Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 1/16/19

Seven of us. Ammar sitting in and auditing… welcome. Heidi working on Burn This… a very talky play. Rob as the Doctor “vibing” with a worried mother from a pilot. Casey working on Coldman. Aaron working a scene from Will and Grace for a showcase. Chris prepping a self tape as a gay gallery owner arguing with his partner on an opening night that’s disrupted by a gunman.
Interesting class structure tonight. We did one round focused on repeated takes and adjustments rather than our normal two rounds. It seemed like the right approach for the material and the time demands. I’m interested what you guys thought!

Thoughts and Ideas…

First of all the language of Theater/Plays is different than TV and Film. Theater tells us what you’re thinking and film allow us to see what you’re thinking. I believe that’s a pretty good comparison.

Character… Some great examples of the range of approaches to character. Chris had to construct a believable effeminate gay man that is different than himself… transformation. The language, character description and the relationship demanded it or the scene didn’t work. On the other end Casey played himself. With Aaron we explored first the style of writing(sit com) and then brought it back closer to herself. And similarly… With Heidi we aimed at bringing more of herself into the work rather than being overwhelmed by the tone of the material. Both Aaron and Heidi felt boxed in by the tone and style and of the writing. With Rob we had to make his intentions/interest in the woman define his behavior… so he had to get the mind of the character in order to define behavior. That’s a full range of character development approaches.

Tone, Style, Stage directions… All these got lumped together last night. Stage directions are a good place to start. As we said last week… when we ’nice actors’ leap to follow stage directions we fall into results. The stage notes say she’s disturbed, or angry or shy and we, being emotionally available people, phone in a general result that accomplishes the note. Better process… is finding something in the scene or the character that makes us happy, sad, disturbed. Similarly when there is a style of writing(sit com, drama, mystery, horror) we jump to that style and… do a more general result acting. Accent work provides a good window here. If you immediately in your exploration use a strong accent you’ll build in rhythms and musicality and a pattern that is hard to break. So with accents… work the material in your own or different accents and then add the required accent. A good general exploration tool is to do the opposite of the directions, or do it drunk, or like a child. Strong adjustments break patterns and allow you to insert yourself and your talent/creativity into the life rather than just following some general tone or pattern or accent. I included a file below of some prep exercises.

Heidi…

Wow! play writing is different. Here tonight… you got trapped in a tone… a funeral dirge and I’ll bet your partner was whooping and hollering and showing off his talent for angst and anger while you the good actor were relegated to being the other character. I’m reminded of Dirty Dancing… “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” You just need to explore with different tones, pick up pace, eliminate long pauses. You have to be a worthy opponent to him…you can’t let him get to you. Be playful with him. Nothing disarms like a sense of humor. He’s the one who ends up in the fetal position. Once you apologize… say you’re sorry… you can relax and take an entirely different tone with him. Maybe you feel sorry for him. Some reaction to him makes you apologize and try to start over with him. I have to say this… Letting him get the upper hand seems like a 1970’s approach. A modern woman/chick/girl would handle him. See what happens if you ‘handle’ him. Try doing a New York accent.

Casey…

What’s it would be like when you’re staring John Voigt in the face, or your Dad. Asking those questions would have a different weight with either of them. It would up the stakes, make you feel vulnerable. There could still be a healthy measure of humor but Asking such questions would likely be scary. I like the talking to yourself on the “never gets dark” line… just a different tone. How long have you wanted to ask these things ? I don’t want it to be all sloppy and meaningful… just more important. I want you to be aware of the impact of this kind of question. Looking back it was too easy to ask him. All these workouts are giving you the confidence and ease of a leading man so we’re strengthening those muscles.

Aaron…

Doing sit com material for well known characters is a mine field of result acting(see above notes). When we know the character we expect them to behave a certain way and a shows writers even construct dialogue to fit those familiar traits. So you’re forced to follow that pattern. What we did last night was try to bring it more to you and your instincts as exploration. Then you can go back to what they want. But for me this dilemma is like the challenge of accents. If you pound the lines with the character’s accent then you’ll build a musical pattern and a generalized behavior that comes from the accent. I really object to showcases that rely on scenes of familiar characters. It’s easy for CD’s cause they know the result they want. They really just want you to copy the star’s behavior. But absent that familiarity with well known characters… you get to develop and discover behavior and thought and feelings that are unique to you and your talent… and then if you have to you can integrate the accent or the CD’s direction to do it like the star does. Boy I hate that !

Chris…

“It ain’t about the words,”… Stella Adler. Line stumbles early in a scene usually mean you’re thinking about the words-on-the-page and not focusing on the thoughts and the impulse to speak(why you’re saying the first lines). Theater requires word perfect performance. Film requires thought and impulse. You’re making the exact words too important. If you stumble you should still be able to express the thought… but you’re busy judging yourself for not getting the words and it stops performance. Looking at past notes… this is a recurring issue of focus and nerves. This process of weekly workouts is the only way I know to address nerves and focus… so be patient and aware that this is something you’re working on. As for tonight… You’re challenge is to create an effeminate gay character… a transformational acting challenge. Use your gay friend to model it. Approach it physically and vocally. This character could have a effusive verbal style… almost like an accent. And to really own an accent you have to be able to improvise in that voice. That’s why you need to take him out in public and encounter the world and react to it and converse with it in your character’s voice. This is for a self tape. BE BOLD ! We’ll do a prep class soon and focus on this part of the audition/set preparation process.

Rob…

STYLE… If it’s a sitcom it plays one way and if it’s single camera it plays another. Those are legitimate stylistic approaches. But we were trying to get at it from character… a more subtle tool. In this case the degree of interest in this woman and how much you allow yourself to express it. We don’t know her attitude either. She could be hot for him too. Without knowing the show/the style it’s hard to nail down. Not unlike the dilemma we faced with Chris’ scene… where along the comedy continuum do you play the scene? Or do you play it straight as a drama ? We’ll find out from Chris next week. I wonder if you’ve had to give this blue balls talk before? I think you were a little careful in exploring. Making bigger adjustments(he’s hot for her, he’s not) that are even over the top will produce happy accidents and insights you don’t expect. The work, the different takes seemed too careful. We should have really committed and played more as exploration and then let it settle down into a performance grove that hit the right notes.