacher and actor, and Alice’s gradual decline. As the year progresses, a wider variety of documents are included, such as letters and emails from others besides Andy and Alice, rehearsal and classroom observation notes and excerpts from works created and newspaper reviews of them. Alice develops and on-going correspondence with the teacher of the workshop Andy attends, Barbara Lewis, and together they examine the finer points of teaching acting.
During the year of their reunion, Andy and Alice explore many themes related to the struggle of the young actor: acting and addiction, the archetype of the wounded actor, the new paradigm of the citizen actor, the calling of the acting teacher and the curious role spirituality may have in the training of healthy, brave and empathetic actors. Alice makes her own discoveries too – about the possibility of change and transformation even in the twilight.
Andy’s mother writes in the introduction: “The book these letters and documents create is hard to pin down. But at the center of it is a gesture: the reaching out of a young artist to an older one, then a grasping of hands, resulting in discoveries about acting, teaching and the Life of the Spirit.”
Inspired by Stanislavsky and the poet Rilke, The Actor’s Way is a brand new look at the extraordinary life of the common actor.
Praise for The Actor’s Way:
With empathy and insight, Mr. Lloyd has gorgeously articulated the delicate alchemy that occurs between a willing student and a master teacher. His revelatory book isn’t only for actors, but for anyone attempting to live an aesthetic life in an increasingly indifferent world.
– Doug Wright, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and author of Quills and I Am My Own Wife
The Actor’s Way is a remarkable blending of non-fiction and the fundamentals of acting. Woven into the correspondence between an actor and his former teacher is important information about the actor’s craft, process and the relationship between spirituality and creativity. This book should be on the reading list of every student and teacher of acting.
– Earle R. Gister, former Chair, Acting Program and Associate Dean, Yale School of Drama
I’m not an actor, but I found this book so compelling I read it in a single sitting. An elegant weave of love story, spiritual insight, and struggles with living and dying — to say nothing of wise counsel for actors, those who teach them, and teachers of every stripe — The Actor’s Way is a treasure.
– Parker J. Palmer, educator and author of The Courage to Teach, Let Your Life Speak and A Hidden Wholeness.
Twenty poems, 1984 – 2010
Turnaround (Pendle Hill Publications, 2007)
Like many Friends, Benjamin Lloyd is deeply concerned about the future of our Religious Society. Why are we diminishing in numbers when we have so much to offer? In this essay, he presents his own creative ideas and encouragement for a reinvigoration of our meeting communities. Which of our traditions and practices should we renew? And where are the places where continuing revelation calls us to be open to the winds of change that will come with the next generation of Quaker leaders?
Stanislavsky, Spirituality and the Problem of the Wounded Actor (New Theatre Quarterly, 2006)
In this article Benjamin Lloyd uses the work of the noted Swiss psychologist Alice Miller to propose a new archetype – ‘the wounded actor’, a person in the throes of a narcissistic disorder, as defined by Miller in her book The Drama of the Gifted Child. He suggests that conventional actor training will not help the wounded actor, but that the re-introduction of spirituality into the acting-class curriculum may do so. In this light he looks at Stanislavsky’s writings about spirituality, focusing on the chapter in An Actor Prepares called ‘Communion’. Linking Stanislavsky’s spirituality to the writings and thought of Leo Tolstoy, he explores the reasons why the spiritual nature of Stanislavsky’s work has not been generally explored in the West, and suggests some ways in which acting teachers may introduce spiritual concerns into their curricula. Benjamin Lloyd teaches at Temple and Penn State Universities.
The Paradox of Quaker Theatre (New Theatre Quarterly, 2008)
The title of Benjamin Lloyd’s article reflects the apparent dissociation between, on the one hand, a spiritual religion distinguished by its lack of dogmatism and by non-liturgical forms of worship and, on the other, a mode of entertainment long divorced from the ritual religious forms in which it may well have had its roots, yet which continues to depend on preserving authenticity despite the rote of repeated performance. The author suggests that a communal seeking after inward enlightenment occurs no less in the approach of some of the most influential of modern theatre teachers – notably Stanislavsky and Grotowski – than at a meeting of the Society of Friends; and that the nature of Quaker worship may not, after all, be far removed from a striving for theatrical truth. In the series of ‘meetings together’ here described and analyzed, Benjamin Lloyd brought together friends and practitioners to investigate the nature and possible value of the relationship. The author has acted and directed in New York, Edinburgh, and Prague, and taught at Villanova and Princeton Universities. He presently teaches acting at Temple and Penn State Universities, and his book, The Actor’s Way: a Journey of Self-Discovery in Letters, was published by Allworth Press in 2006. He is a member of Haverford Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.