Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 27th Nov 2012

What a nice class.  There was some good work done tonight.  Martin and Susy….. new blood…. well met. Tyler as the fast talking Wall Street wannabe.  Gaby tracking down lost love… on the subway. Susy a sophisticated soap opera bitch showing her “street side.” And Martin a smooth talking Southerner.
An obvious theme tonight.  Letting the scene effect you……  Rather than coming in with such a strong emotion or intention or objective that it all becomes one note. Perhaps that’s what we talked about as the declarative part of our process that we saw tonight in several peoples work but most specifically in Martin’s body.  The physical gesture…. the leaning in… that declarative posture is easy to see.  And too…We all recognize a body that is more open to being effected by the life in the scene… that body invites the camera. It’s relaxed.  One posture is connected/grounded into the emotional and physical circumstances…. and one is the declarative part of our process.  Hopefully we rush through these declarative moments as merely one step in our exploration.  Getting beyond this stage to the performance level was the focus of the work tonight.  That was because you were all well prepared and ready to play at this higher level.

As I work on these notes and they sink in…. it is clear that this declarative performance concept is a part of all of our prep.  Just as there is a time when we struggle for lines.  A time when we struggle for thoughts.  There is a time when we struggle to listen…. and this is the key.  If you are depending on your prep and the way you learned the script you are going to have a tendency to show… to show us what you planned, to show us what you think, to show us what you mean. This tendency is what I’m referring to as the declarative tone.  We sometimes see it as a monotone.  Or in a body leaning into a scene.  Or in those moments when we repeat a line the way we memorized it. But these manifestations should just be steps in the process which is leading us to a performance level.   Perhaps the best way to say it is… “Don’t do the scene. Let the scene do you.”   I suspect that the more we become conscious of this issue….. what we’re dealing with is learning to listen and react within a scene.

Martin…

What great prep.  You came ready to work…. to play.  You said you felt like you had something to prove tonight.  That determination led you to a first declarative performance.  You were making a statement… “I’m back.”  But you showed great flexibility and dropped that approach effortlessly.  For a multitude of reasons we almost always go through this declarative stage.  It’s most often self-perceived as “I just need to relax.”  That too can be said of how to inhabit a southern accent.  One needs to relaaaaax and let the sounds of words convey an emotional content.  One take you bit into the words…. but you took the note and your last take…. you were relaxed and enjoying the language… and herein lies the character.  Southerners love to talk and to hear the sound of their own voice.  Great listening… it was such fun watching you react in the moment you heard what the other character was saying…. and before he finished his lines.  We also saw you have the impulse and physically move off the line so that your response was immediate and in the tempo of the scene.  You were living off the lines and it was fun to watch…. great instinct.  I think you should do this guy again.  He’s a cousin of Doug and Clyde so when you get him nailed down he’ll be a usable character.  His Southern accent adds a charm which these kinds of characters usually lack… so doing him southern is an added element that makes him more approachable and somehow sexier.

Tyler…

You did some wonderful playful work on this character… he was funny and he’s great for you.  But…. Here tonight you did not have time to prepare so you were forced to use the script.. and it helped you a lot.  That’s a great skill to have…. you could see that in Gaby’s work. However…. This scene was a linguistic challenge.  This kind of verbiage has to be digested and then performed/played as words and thoughts…. and it must be done fluidly.  To reach that level of ease and expertise with this kind of writing…. you have to practice, You have to find the time to prep… and to pound lines.  Because performing this kind of material demands fluidity of words and thoughts… it’s just so damn “Gilmore Girls.”  It’s a skill that my generation did not have. But for some reason….. actors always seem to want more lines.   Lately You’ve been showing and clearly enjoying much more flexibility in your prep,  You’ve been coming to workouts with different takes on the scene,… great approach.  I think this is a good character for you.  He’s smart, charming and fast talking.  He’s your businessman your lawyer, your salesman.  And somehow you managed to make him likable…. well done.  You need to take this on again as a verbal challenge.  You’ve got a great take on the character…. now lets add those verbal gymnastics.

Gaby…

Brilliant use of the script.  You make it look effortless.  It seems not to have an ill effect on your work.  Great listening too.  You took Tyler’s angry adjustment and explored it with ease.  The “kind” description of his eyes…. that’s a moment that you have to just throw yourself at and allow your impulses to color the word.  You can’t try to repeat something or determine how it’s going to sound.  It must be pure impulse.  You made us laugh as the word jumped out of your mouth.  Each time you do a take on that beat….. you must just trust your talent and let your impulses loose.  You are finding in all your work the warmer open tones of a smart fun young woman.  I think that soon it will cease to be surprising when we see that because it will just have become a part of your persona.  I seldom use the work breakthrough but finding this tone and using it in your work is nothing less.  This was just good work… very hirable.  You seem more confident, at ease and playful….  That’s a great attitude to have as you approach auditions or the set.  Now is a good time for you to work… a play, more hosting, or just straight acting jobs.  You’re in a very good place now.  We’re enjoying it.

Susy…

The Bitch we all love to hate!  We explored… mostly through relaxing her.  We made sure you were listening and letting the scene affect you(tonight’s theme).  It was another example of moving through that declarative state into the life in the scene.  You came in and did the scene…. that declarative approach again.  But… you saw where you needed to go and you played and found more notes and more colors for her.  We saw some real upper class behavior that she had assimilated and some lower class physicality that she just couldn’t eliminate.  She was actually scary.  Loved the lip gloss moment.  So this is your bitch.  You can just bring her out when you need her… and you will because this is such a common character.  Your next challenge is to work on some of the scenes I’ve sent you and confine your prep to that 24 hour period and see how well you can perform in that limited time.  Remember though… that 24 hour prep must include working with another actor or a coach.  Only then can you move beyond that declarative approach and really start living in the scene.

Clearly I’m obsessing over this declarative concept… but it’s such a good description of an element of our working/learning/rehearsing process.    It seems obvious that listening is one of the last things we learn in our prep…. and perhaps it’s the cure for being declarative. At any rate what we’re discussing is the importance of listening and how it can change the whole feel of a performance.