Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 5/7/19

Seven of us…. John and Brian auditing… welcome. John as the boss at the pilgrim recreation village. Brian reading off camera and cold reading Art the bartender. Casey and Heidi doing a wedding night scene from Catastrophe. Jackson working on his first audition scene as the dizzy football player… again for a kids show. Jamine doing a ‘first encounter scene’ on a train from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

THOUGHTS & ISSUES:

FIRST BEATS OR MOMENTS…
A foot massage, working behind a bar, and watching a fellow traveler were all opening beats tonight. And all off then revealed character before the first word of dialogue. Those beats/activities let us see your character and absorb their presence(that word again) and they are an invitation to your creativity. Start your work in the midst of your character’s life and let us see who you are. Out of that life you can speak. Without life the dialogue is just meaningless words. Don’t show us who the character is… allow us/the camera to see who you are.

CONFIDENCE…
It’s contagious. We all respond to a confident person… they have a more powerful presence(that word again). Presence… how we perceive a character… is just part of the unspoken language between humans. And here… that means we must, as we work, turn off that judgmental inner actor’s voice that is a part of almost all of us. Jamie’s comment after viewing was a perfect example… and one we hear most often… “That was better than I thought.” Judging yourself as you work is a distraction that separates us from the life in the scene. I know this is easier to say than to do but… Stop it ! Being confident doesn’t mean you think you do everything perfectly. It does mean you are well trained and prepared and know that you have the talent to produce good work. It should be almost a mantra before an audition… “Let me show you what I think this scene should be.” Professional performers/athletes/musicians always think they’re gonna get a hit, that the shot will go in the net, that the music will be inspired, that the broadway show will get a standing ovation. You are all professional performance artists. Have confidence! It’s attractive, contagious and a necessity in any performance arena. Practice this attitude in your life and in your work.

USING THE SCRIPT AS A PROP…
I’ve never seen a script as foot before. Tonight it had five toes and needed a pedicure. Your script in your hand can be almost anything you want it to be… use it creatively as well as a safety net for dialogue.

CALLING FOR A LINE… We saw examples of where it worked tonight. I think it’s most acceptable in longer scenes or in callbacks when they expect you to be off book. In first calls it’s probably best to just look down to the sides. Casey used it deep into the scene and it was a non issue. Jamie used it right in the beginning and it felt like it would have been a better choice to just glance at the script.

Casey and Heidi…

Well played scene. This was very mature work. Totally set-ready and this shows the benefit and necessity of working with a partner in your audition prep… which you guys are doing regularly. Acting is a collaborative art, period. The first round… You both handled the audition format well and kudos to Heidi for handling a different reader with ease. The second round with hand held camera really allowed your talents to play. It was better because we’d done a couple of takes and the connection was stronger… and I credit the opening activity (foot massage) with creating more intimacy/connection and relaxation. Everyone felt that the relationship was stronger. A couple of things… Casey also massaged the lines a bit. He changed a noticeable(to me) amount of words but he spoke the thoughts and… no one else noticed. This is a huge lesson. We hear thoughts not words and we sense emotion. When you’re in the grove, you should be able to speak your thoughts and not be concerned that you get all the words… unless of course it’s an Aaron Sorkin show.

Scenes like this are emotional tone poems that are meant to resonate in our bodies that we have seen and done the same thing. There was no information or exposition just a very well written window into their connection/relationship. Once their delicate intimacy was established… it was then violated by a handful of toenail clipping. Immediately, the snowball started to roll down the hill and pick up speed and conflict. BUT… She wasn’t angry… she was HURT! She lashed out and then he was hurt. Anger was the response… the result. You guys both played the hurt and let the the resulting anger come organically.

Oh Heidi… From my Dad experience and male perspective… when pregnant… hormones are raging. I’d compare it to teenage angst and volatility that we’ve all gone through. Raging hormones are just a part of that 9 month process. What was cool was that you two just played off each other and let the music of their hurt-fueled-duet drive the scene. None of the anger/hurt reactions seemed pushed. They all seemed to be immediate reaction to the well written exchanges.

Casey, that changing of lines is not a problem when you can speak the thoughts. This is something that you’ve practiced frequently and I think it’s good process.

Jackson…

Kudos on your first audition… may there be many more! Tonight was good work. This was the most comfortable we’ve seen you. You said you weren’t nervous in this, your first audition. I believe you now because you seemed quite confident tonight. As you should have been… because you were well prepared for this short scene by our private the night before. The lesson here is that when you know what you want to do, and you understand the life in the scene… you can just drop into the circumstances and listen and play. Only a strong prep will allow you to play… which you did in our prep, in the work tonight and I’m assuming in your audition. I’m glad your agent like the tape ! Where you are now in your training… you can do short co-star roles like this when you’re well prepared. However this actor’s path that you’ve chosen is long and winding and you need to think of our workouts as one brick in the foundation.

Jamie…

Confidence… Your talent (the actor’s ability to be in the scene) is obvious. What we’re working on is getting you to be comfortable and creative and confident in this environment. You’re learning a vocabulary of performance activities and behaviors from watching your fellow actors and meeting the challenges of these particular scenes.

Tonight… Something so simple as moving the chair closer to him was an issue. It should never be that again. The mantra in auditions should be to do what you want to do. I loved your interpretation that she just sat down without getting permission. We talked about increasing her eccentricity in little moments. Like… Opening the scene by seeing/watching him first… and it’s possible you’d seem him previously in Barnes and Noble. That could be what you’re thinking in the opening beat… and that recognition could be what motivates the whole scene. That seems like a likely theme in a memory film like this. First moments are first impressions and we all know how important they are. When you have the first line in any scene… you also have the first moment before the line… and you can start the scene with a character beat. It may not be written but starting a scene is an invitation to be creative. If you use this beat, we’ll know something about her before the dialogue starts. Taking a moment like this… Settling into the seat and letting us watch you before your first line is brave and a challenge. This is where confidence promotes creativity. I loved your idea that she was talking to herself on the “Take a chance” line. You could have teased him a bit more and let us see the nervousness of a first meeting between two lost souls. First meeting scenes like this… that lead to romance… are common and the character’s nerves and hopes and anticipation all roll together to make them incredibly important. Breaking the ice like this and making first contact is a huge hurdle for us normal folk. In the last take off-book, you stumbled on the opening dialogue of the scene. I don’t think that was a memory issue. If you had created the life and thoughts and emotions of the character… then you’d have had impulse to speak. Without that creative effort it becomes solely a memory issue and with audition nerves our memories often fail us.

Brian…

Great off camera read… you committed and help make Heidi’s work even better. Your cold read of Art the bartender is a classic role and again you committed and brought a lot to the scene. But here is where I diverge on the value of cold reading. It works in class but there are almost no occasions where you’ll cold read for a job in the professional arena. Some small films and plays will use cold reads but auditions demand more. Cold readings are to me like stick drawings. Auditions are more like fully realized portraits. Our workouts are designed to grow and focus your talent(the actor’s ability to be in the scene) on developing character and the life in the scenes. All the techniques, tricks, insights and work you’ll engage here are meant to open up paths into the character and life. “It ain’t about the words!” It’s about the life and letting us watch it. You don’t have to show us anything. Rather you have to let the camera in and let us watch. Welcome !