Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 20th Nov 2012

This was a predictably small pre-Thanksgiving gathering. BUT…. Small classes rock. And luckily…. everybody did long scenes. Tyler as the lovelorn stoner. Victor the puffed up financial consultant spinning a tale of sexual conquest. Andy the smart aleck comedian ‘on the couch.’ And Ms. Fiona as the voice of reason from the back row…. If I were locked out would I pound on the door? Is that rude? No. Please pound next time.

Crowd sourcing. Love that concept. It resonates unlimited creativity… the collective intelligence. If we….. in a very focused environment….. are able to tap into that energy…. it elevates. Clearly for all of us that enriches our efforts. Commentary…. who knew?

The issue of those moments when some thought or connection (usually some physical move like Andy sitting in the chair)… carries you away and you forget… you get lost in the moment. I think that’s a performance edge that you have stepped over….. and here you have lost control. And it’s scary! But if you have patience and live in that moment…. who knows what you’ll find. It’s ‘working without a net’…. really!…. and you find yourself in mid-air … SO FLY ! Staying on that line between control and lack of… and mixing a variety of impulses and notes from each side is a wildly creative path that we all should try to follow.

We often talk about using your body in the audition arena and preparation and on the set…. And basically “If the body knows where it is….. it knows how to act.” So we do physical things…. for feedback and grounding. But occasionally as we use these tools that moment of being lost will occur. Be brave ! You must not be afraid of making mistakes. You should rather be confident that making mistakes is a part of our artistic process/challenge.

Last week’s word was micro expressions. Yes…. when you are working without a net…. when you are in character… when you are playing… micro expressions can occur. When you’re careful, or planning, or not listening…. there are no micro expressions. Perhaps this underlines an audience’s feeling of reality. Without micro expressions it won’t feel real to them? It’s a physical process for the audience(consciously or unconsciously seeing the micros) but they perceive it as feelings. Without micro expressions our acting won’t/can’t feel real to others.

So we must induce micro expressions….. by listening, thinking, feeling like the character. And character is the vehicle. It both contains us and allow us to be out of control. It’s working without a net but our prep and our talent keep us on the path in the scene. Only our talent… “the ability of an actor to put himself in the character’s shoes.” makes this ephemeral process possible. And it’s not scary.. Only when you engage your talent…. when you become the character…. are these moments of being lost in the scene possible. They are an indication of talent at work. They are not a moment of forgetting.

I’m combining a lot of concepts her but….. those moments where we get lost are an indication that you are working/playing at a high level. Most actors as they fall out of the scene are smiling and open… not closed and angry that they can’t remember a line. I think that smile comes from the joy when your body realizes you are responding freely and openly to a character moment. I say character because those moments invariably come from an unplanned reaction to something in the scene. Keith Jarrett…. is an improvisational pianist who rendered one of my generation’s favorite recordings… The Koln Concerts in 1975… His music was pure improvisation. And in the midst of performance he would burst forth in spontaneous yelps…. just little sounds that were pure emotional reaction to the music he was making. The smiles that burst from our faces in those moments of being lost are the equivalent of the exuberance on a child’s face that we see when they get up from a tumble. They went too far and they crashed and burned and they are unhurt and having fun. So too do we see smiles on actor’s faces when they crash and burn. BUT the next time they move thru that moment maybe they will maintain control and find creative and insightful character moments. You must play and perform out there on the edge. It’s the only place you’ll find magic. And “Sometimes the magic works… and sometimes it doesn’t.

These notes are perhaps not so specific and issue oriented as some weeks. It’s difficult to focus on the process of emotions and perception and physicality and “all that stuff. ” But when there are individual and communal AH HA ! moments in our workouts…. that we all can feel…. it’s most rewarding. Those small individual epiphanies add up to growth and confidence and depth of performance. Painters work and rework their canvases in private. We see that when great works of art are X-rayed. Their first attempts are there beneath the surface for us to ferret out. Out first attempts are done in public on tape for us all too see. As we artists/actors work on a piece our understanding and connections deepen. Here we use the camera and a collective intelligence to enrich our understanding of our talent and our craft. WHAT FUN ! We are so lucky that our craft is playing. Structured play. Intellectual play. Sense of humor. Empathy. Commentary. And some how out of all of this…. artistic growth !

Tyler…

Your best work yet. And yes!…. some writing resonates in your body more than others. Mick Jagger plays rock and roll. Leonard Berstein played classical. Keith Jarret improvises. Tyler plays stoned…. very well. The discovery of the kiss was a huge insight. It colored and changed the whole tone of the scene. It allowed you to be still on stage and travel through an emotional transition. We watched that moment travel through your body. It was a model for the whole scene in one silent beat. As we worked the scene you grew more confident in experiencing and expressing that moment. The arch of that well written scene was the opening of the two characters’ hearts/feelings toward each other. What you were able to do in that moment was experience those feelings and we took that empathetic journey with you. This ties into micro expressions and the way we perceive acting…. but the result is always the same. If you feel something or think something…. we empathetically have that same experience. Lets continue your search for some material that you can use for this manager. We’ll see a few more scenes and find something that will show you off well.

Andy…

So this is your smart aleck wise ass character…… and it’s worth doing again. See if you can make him likable in the midst of all that comedian stuff. I forget sometimes we are not moving towards a finished product, And here after a prep and a workout you are now in the midst of solidifying character. So playing and great leaps in multiple direction are appropriate. Here tonight that sitting and forgetting moment was indication of wonderful process…. that real connection and impulsivity was the focusing of character. You were finding his sense of humor and play. Always important…. but especially here when he’s a comedian. I’d explore both extremes… he’s leans despicable or he’s likable. They will/can appear to be two different characters built around his emerging sense of humor. And ironic too….. that with one of your bad guys the key to character was their sense of humor. It’s likely that writers use that element to explore and expose character both in comedy and drama…. and just as likely that is a good path for us to pursue. So bring him back again and focus on that sense of humor as a way to explore and solidify character. I don’t know this guy’s stand up work but let’s see if you can find Andy’s comedian…. explore the light and the darker sides and lets see where he lands.

Victor…

The first steps. Just getting off the page and being able to listen and respond was huge. What happened as we played was that we found ways to center you in your body. Your first attempt was more of a reading than a scene. Later…. when you walked into the room and leaned against the chair your body knew where it was and what it was doing…. so you could relax and listen and use the dialogue to think and respond. You made sense of the scene because you knew where you were and what you were doing. Don’t worry about your accent… as we said…. it’s both a reason you’ll be perfect for some characters and not for others. It would be ideal if you could speak without any accent but that’s next to impossible. Rather it’s a part of your talent that you should continue to work on and to improve. It was a pleasure having you in class and we should talk more about a path for you to follow.