Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 5/14/19

Six of us! Perfect size class. Everyone got a good workout, we focused on some moments, improvised, played! Aaron as the housewife answering the door in an improv scene. Heidi siting on the dock(of the Bay) drinking a beer from Coldman. Kate as the werewolf bartender on the make. Brian as a serial killer being interviewed. Casey doing a prep as a split personality Shrink for a pilot.

THOUGHTS & ISSUES:

MUTED TAKES…
It’s never a bad idea to watch your work without sound. It reveals your physical presence and lets you focus on the body movement and comfort. It can be quite revealing. A good way to use tape. And do the opposite. Listen to just sound.

IMPULSES…
Heidi found a different reactive sound and moment when we worked on her reaction to the “Have you seen those guys?” line. Let’s call it the snort take. She broke that unconscious rhythm… by just listening and reacting in the moment… and made a delightful beat between the characters. Often as we work on material we develop unintentional rhythms. As you watch your work see if you find those moments in your takes. When you hear those grunts, snorts, chuckles, sounds that emerge in your exploration… be careful not to just repeat them or you’ll develop patterns. That’s not to say that snorts and grunt responses aren’t appropriate. They are a pure impulse that is a reaction to the scene. But if they get repeated too often as you learn/internalize a scene they establish a rhythm. I almost always think that the snort is the impulse to say the line. Listening provides the impulse and you just drop the line on it. This discussion is dialogue minutia… a very small focus but as we saw tonight it opened the connection between the characters. Often as we listen that reactive impulse becomes as a snort, a grunt. It could also be the impulse to overlap lines… I love sounds mixed into our dialogue/conversations but make sure they are reactive and not repetitive.

IMPROV…
Yes, Aaron, improv means creating life as we did with each conversational take of your scene. We also created improvisation tonight by blocking Kate into a more intimate distance. Heidi standing and calling the loons. Brian and Casey walking around. We created life… some movement/blocking and some dialogue. But traditionally speaking the verbal interactions you had with Kate at the door were more what we think of as classic improv. In our work… we use Improv prepping scripts as a tool to explore writing, and find the life in the scene. If you create life with words or without… it’s still improv… at least the way I see that concept.

FILLING THE LOCK ON A RIVER (thanks Casey!)…
That image of growth came up tonight. Acting is the path you’ve chosen, the river you’re traveling. And on this river you’ll find locks that allow you to move up or down or through difficult parts of the river. But when you’re in a lock that’s filling… it appears like you’re not going forward. It feels like your just facing a wall and not moving. Often we feel frustrated in these times. BUT… The lock is being filled by your persistence over time… which equals growth. Practice your craft… you’ll get better at it. And the lock fills, and opens, and you continue your journey. Creativity is a muscle and it needs to be worked out to grow. And growth is what fills the lock. I apologize for the philosophical bent but is seems appropriate tonight.

Casey…

That leaning in was a physicalization of how important this conversation was to you. Both as the character and as Casey the actor. I sensed that you were making this way too important. It’s not a bit career event. It’s just a chance to show some people your work. Don’t make this too important. It’s just like every other scene you’ve done in class. THIS IS JUST YOURSELF, CASEY, IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES. I always found myself caught up in the “Wow this is an important audition” syndrome. Don’t go there !

Once you discovered that sitting back served the character just as well… you were able to move as him and lean in when you needed to rather than needing to all the time. In the second scene, the state of his body… the nausea physical discomfort and head exploding with fear and crazy… make big movements possible. Holding you head, yelling, talking to the sky, just speaking normally, walking up to him, leaning on the car… But they can’t be random… they must be motivated. Kate’s (I think) comment about too much movement… meant some of it was just a bit random… like pacing. All movement must be motivated. I too… thought there was a bit too much movement but attributed it to exploring and trying things out. I thought the last take was little ‘yelly’ but also exploratory.

Our original notes about different tones and levels is what we were exploring. A little of this and a little of that… from the different takes should make it jell. That second scene tiptoes along the border between needing to be in and out of control. If directing… I’d want one long take of what seems to be almost a nervous breakdown. Once the scene starts rolling down the hill I would want no cuts. It’s a classic case of don’t do the scene… let the scene do you ! Some yelling is fine. But expressing it with different colors is more interesting for all of us… including you.

Brian…

Bravo! Great work especially for a first scene in a class. Your off camera readings were well done too… cold reading practice. Serial Killer! Wow… that’s a cliche that TV and Film have beaten into our brains. We worked a full range of behavior from a troubled manipulative spooky take to an almost normal chatty interaction. Both work. And we settled of a combination of both that would bend the cliche to a more impulsive tone. And both are cliche’s that we’ve all seen. I don’t think there’s any way to escape the label. But we use cliches because they are a powerful short-hand communication. Our actors’ task is to inhabit that frame and let our own instincts and impulses emerge. There is no one in the world like each of us, We are all unique. So if you inhabit a cliche and color it with our own individual personas… it is by definition unique. And so it transcends cliche. But here tonight we could see your talent… the actor’s ability to be in the scene. You took the adjustments well and I saw remarkably few nerves. I can’t wait to see your next work on something besides a serial killer. Develop your comfort with the script in hand. Bring two copies to class it’s better for you and for the reader. Your first class! Your presence and commentary were most appropriate and welcome.

Aaron…

Congrats on the WEB series casting. You have to tell us more about it next week. As to today… One liners are a challenge. You are right… This improv based self submit lets them gather a lot of creative improv/writing for this scene and this project. But actors have to give generously from our talents. We approached this work by doing different adjustments to the moment before and to what information you might have heard from neighbors about her. If this is comedic then the 180 of yelling at the kids and then sweet at the door is an obvious choice. Or if you’ve heard good or bad information about her your reaction is going to establish a tone or an attitude towards her. For a self tape like this you can submit a flock of short improvs like we did. Your improv chops are solid and I suspect that’s what they were searching for. Your listening and response skills in scripted scenes are sharp because of your consistent improv work… but here in pure improv they shone. I loved the more extended conversations you were having with Kate(whose improv was excellent). We don’t know what purpose this little scene fulfills in the story so the best process is to throw a lot of shit at the wall and see what sticks… but the point is to show them the comfort you have with improv.

Kate…

You sexy beast… even without sound ! That silent take was hot. You said… it’s easier to express sexuality/sensuality on stage than on camera. I don’t know if that is so, but it’s a challenge in both arenas. And it doesn’t help that she’s a werewolf.
Necessexuality (made up word)… you are an attractive young woman and your own natural sexuality should be present in all your work. It’s part of who you are and why we like you.

Our work on the Paralegal provides insight. Besides smart, witty, confident and possessing an ease of power… she has to be attractive/sexual… because she’s gonna have a relationship with the other lead. In a series that connection can grow. Here it was right up front, focused, and she was driving that connection. Confident sexuality for the paralegal and aggressive/direct for the werewolf. Both are a challenge to allow on camera because the exchange is so intimate(close up). On stage a couple of double entendres, a twerk or two and you have sex front and center. With the intimacy of the camera you have to let us and it in. We can almost smell his pheromones… and hers as well. In that kind of intimacy you really have to connect to the other character and allow them to be attractive to you. We will feel that connection. It’s chemistry. It’s also a muscle that you can exercise in your prep and in our workouts.

People describe sexuality as a motor that they turn on but I prefer finding a key in the other character that allows me to be attracted to them. Turn on rings shallow to me but if you allow something between you that prompts my empathy to your feelings. Empathy allows us to feel what you’re feeling. But you have to allow feelings, real feelings, in order to engage my empathy. Ras a bol… a french idiom for a glass filled above the rim so just nudging it will cause it to spill over. That’s how I’d prep for this scene. Fill your glass with sensual and sexual thoughts and walk up to him and allow those feelings to flow over the rim into the life. Oh ! Your improv with Aaron was great ! Relaxed, playful, funny and it added much to the life. There was an audible reaction to your work on that one take. We were all feeling what you were feeling.

Heidi…

Just add beer (or rosé) to any scene. Seriously that’s a great tool… especially a setup like this where they’re drinking beer. But for any scene… do an adjustment where your character is drunk, tipsy, secretly drunk/tipsy, etc… She might even have thought before the scene started… as she sat on the dock, “I gotta drink a couple of beers and talk to this guy cause I’m feeling…” We talked about it tonight… your wanting to explore improvising dialogue… creating life. It should be a part of your prep process. And we’ll fill the lock by focusing on some improv in your scene work and in your prep. Just bringing that improv issue to you conscience will start you moving in that direction… filling the lock. But go back to that prep worksheet and weave a few of those exercises into your process. You said improvising dialogue immediately draws you into the scene cause you have to listen and react to your improvs. You’re also trying to get off script… Great ! so saying some unwritten but impulsive thoughts is going to force you to be in the scene and listen.. and get off the script. Basically it’s just playing more. If your playing/improvising your thoughts you’ll be focusing less on performance and more on the life you’re creating in the moment by the unscripted life and lines. We’ll have to include a subtext adjustment take… where you speak your thoughts as well as their words. Theater is about making exact words come to life. This approach to preparation and the looser camera art form is about using the words to create character and life but the exact words are not biblical. It’s great that you have the insight to know what part of your talent you want to work on.