Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 2/5/19

Five of us… Kate’s first workout doing Deana the flare-gun-shooter. Casey as the British constable tracking down the bed sheets. Heidi having that first romantic conversation on the freezing streets of Chicago. Rob as the harried doctor surprised by his Mom in his exam room. Good workout. Supporting and insightful commentary. Ours is a collaborative craft.

THOUGHTS & ISSUES:

STYLE:
Interesting that style and tone emerged as an actable issue. Most often a style or tone established by stage directions gets in the way. But here ‘film noir’ influenced Casey’s approach to the better. I suppose it’s just like sitcom or soap as a direction but actors must be careful that it is not a general motivation that lacks the specificity of the WHO WHAT WHERE of the material and character. Style must be grounded in specificity of character and where you are and what you’re doing.

We’ll start next class with a conversation about style ! Remind me to speak about If Beale Street Could Talk. It is a good place to start a conversation about STYLE and stage directions and our preparation process.

I want to do a preparation class soon. We’ll also talk about scheduling it next week. It’s just a focused hour and there’s no charge for it but it will give you some structure to guide your prep.

Rob…

Yes you can do a doctor… albeit a more Rob-centric charactery one. After all…Look at 45’s personal doc. Once we hit that Shabbat dinner adjustment (again with tone or style) it came alive. This kind of writing produces overly clever dialogue that you must make seem real… and you did that by allowing all the specific mother-son frustration color the scene. The physical and verbal(sounds and groans and hands and reactions) behavior made it become specific and personal and alive. Now this may be a conversational style that is a questionable even objectionable cliche but it’s so deep in our culture that we needed to see it to make this dialogue feel real. And your talent (the actor’s ability to be in the scene) allowed it to feel personal to you and real to us. It’s interesting that the Shabbat style babbling made it work but if we dropped that adjustment you could do a whitbread approach as well. This fast paced dialogue is a challenge in modern camera writing. On set we’d give you activities like the packing we used for Casey last week. There’s something about activities that makes dialogue feel less naked. I thought it interesting that the Mon’s “prostate thing” line was a pothole. Remember that when you hit a pothole it’s not that you can’t remember the line… it’s that you don’t know what the character is thinking. Or it might have be a listening thing… let me know what you think. You can bring this back if you want. Think about it like a Gilbert and Sullivan patter song, or the fast talking scenes of 30’s and 40’s movies adapted for TV, or the walk-n-talk scenes of the West Wing. It’s a skill.

Kate…

WELCOME! Jumping right in with a cold read was brave… and fearless actors rock ! Your training for stage and opera has served you well. Your confidence/presence is obvious as is your talent (the actor’s ability to be in the scene). You took the character adjustment thrown at you with ease. You focused on where you were and what you were doing… the life. We threw the script away and made you listen. This will all coalesce into a process that allows you to prepare and perform on camera. We’ll focus on adapting your stage training into a style that works for the camera… again with style ! I post the scenes for you to look at or not. They are a tool that you can use at your discretion. Your collaboration and commentary was insightful and supportive. I believe in the collective insight and intelligence and wisdom of actors/artists so I encourage feedback in class. Both the set and the stage demand that we collaborate with out fellow actors. The learning curve is quite steep now as it is in any new class/style. You’re learning a vocabulary of behavior that works for the camera(like sitting in front of it). This class is designed to develop a preparation process and your performance muscles. We’ll always be working to grow your talent. Persistence over time yields growth. Welcome.

Heidi…

We focused on your hip office woman. The concept of how you individualize yourself in an ensemble is important. Writer’s pen this all-too-hip dialogue(see Rob’s note) that actors have to turn into a believable character. There is a cliched very smart hip witty maybe slightly acerbic female character that we all recognize on screen and she’s a pocket character for you… and for Kate… and for all women actors. This is a cultural phenomena, that’s evolved since the days of The Honeymooners, That Girl, Murphy Brown, Will and Grace, and now with Allison Janney and Mom. Our task is to make it believable and relatable. My teacher used to say the more specific you are the more universal are the characters. This is a character that you should bring back. We’ll focus on it as a pocket character that you’re developing so you can whip here out and drop her into any scene that you think appropriate. She’ll be a foundation that you can build on to develop into specific character quickly. This writing touches on the concept of a worthy opponent or in this case possible amore. As the first scene in a movie that introduces a character you have a first impression obligation. We should like her… and your own personal version of that hip young woman is what will draw us in and make us root for her in the horror/slasher story that follows. I think too I sent you a GRETCHEN scene that is a first scene in a script. That’s a scene that you need to look at also.

Casey…

We explored this scene and discovered much. When you ‘deliver the mail’… when your character exists for the sole purpose of adding information/exposition and there is little or no breakdown… you have to build character. Who is he ? Does he like his job? Is he good at it? What kind of mood is he in… his attitude. So we did a couple of adjustments to attitude that expanded your approach. And we simplified the gestures. All these prep exercises are solely for the actor because none of it will be on the screen. It’s one of those adjustments like lying that may feel radically different to you but isn’t present on the screen. Last week’s notes discussed the idea that attitude can be character in co-star short scenes. And in episodic/detective stories(which this is) expositional character are a frequent writer’s tool. That’s what this part is. You’re delivering the exposition. So this week… take the accent out in public like you did your gay/trans part in Elijah’s Ashes. Buy something at a store, talk to strangers, use your accent in public and that will develop your vocabulary and bring the accent into a more life like improvisational place in your brain. Try the scene with other accents in order to break the rhythmic pattern. The more you use it in your public life the more grounded and real it will sound and the more easily you’ll be able to adapt to the demands/style of the set. And I think the film noir adjustment was and will be important.