Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 12th March 2013

Just the four of us. Small classes rock. Lots of tape. We got to see some subtle adjustments because the work was at such a high level. Jana the sour puss daughter rummaging through her Mom’s stuff only to find herself. Lauren bringing back the billboard graffiti artist. And Casey… somewhere out there on the Asperger’s spectrum.
Interesting that these are three characters are somewhat “communication challenged” people…. in that they are not letting people in. And what we’re seeing in all three scenes is their struggle to connect to other characters. All three have the same arc… FROM struggling to communicate… TO a more satisfying connection. That arc is inspiring to our empathetic audience. So the emotional challenge is to start off isolated and then allow yourself to have the revelation that comes from connection. When that arc happens to you the actor/character…. the audience get to experience that same emotional journey that ends with a more satisfying connection.

We have to listen as actors…. so we can hear as the character. We have to look as actors…. so we can see what the character sees. We have to create thought structures as actors… so we can think like the character. We have to get the character’s mind.

Casey…

This is the far end of the geek world. You played it from a more physical approach at first…… which worked and is a dependable key to guide your body in slipping into character. And most of the geeks/nerds you’ve played require a physicality that we all recognize as somewhat geeky. It’s certainly an outside-in approach but here it served as a centering device and opened up a path. But this guy is certainly further out on the aspergers spectrum so we had to find a way to bring that to life. We adjusted and brought a more mental approach to the later takes. We reigned in the movement and concentrated on his mind and thoughts. “Get his mind and you’ve got the character.” We connected him to poetry and current events(Scalia) to help focus and complicate his thoughts. There was a hint of anger at things he didn’t understand and I think we all agreed that this “odd” guy late at night shouldn’t be scary…. confused, perplexed, curious for sure …. but not angry. At least not here late at night in a parking lot ! Certainly there would be occasions where his anger would be appropriate…. but not here. Interesting…. that as you pulled back into stillness the smallest gestures took on such power… and the stillness became a character trait. Perhaps the equation is…. When you reign in the physical side of acting you have to create more active thought structure. And Yes. Our workouts are a great opportunity to develop character. So lets go to dark side. Maybe as far as serial killers. Who knows what we’ll find….. but the exploration will certainly reveal aspects of persona that we haven’t seen from you.

Jana…

You hostile angry bitch you… no not really…. but the grumpy opening certainly set up a nice arc. She enters a mouthy disrespectful chick and then completely redeems herself as she reveals her sensitive vulnerable druggy side to her Mom. We adjusted that moment/beat by more deeply hearing her Mom’s words and “sharing” that pain. You see yourself as a more comedic actor but here the drama and connections and feelings were well played. Letting Dad be dead was a nice deepening. Your vocal presence is now an asset. But….There were a couple of line flubs. Those slips are going to happen to all of us. Part of it was racing a bit…. but on a deeper level, line flubs aren’t always physical… they aren’t just a slip of the tongue. They are more frequently when your mouth gets ahead of your thoughts. So the answer is to focus more on the thoughts…. allow them to create an impulse to speak before you say the line. So just slowing down is not the answer…. but rather the result of going first to the thoughts. and then to the words. You’re being more active in your physical life…. looking at flower arrangements and people drinking wine, rummaging thru boxes, reading papers…. they all work and help express character and the life in the scene….. and most important they ground your body so you don’t feel like your in a CD office. Don’t be afraid to restart a scene if the first beats are off. Just be professional and confident and restart….. if you try to continue a scene when your body’s screaming, “You fucked up.” ….. You’ll never recover and feel good about your work. Restarting or just picking up a flubbed beat is the sign of a confident actor…. one we want to hire.

Lauren…

We were concentrating on the physical environment… grounding your body into the scenic circumstances… “if your body knows where it is and what it’s doing it knows how to act.” It was amazing how just standing in line at the lunch counter grounded you. And filling out the “personal info” became the anchor in the second scene. It allowed you to explore looking at him or not as a measure of intimacy. And it set up that last moment where she lets down her defenses and “sees” him for the first time. You spoke of your instincts to do something(the pen in the purse). You thought about it…but you allowed all those actor doubts to stop you. I’ve always thought that little voice that tells you to do something is your talent. You talent can only whisper. Learn to listen to it. Just bring all your impulses and ideas to your workouts and we’ll see what works. The audition arena is a style of acting… as is Shakespeare, comedia d’el arte, pantomime, etc. Your task as an actor is to learn how to perform in this environment. You’re learning a new physical vocabulary… where to look, how to move… it’s a whole vocabulary of behavior based on two things. First is what helps you create life in the scene and second what helps tell the story. Interesting that as active as Casey is most of the time in his work…. here tonight being still was the best way to define character. Which is to say that movement in auditions isn’t the goal. Motivated, grounded, character-enlightening movement is. Our workouts are designed to allow you to explore and express your talent… so bring in everything you want to do and we’ll see if it works. Those “monologue” sections are a challenge. Don’t be intimidated by all the words. Just find the thoughts and the words will come.