Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 6/4/19

Five of us… Rob as a reporter interrogated for NCIS… Kate as the bumbling reporter from Train Wreck Interviewing Casey as a sports Dr…
Heidi working an under five as a barista. This was a night of good theater. I felt after class as though I’d seen a nice little play. All the work was set ready.

THOUGHTS & ISSUES:

UNDER FIVES…
So we’re going to explore this kind of character… this Performance arena. Most of you will face this challenge. Under 5’s are an entry point. Casting directors need a stable of dependable actors and this is where they shop… look for talent. Most shows are casting multiple small roles every week. The actor’s trajectory is that you do a great audition, get booked, and then perform well on set. So you do a good job on one show and they’ll remember you for another show they’re casting. Then… when they have a one-day guest star… you come in and impress them and so forth. This is at least one understandable path.

We discussed several approaches. First of all… what purpose is the role. Usually it’s exposition… delivering information that takes the story in a certain direction. Scripts vary in how they use these parts… they can be either definitive characters that provide humor or danger or a sexual presence, etc, or are used as a red herring. These are traditional characters, bartenders, baristas, nurses, Doctors, cops, students and so on. Mostly they do what I call delivering the mail. You are simply a tool of info. You are the character, you walk on or the camera reveals you, and your lines forward the story. Some times those characters are odd and interesting and deliver humor along with info. Sometimes they add to the atmosphere… a scared soldier, a sexy presence, a frightening tone, a terrified moment, or just the punchline for a joke.

These parts are a writer’s tool. In the beginning of your career you will face them or in the end of your career they can be a cameo. But how do you approach them ? First know the style of a show to determine size (note below). Then ask some basic questions, am I in a good mood, do I like my job, am I in a hurry, or do I like the person I’m talking to, what am I doing, and most often… why are you there ?

But lets leave it at this. Over the next few weeks we’ll do a number of these short scenes each week and see if we can develop a coherent approach to this challenge.

SIZE AND STYLE AND CHARACTER…
These are intertwined… You have to know the style of the writing and of the show or project. They can be mixed… Kramer on Seinfeld was much more exaggerated than the other regulars but he did it with character. Sit com requires a certain size but there are almost always realistic size characters mixed in. Soap operas are a style that allows almost no deviation. Heidi’s werewolf character was huge… but that was the werewolf style writing. So we’ll consider size and style as we develop and approach these under 5’s.

Kate…

You rocked it ! Best work yet. Completely set ready. You were well prepared and used the script effortlessly. You credited Casey with making you feel at ease… yeah but you were at ease because you were prepared and that allowed you to listen and respond and laugh and stammer and think and feel. We normally think of activities and actions as physical. BUT… Listening and reacting can be an activity and especially in first encounters that arouse so much hope and possibility. They do become lovers ! and in fairly short order. Here too, I saw so much behavior… just little sounds and phrumphors and facial reaction… not making faces but natural reactions to conversation. I see much growth here. As per our conversation… if comedy is your forte then bring in some more comedic scenes and play. Playing at a more prepared and relaxed level as you did tonight will require less effort the more you work/play at that level… like hitting a home run. We all play up to the competition… and to our partners. You play an instrument… be it a piano or you as a actor in response to our partners. Every conversation is a duet and you can only play the music that you and your partner create in that performance. No matter what you did in rehearsal the ability to play and perform is determined in the moment. Tonight you were playing with abandon and artistry at the same time. Excellent !

Casey…

I realized the transition from adorkable to leading man brings up the question of age… but don’t worry. You can still do adorkable guys and character roles… but you can now do leading man stuff in both tone and presence. Ryan Reynolds or Danny Kaye… both great images that range from adorkable to leading man. You can do both. But the leading man arena is what you’ve grown into.That’s just the evolution of your talent. You saw a bit too much wiggle and movement on camera… none of us did. But that’s why the camera is such a great teacher. You can watch your first take and then challenge yourself to adjust. Casey, you’re working at a very high level now. Like an athlete who’s in great shape and in the grove. Just continue these workouts and play at this level. Performance for you now seems to be totally without nerves. You’re just playing…. which is the cornerstone of our craft. Make sure you voice your observations of your own work in class. If you think you’re too wiggly and we don’t… that is something to reconsider. You have to make that artistic decision as to how much movement to allow but getting your fellow actors’ input is important.

Rob…

It wasn’t funny. Which is great. I don’t understand the CD’s comment which has driven this fear of comedy but the work you did hear tonight was set ready. He fit their character breakdown and you delivered the exposition with a believable memorable character. Casey was right that your use of the script was good. When you set it down we saw you efforting to remember. When it was in-hand your confidence allowed you to me more in the life. You were right on that line… when to “leap and the net will appear”… when to put down the script and just listen and react. Nerves appeared in several commentaries and they will always be an issue. In class I’d encourage you to be prepared and put down the script. In auditions… especially first calls… use the script effortlessly as you did tonight. Outstanding was that we saw the other characters through your eyes. That simple act of imagination really created the relationships and life in the scene. And though a completely expositional scene your work allowed us to have a connection to this guy… who he was and how he felt about this interrogation. But most important was that you forwarded the story. That last line was the reason for this scene. You delivered it from a believable character in a fully realized situation. Set ready work !

Heidi…

We really just did some simple adjustments. We explored. We tried it multiple different ways. This is a classic discovery process that we use on larger roles… but it is most appropriate in this arena. The worst thing you can do is just repeat lines as you prep. Use accents, improvise the life, create relationship with your imaginary co-workers… explore and play and create the circumstances and character. All of this is to ground yourself into the life of the scene. If you have a day then go to a couple of coffee shops and watch baristas. You will find inspiration. Now this appeared to be a cold read and like last weeks prop(a towel) you used a thermos as a drink. But like last week… it got in the way as you handled it. Better would have been to fold your script and use it as a cup with the dialogue written on the side. I know… I know… hindsight. And I’m not a fan of props. Creative use of the scripts is simply more impressive in an audition. This dive into under 5’s is most appropriate. They are in many ways more challenging than a fleshed out scene because you have so little support from the writing. But what you do have… is your imagination and your sense of play. If you will explore and play… inspiration will appear. Then you can go into an audition and show them what you’ve found and at the same time you will have built in flexibility in your exploration and be able to take direction in the room. I apologize for the generality of this note. In the next few weeks we will explore this kind of writing and develop our sense of how to work on these roles. I think it would be a good lede for you to bring in the FBI agent from Grace and Frankie next week. If you’ll remind me we’ll do some more hand held camera work stuff by you guys. I’ve always thought it was a learning experience to be behind the camera.