Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 22nd Jan 2013

Seven of us. Zahn being charming.  Will sharing the secrets of stealing cars.  Aaron connecting to a car salesman.  Casey going full geek.  Katherine playing a werewolf/bridesmaid.  And Tinsel sitting in to audit and giving us some insight into the Twilight world of werewolves.
Most of tonight’s work was character oriented. Everyone came in well prepared. Commentary was full of gems tonight as well as supportive. I saw a group of actors working/playing hard at their craft.

I always walk away from our workouts like tonight thinking that a small community of people working together is a most rewarding process to be a part of.  It reminds me of finishing a great rehearsal for a play.  Here we are all working on our individual talents… with the support and insight of our fellow artists.  Acting is a collaborative craft… and tonight was an example of how rewarding it can be.

Thanks for you work and sharing your talent and insights.

Casey…

Can of corn.  You can do this kind of character falling out of bed.  AND you did “full geek”…. and got away with it.  The writing demanded that full blown character approach but unfortunately the writing was too young for you…. though you somehow found a way to do it.  But as we said this guy at 17 or 27 would still be a geek…. and youthful innocence is a quality that we’ll find in most geeks.  The physical movement and life you gave him was expansive and spot on.  I loved the underplayed section too…. but it also played well with enthusiasm.  Interesting that that underplayed section fit into such an over the top character.  It’s impressive that you got to tears in that play audition.  My guess is… Your feelings and sensitivities are coming to the surface as you access your inner world with different kinds of material.   SO…. lets pick some more challenging non geek writing and see what happens.  You’ll likely have to do more prep than with geek characters. But just as we’re challenging Zahn to be a nice guy… lets see what comes if you explore a heavier style of performance.  Let me know if you need material.

Aaron…

You expressed your unease with this kind of character.  But it’s you.  You have to learn be comfortable being you.  You may want a character to hide behind…. but that’s more for theater.  A typical screen actor’s career goes something like… “Who’s Aaron lichtanski?

Get me Aaron Lichtanski.  Get me a Aaron Lichtanski type.  Who’s Aaron Lichtanski?”  AND all that is based around you being you.  Modern TV and film writing is for the most part based around modern characters…around us… the people who inhabit the world in which we live.  Not the royalty of Shakespeare, or the languid Russians of Chekov or the tortured Nordic souls of Ibsen and Strindberg.  So it’s important that you learn to express the full vocabulary of who you are…. and then you can expand and interpret that central core of your own character to fit the specific demands of writing.  For instance…. you as a teacher would be different than you as a cop or a nurse or a lawyer or a homeless person…. or even a werewolf.  But the central core of all those modern characters would be you.  There are two styles of character creation.  One is based on who you are the other is supposed to be completely different than you.  The academy awards usually go to the the later.  For me they are both equally valuable artistic paths that lead to the creation of character.

Will…

He’s a charmer…. which has to play against the opening beats of the scene about how he’s depressed and his meds.  This is one of those cases where a “stage directions” leads us astray.   He may be unshaven and raggedy but that doesn’t mean he’s uncontrollably depressed today.  He may even be happy to see her or putting on a brave front….. She’s the one person in his world who knows who he really is and clearly there is a brotherhood of adrenaline that they share.  So you have to find a balance here that allows us to believe he’s “depressed”…. whatever that means…. and at the same time be a guy who could romance cars away.  I think a tone indicating depression was what  we were searching for when he was describing the way the alarm systems function.  Once his charm and self assurance appeared he became likable and drew us in.  Remember those one word stage directions like angry, depressed, terrified should appear to you as red flags.  If they dominate a character they paint you into a corner and limit your choices.  If this were a prep to film this character…. I’d recommend leaning more into the depressive side of his persona because you’d have other scenes to show his charm.  But since you’re doing this as a single showcase scene I’d lean more to the charming guy who could boost a car with a wink and a smile.

Zahn…

Very clean.  All the ladies agreed… You passed the creepy test.  This kind of material challenges you to induce and respond to unfamiliar impulses.  Your instinct… your “MO” is to go to anger or creepy or cursing… and you did so in the first takes.  And this is indeed the area that most of your casting demands.  BUT…. Your last take you went to his “gentler man” side…. and to me that is a choice of strength.  Rather than get mad…. you found that inner strength of his character…. you responded from acceptance and wisdom.  That’s a whole different vocabulary of choice…. And it’s here that we’re exploring with these kinds of scenes.  The stimuli that scenes present to you as a character provide you with impulses to act…. and most of the time the creepier angrier meaner colors are appropriate.  I realize how uncomfortable this kind of writing makes you feel…. and when you’re ready to move on from it you can.  But this is about creating and channeling impulses…. about allowing impulses to affect performance positively rather than channeling them to the dark side.  When we take you outside your normal range the impulses and feelings are different. This is a stretching exercise.  Think of the Bobby McFarren and Yo Yo Ma story…. only by doing something completely outside his comfort zone did he find a breakthrough.

Katherine…

And what a lovely werewolf you make….  That suppressed inner world of the werewolf must always be there.  Your hearing, vision, intuition, sexuality and your very identity would all be heightened but have to live beneath the human surface.  Your subtext and thought process would have to be wolfish.  In creating one of these supernatural beings…. it would be a great exercise to walk around in public knowing/thinking/being a werewolf.  What fun!  You’d feel powerful and superior and resentful of having to hide.  I would guess that humans would seem puny and inferior.  It would be a gift to you of an incredibly rich inner life from which  you could create character.  If I had to create a werewolf character…. I’d watch films of wolves and visit the zoo and try and absorb and incorporate the behavior and feelings of real wolves.  No one would necessarily notice that work but in subtle and thoughtful ways you could enhance your performance with such research.  Once you solved that moment in the scene of super sensitive hearing your inner werewolf started to appear.  For me as a movie fan….the world of vampires and werewolves and zombies will always be a little cheesy….. but the way you work on it as an actor must be as full and committed as if it was a Shakespearean lady of the court.  It was great hearing Tinsel talk about their work on set.  It might be a good idea to see if you can find some more of these supernatural characters.   You are very believable in this genre and there is so much of it.

Campbell…

Now here was a new character….  The first two were similar voices of the angry actor…. They were different but both driven by anger.  This character didn’t/shouldn’t have so much anger. Why would she be?  She’s executing her three year plan.  Out of the box there was too much anger but you took the adjustment and produced a much more likable and approachable woman/man.  That she both knew and recognized and talked to some of the ‘names’ around her,  just made her lovable.

Once again as you performed you lost the train of thought and had to stop.  I get it that you are trying to follow the path that your writing has created…. but you need to be able to play/improvise along this path…..  most especially since you are developing character.  A lot of the improvs in your later takes were character expanding impulses and they opened her up to us.  I’m not sure how to best proceed with the development of this piece.  Maybe improvising  in front of a camera or a recorder and then transcribing the improvs like Casey was saying.  Or maybe this is the right venue…. I think I speak for everyone in saying that’s it’s a rewarding challenge to be included at this early a stage in your creative process.

Leslie Jordan is the effeminate actor we were trying to think of last night and he’s great model for that southern babbling chatty style of conversation. There’s some tape of him on line. You’ve created a wonderful theatrical device(everyone auditioning for the same role) but it’s clear now that the effort has to be to create distinct characters…. not just different voices of the angry actor.  Justifiable actors’ anger may well be the source of this effort… but you have to put your artistic stamp on it by making sure that these characters represent a variety of distinctly different characters that we can relate to.