Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 2/26/19

Five of us. Aaron working on power characters as a woman police chief. Casey doing two scenes from Coldman full of banter with his grandpa. Heidi getting appointed as Secretary of state… another power character. Chris getting set up for a date with a troll who lives in a dumpster.

THOUGHTS & ISSUES:

YOU:
That’s the word for a character based on YOU. It means focusing on getting the character’s mind. It’s you but you’re thinking like the character. Perhaps they’re your core character. Playing yourself but leaning into a certain part of your persona to create character. This was in the notes of 2/14/19. Transformational acting is one style of acting. Playing character’s based on YOU is another style. They’re both just tools. My teacher used to say… “Get the character’s mind and you’ve got the character.”

POWERFUL CHARACTERS:
We’re continuing this exploration with Heidi and Aaron. Women are finally being written in these roles… It’s about time ! Our discussion of this challenge will be on-going. But for now in brevity, lets just say that the best character studies of power characters are of real people… real women operting in this man’s world with the dignity and strength that we see in our current women political leaders as well as military, first responders, and of course teachers and doctors and all the male bastion professions. I consider watching actors playing power characters as a secondary source of research/character development. Using an actor/character is like doing a painting of a painting. And Heidi… I watched that actress from SVU and you’re right about her power. Good example. They are a legitimate inspiration as long as you personalize the work with idiosyncrasies from YOU. But in this examination of power characters we’ll hopeful find some themes.

COMMENTARY:
One of my least and most favorite things to say about work is “That was perfect.” and that happened twice tonight. Both Chris and Casey’s first takes were perfect. Any director would have said “OK I’ve got it ! Let’s move on.” There was first take magic because you both came in prepared and playful. And perfection is such a joyful state that it can include errors, mistakes, and the unexpected. What we look for in our workouts is a process that builds our muscle memory of the life and our emotional muscle memory to the point that it allows us to be in the scene, in the life, in the character’s shoes. It’s a places that allows us to show our talent… the actor’s ability to be in the scene. This is much like any athlete or dancer or musician. We have to always stay in shape so we can be at the top of our game. Everyone on a set is working/striving to do the best work they can. Our job as actors is to be leaders and set an example of excellence by PLAYing a scene. Every thing we do is focused on allowing us to PLAY when the director says “Action.” Every take on a set should be an exploration and discovery. As it happens… with time pressures and rewrites we actors are most often still discovering as we perform. And the only way to do that is to PLAY. And the only way to do THAT… is to have a preparation process that allows you to internalize(not memorize) the life/material/character and to be confident enough to PLAY. To be YOU.

Aaron…

I agree that your not a most obvious choice for a power role. But you are likely to come upon scenes that require a moment or arc of power that comes from something challenging. So some character that is right in your wheelhouse might have one of those scenes/moments where from deep inside comes a perfect expression of power, or leadership or revenge or forgiveness. That kind of revelatory scene is quite common and calls on you to come from deep inside without fear or hesitation. This is not necessarily a heroic moment with music rising but can come in the quiet of a gesture or a look, or even walking away. The women of the Me Too movement are all heroes but they come to this having paid a high price so characters from this arena might be overcoming fear, or popular opinion or physical or emotional wounds. But these are power moments. Moments of strength. All the kids form Parkland have had power thrust upon them and they’ve seamlessly gone from high schoolers to leaders with power and dignity. These power figures that we’re seeing are usually a woman in a man’s world and there are all too few examples. They must be YOU exhibiting your strength.

Heidi…

Madame Secretary… What I saw was you getting stronger and more settled as we worked… good process. We explored a friend/relationship and then moved back into a more traditional approach to a president and it was here that it solidified… and perhaps they are friends but its hidden under the formality of the presidency. I note this growth/process in all your work in class. Just putting it on it’s feet and doing adjustments settles you into the role. And this speaks to the drum I’m constantly banging that actors need to work material as they learn it. Memorizing is an old fashion term and a process that has evolved from theater. The demands of the camera world are that you learn, explore discover by yourself and then bring all that to the performance as you are still discovering. You said tonight that you didn’t want to work more on the Studio audition scene. That to do so would be overworking it and just repeating patterns. BUT that can happen in a short camera prep too if you repeat rather than explore as you learn. Many times you get last minute rewrites so you have to just stuff dialogue into your short term memory and then run on set and perform. You’re adapting your theater skills and getting more efficient in the discovery process. Your work gets better during class as we work on it AND from week to week as you’re expanding your approach/prep to new material.

Chris…

Pay dirt ! That was excellent work. Best yet. This character was YOU(check the issues from Heidi’s notes from 2/14). Most characters you’ll play will be based on YOU. Some version of YOU. Some emphasized part of YOU. And though I doubt you’d ever date a TROLL who lives under a bridge… you found that nervous somewhat insecure part of YOU that could be believably talked into it. You found that part of YOU. In contrast… these last couple of scenes have been way-out-there characters that necessitated a transformational process that eliminates much of Chris and builds an avatar based on research and discovery, exploration, technique and craft, and rehearsal. Actors often say they like playing extreme characters because they can hide behind them and thus I think of them as avatars. We all love transformation but the demands of professional acting and modern writing and process is built around actors playing from their YOU. Also important was… as you said… you had time to prepare. So this exercise should make a muscle memory in you of how long you need to get ready and just what it feels like when you’re ready to go into an audition or the set… and PLAY. But tonight’s work was Perfect.

Casey…

Best work yet on this material. Really solid and funny and sweet and emotionally available and most important …connected to him. We could all see him through your eyes. And the writing was perhaps the most full-of-life because it allowed us to see their growing relationship. Every moment was distinct and motivated by listening. Loved the under the breath remarks. You were imagining/seeing the whole life around you and that triggers our own imagination… so we saw it too. You engaged our empathy by being there in the scene and having emotions and thoughts and reacting with the lines to the other characters and the life. This was a perfect example of playing YOU. It was Casey but the thoughts and feelings were the character’s in the script. It was perfect.