Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 5th March 2013

A nice night. From fairies and fashionistas to abusers and killers. Andy and Dana were doing material they were auditioning and here is something that we all can be proud of. Zahn booked a pilot that he worked on in class…. so you… this class…. had a hand in his success. There is a collective intelligence and workouts like ours can tap into that power. Jana the fairy in training. Stephanie the ditzy fashionista. Andy cold reading the raging abusive ass hole we all love to hate. Lauren cold reading the anarchist community college girl. Dana as the bad boy loving waitress. And Casey going to the dark side as the “hacktivist” killer.
The audition arena… the work we do is not limited to auditions. My favorite definition of talent is “the ability of the actor to put himself in the characters shoes.” So that’s what we do in our workouts, We work on your talent. Major to this effort is the necessity of putting your body into the scene and allowing the circumstances to effect you. “If your body knows where it is and what it’s doing…. it knows how to act.” There was a great range of physicality here tonight… From Andy and Casey storming into the scene to Jana sound asleep. If your body feels like it’s in the scene we will empathetically be in the scene too. Conversely… if your body is a nervous actor in a CD office…. we’ll know it.

This is a more performance oriented arena because the folks are on the other side of the camera. They don’t get a chance to work with you and guide you and pull a performance out of you. You have to show them what you think the scene should look like. That’s our job. The writers print it in two dimensional black and white. Actors have to make it stand up and be alive. That’s why we talked about adding little bits of life in Stephanie’s goofy entrance and ad libbed Andy’s “shut up.” You have to create and experience the life so you feel to us like you’re in the scene. And you have to think in a camera format. And you have to imagine other characters. And you have to see the scene. And you may even be working on green screen so that you have to imagine everything. But this all can be learned… to the point that it’s instinctive.

Your job as an artist/actor must develop a process that allows you to discover the life in a scene….. and then you must rehearse enough that you can come into an office(a seemingly hostile environment)….. and PLAY. All our training, work and prep are focused on allowing you to play. We work so we can play. That means play in the audition…. and play on the set. PLAY. It’s what creates the magic in acting.

Thanks for your patience and work long into the night.

Dana…

You are so busy. My head is spinning. You have to get an actor/friend to run lines with…. a lot. This is a critical junction for you and a great opportunity and you have to find a way to prep quickly and unfortunately…..without a lot of money so you could have 3 or 4 coaches on speed dial. Be discerning. Like that short piece last week… it only needed to be run with a friend so you could hear it…. just basic rehearsal. Tonight was a good one for class. Others will need a private. There are always going to be a last minute audition challenges. But as we saw last night… you have to work with someone so you can rehearse listening. I loved it that you had a great audition though…. and with Larry David no less. It sounds like you prepped and did what you wanted to do…. Nailed it! Here tonight we were searching for a balance between listening to two different voices and a balance between liking this guy and not being so naive that she was stupid. Clearly this was a listening challenge. How to actively listen and define character through reactions. On a set with two other actors….. the reactions would be obvious and not require such an effort. But here in this arena you must practice listening. You must work with someone.

Stephanie…

Let your ditz out, Girl. When you choose this kind of “chick” you must concentrate on character… just like we did with your CIA agent. It came alive tonight when you leaned into the ditz. Our workouts are 50% prep and 50% performance. You must pursue a more active prep. Just memorizing lines isn’t enough. You have to find someone to read lines with. Learning to listen and to react is what creates impulses….. and it requires rehearsal. Most important is that you expand your physical vocabulary… so your body knows where it is and what it’s doing…. and because it helps tell the story. Without being physically centered in the scenic circumstances your body will flounder because it will always feel like it’s in a CD’s office auditioning. Move around more. Be specific about what you’re doing in the scene. Don’t just look at things… you must see them in your mind’s eye. Don’t bring in so much material ! Lets repeat the first two scenes next week.

Lauren…

Welcome. Cold reading sucks. And we were watching you way too early in the process of learning/doing this scene. The camera is a great teacher. And…..It always tells the truth. Interesting that things got better from take to take….by working on it…. simple repetition. There were specific moments that were effortlessly perfect the second takes. The human body does learn by watching….. especially if you’re watching yourself. I don’t know any actors who love auditions. They’re challenging. They have a unique performance vocabulary. We’re asked to create life in a barren environment…. without rehearsal. But that doesn’t mean a cold reading…. which you had to endure last night. Our prep is the most creative time for us as actors. Your audition is your first performance. I look forward to seeing what you can do with more time to prepare. I hope you will come workout with us.

Casey…

“Go to the dark side.” Good exploration. Weren’t those interesting musical tones!…. those throw away lines! It’s something you don’t get to use much in comedy. Personally…. I think your first take was a keeper. I don’t think it’s wrong to have touches of humor in evil. It even makes it more evil…. think Alan Rickman in Die Hard or Robin Hood. Humor is always important. Though there are certainly melodramatic genres where humor is verboten. But lets pursue this darker side. I was pushing you farther to the dark side here tonight…. and that may have been wrong for this scene. But that’s the direction we’ll explore. I always think of Picasso’s “blue period” as an example. For whatever creative reasons, for a certain period of time, he just painted everything in blue tones. When he’d learned what he wanted…. he moved on to another exploration. I think Zahn’s experience is a great example…. so that’s what we’ll pursue…. your dark period. It will balance well against the Samsung pilot.

Aaron…

So this is your Iowa girl (Go Hawks!) She’s the classic “girl next door.” She’s cute, innocent, optimistic, but here in NYC she’s “a stranger in a strange land.” Loved it when you started seeing him and liking what you saw. Romance blossoms. It’s a scene that makes us all go “Ahh!” You’ll do her again in auditions… she’s an oft seen character. So she’s worth some more work. The moment before you entered defines character in the same way that Andy’s opening-moment-improv line did. It let’s us see the character and know immediately who they are… or at least what their emotional state is. The moment before is often a gate way to character. Andrea(earlier character from the car lot) had more moxy…. maybe this girl will have it too when she becomes a New Yorker…. but for now she’s all Iowa. So even when we’re working on these cute fun intelligent young women…. there is a difference in characters. Maybe what similar is their energy.

Jana…

Yay Improv! All the physicality was wonderful. Vocal presence was impressive. So often when people have been away for a while they come back in a different place. You are in a different dimension…. an exponential jump. To call it a breakthrough is not enough. It’s as though you are playing a totally different instrument. You left playing a piccolo and you came back honking on a brassy tenor sax. A transformation…. not just a break through. Loved the nodding off. Loved the sitting into that line… a perfect example of blending the lines and the physical presence. Your dry wise cracking nature is certainly a strong note in this character but it made it all the more funny when you upped the stakes and had to scramble to not get demoted as a fairy. It means you mess up even with the best of intentions. You looked like you were having fun.

Andy…

Almost a cold read…. early process. But as you usually do…. you saw the first one and knew what you had to do. This is a stretch for you. He’s just a working class ass hole….. and we saw him clearly last night. He has to drive the scene… but don’t confuse energy with pace(per our call). Loved that opening beat yelling at the door. If they ask you to do one without it…. just take that beat and internalize the yell and start the scene… that will happen with some CD’s. But we all could see how it energized you and gave you a character beat to start the scene…. and then just stroll in like you own the fucking place. He’s the king of his little castle….. troglodyte that he is. Loved the “shut up”. Take your time with that. This is a great character for you and one that is used a lot…. the guy we all love to hate. Let’s continue this exploration of the darker characters and see where it takes you. Your second time you had discovered his energy…. that word again… It was as if you had turned on another motor in side you.