Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 1/29/19

Seven of us… Casey working on three Coldman scenes. Aaron being interviewed at a dating sight and then lowering the boom on her friends in a bar… from a sitcom. Rob getting fired from a bookstore and kidnapped for his multiverse knowledge… from a movie script. Ammar as a juror who saw something in an courthouse elevator he shouldn’t have… from an episodic. Heidi and Chris working on an scene from a play for a self submit… very challenging and dark and disturbing writing and characters

Rob…

This one was right in your wheelhouse… However you approached this from a different place in your talent. This was not Rob playing a character but more as Rob AS the character. Your usual arc in a workout is manifesting more nerdy/slightly weird/lovable parts of a character that is clearly written for comedic purposes. This guy was funny/comedic but more so from the situation than from his oddity. I think this is something we’ve seen before and I think it’s a good way for you to think about developing character. Many of the scenes we’ve worked invited/required that more charactery approach, but the restraint here was appropriate for this material. It’s a more subtle approach. And it will work for the Coldman writing as well. Just as Casey’s Shane is based on him so too is your character well played close to you. What then is interesting is the musicality and humor and eccentricity that you two banter into the scenes. It’s not that these are two weird guys… it’s that we like to see them interact as friends. That allows us to get to know and like these two important characters.

Aaron…

I’m assuming this is a pilot which is introducing and building up this character. So here’s a possible arc of character. She starts out a “big softie” somewhat befuddled struggling modern hip woman(maybe a single Mom) and something snaps and she becomes all too honest. What was missing was the motivation for this change. That’s why we worked it drunk, but I agree with Casey that the more direct fast talking approach worked here. It is a frequent sitcom writing/speaking style. But what starts that avalanche of honesty ? I think this requires an actor’s moment. Where you have to manifest a revelation… an ‘I’ll show you moment’. We don’t know who Rick is or what he said but clearly this was a last straw that propelled her into this outburst of honesty. Did drinking loosen her just a bit? I didn’t see all this last night, but in the absence of the whole script… it now seems logical. It’s an actor’s moment where you have to wind up and and look around and have one of those diving in the water moments. If we see that moment then the following outburst makes sense.

Ammar…

Now these short scenes are a great training instrument. You’re Juror 7… no character description… so it’s just you. This character adds important information that changes the story, and last week we covered the idea that attitude can be character and this is another example. So we tried it scared, confident and gay or straight. The actor determines character. A casting session for this role might have any age, any nationality or even a wheelchair or other disability. What they’re looking for is a confident actor who can come in and just do it. But the technique is rather simple… just come in as yourself and have this conversation. Show us your talent… the actor’s ability to be in the scene. However, prepping a scene is what allows us to see your talent… and you were under prepared tonight so your first takes were primarily cold reads and that makes it almost impossible to be in the scene. Reading means you can’t really listen, or look or connect to your partner or the life, cause your head is in the script. Having the script in hand and using it little or not at all is the perfect skill for times when you’re well prepared and when you’re not. Don’t worry about tonight… “Shit happens” and we all have lives, but it’s a lesson. Your prep is what allows you to play. I’ll do a prep class soon and give you some pointers and exercises.

Heidi and Chris…

We’re trying to get inside this material and these characters… It’s here with long playable heavy dialogue that the 6 week rehearsal period for plays makes sense. One can imagine how shallow the work would be if you only had 24 hours to prep. But transformational lead roles for film often require weeks or months to develop character. And all the harder when you don’t have full script. On film, on a set we’re still exploring and discovering and looking for those moments of happy accidents. It’s that magic that makes film different. Stage work has different demands. We’re showing you what we’ve discovered about the characters in our rehearsal process. On Film we’re still exploring and sharing those moments of discovery as they happen. Working on longer talky scenes like this points out the differences between script and stage writing… and prep and performance. Screen writing requires strength of focus and the ability to play. Stage requires stamina and planning. Just thoughts.

Chris…

Specificity… Is he a good painter, what’s his style, why Jackson Pollack, where is he in the arc of his psychosis ?There’s just a whole slew of unanswerable questions without the whole text. But we grounded him with his relationship to the voice/unseen character and that made the scene come alive. I was surprised by and loved the humor you found talking to him. I could see you trying to understand your mental deterioration and the emergence of your memory. Is there guilt, anger at her deception, relief at remembering or a burst of obsessive creativity? Or is that all happening at once. Explore it one element at a time. Do a run-through angry, one guilty, one remembering. Emphasize each of these elements and then let them emerge into the scene at different moments. You added some movement come into the process, but psychosis motivated movement can become random and distracting. If you want to move… do so because you have impulse… to show us the painting, to put your arm around your imaginary friend. Move with a purpose, with impulse. I think you have to be careful not to be too threatening. Getting too close to her or yelling or being overly angry will make it impossible for her to say “no” when you ask her if she’s scared.

Heidi…

Don’t do the scene… let the scene do you. An arc of confident concern that is transformed into confusion and fear is an active involving interaction. What a scene does to you… how it effects/changes/enlightens/opens/closes you is what draws us into the life. For Aaron it was one moment of revelation that changed her and allowed her to unload on her friends. For you its a slower dawning propelled by his behavior and we’re not sure where it’s going because we don’t have the text. This writing is a delicate tightrope propelled by rape and resolved by forgiveness or revenge… obviously I’m guessing here. So we’re watching this battered/damaged soul work through this trauma and recovery. Perhaps the most obvious neurosis is that we actors like this kind of writing and consider it fun. I loved that befuddled look at him. The confident/unafraid adjustment worked… and you do say you’re not afraid. I sympathize with the feeling that you were just speeding through the dialogue… cause you were a bit. Scene study tends to promote a slower pace that’s appropriate for the stage and class and for certain screen styles. And… When you’re exploring and discovering material a more deliberate pace helps us learn. But… slower pace is also closely related to tone. I don’t want you to think you always have to go faster but I think you should be aware of pace when it comes to performance.

Casey…

I didn’t see an energy problem. So your perception of being off didn’t show. We’re actors after all. We’re supposed to manage our feelings and be able to cover or show them as we wish… Interesting here that we’re asking you to assume a tone at the top of the scene. He’s angry. And I’ve railed about stage directions that lead us to a more general result tone. But here it sets up a nice arc of going too far, hurting her, and what must be a final moment of realizing (too late) that he’s been an ass. So we started here with a improv monologue that would get you specifically angry and packing which let you ignore her and stay in you own world and blurt out truths like how much Jake hurt you and how you almost kissed her. I don’t think you could do that if you were face to face. The packing activity works like a walk and talk… it’s a physical action that allows characters to talk more freely. And remember that anger almost always comes from being hurt. So Jake’s hurting you shows us your vulnerability and likability. The other two scenes were fine… didn’t need work. We continue to see the life in this writing. You guys have written a script that allows us into the characters through the life and the dialogue that comes from it. So… though it’s a bit ‘talky’ as a writing style… we get to watch these characters discovery their thoughts and feelings as they’re doing stuff rather than just talk about them.