Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 9th April 2013

Is this the spring break syndrome? Just three of us. Aaron on a blind date…. prepping a scene for a showcase. Lauren doing a callback as a shoe-loving-bigger-than-life character.
We worked in two areas tonight. Size and pace.

First… size

Lets call this the Kramer scale (from Seinfeld). How big you can be is determined by the style of the show and the energy of the character. For me the way a character enters a room is a great insight into size. If all the heads turn, if the voice is big, if the character demands and gets attention…. they’re a big character. It’s the Kramer entrance scale. Loud voice, big gestures, costume, occupation, energy….. are all elements that writers use to indicate size. Most of ours lives don’t have this size. When you see this challenge you must attack it and improvise with it and become comfortable being big. For me this is the biggest challenge. It takes stamina to be able to sustain “big”. You have to get comfortable with it or it looks like a result and not grounded. If the style of the show is big you must deliver an organically grounded big character.

Second… pace

Lincoln I think is a great example. It was a story about a man and it lingered on him in thought and movement and action. The intent was to allow us to get inside this character and know or feel who he was. It involved a great deal of over the shoulder/POV shots so that we could see what he saw and have the same reactions and emotions as Lincoln. It was a microscopic examinations of only 3 months of his many years. It Moved Slowly. The music lingered. Characters sat and talked and listened. As opposed to say Star Trek….space ships, ray guns, aliens all moving at warp speed. No great ideas, little to discus, cardboard cut out characters. There was no reason to go anything but fast and follow the story from episode to episode.

So our exploration of material has to be guided by the style or depth of a script. As we talked about in class….. some music is written to have a certain faster meter/pace and if you go slow….. it doesn’t work. AND… When we initially work on a script the natural tendency is to go slower. You have to… because you are learning the material. We learn music the same way. We repeat it slowly till we’re comfortable with it and can we can play it and bring it up to speed. I think that perhaps what happens is that as we learn the path of the scene we inadvertently absorb that slower learning pace…. and then bring it to performance. So be aware of this.

Where the issue of size and pace become problematic is in adjustments. When you’re told the “worst possible direction” by a CD or director…. “more energy/size and pace”….being the good actor that we all are we just jump to the result. What you must do is find reasons to motivate this adjustment. Energy and pace is external/result. Our job is to take that direction and internalize it. Make it organic. Ground it in character.

This was fun and because it was a small class it allowed us to focus on specific issues. Both these characters are familiar and frequently used. When you see them remember that pace and size have to be considered as you prep a performance.

You were both well prepared!
Thanks for all the work.

Aaron….

Yes this is Ms Iowa again. And it also sounds like the character you were describing for your Web Series. Your first takes just seemed tentative and dark and slow. It was amazing how it opened up when we added a couple of glasses of wine and pace. She became much more attractive and playful and open to him. The fulcrum of our work was finding him attractive. That emotional event or sequence gave us a structure, a moment to build around. It was the moment when both of their intentions intersect. They’re both looking for someone…. and that moment was the encapsulation of what we wanted/anticipated in this story. That was the peak of the scene and it helped us define the arc. She starts out dubious and alone and scared….. and ends up open and connected. So it was just a little love story.

Lauren….

This was an exploration of character and size. After every take we agreed you could have gone bigger…. and the believability of the character was still intact. We’ve all experienced people in our lives who take up a lot of space, energy, attention. And you have encountered numerous people in the modelling world who fit this description. What was interesting was the likeability question. She was big and intrusive and a little embarrassing…. but still likeable. But if you added a bit of a judgemental tone or superiority she would have been despicable. You also subtracted a few IQ points and that somehow made her more acceptable/likeable. You were just getting comfortable in her with more takes. If we worked on her more I’d encourage you to find a specific person and adopt their particular gestures and movements. The more specific you are…. the more universal will be the character…. and the more fun she will be to play. There’s that word again…. PLAY. This size character should be fun…. you must play to comfortably execute large sized characters.