Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 29th Aug 2012

Casey got dumped. Andy got rid of his partner. And Ms. Fiona got to play the letter-writing, Thanksgiving-obsessed girl friend.
I hope the babbling ideas about the exchange of feelings in a room made sense. The simplest statement is that if you feel it…. we will feel it. So if your body is *in* the circumstances and reacts to the life in a scene…. our bodies will experience it. It works on stage, on camera, and in the audition arena. We are empathetic beings. That is one of our unique human qualities. People who have no empathy are labeled sociopaths. On the other hand people who feel too much are dysfunctional…. or in our craft they are indulgent… we frequently find them outside auditions talking to the walls. Perhaps the simplest way to say it is that if you don’t know what you’re doing in a scene…. We will know it !

For me….. The best definition of talent is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. So that’s our focus in our workouts.

We are really working on you talent. We are trying to find a way to put ourselves into the character’s shoes. Last night the common issue was character. The WHO…. of WhoWhatWhere.

In both scenes we worked toward a more distinct who. Andy had to hide emotions to establish character and Casey had to show them. Strong emotions can reveal character…. but strong emotions can’t BE character. They’re an element.. not the total package. So what we’re doing as we explore in our workouts is working on your ability to put yourself into the character’s shoes. We play. We improvise. We explore. We do opposites. We use different tools. We build your talent by challenging it to find the answers to the problems in the writing. We’re trying to put ourselves into the character’s shoes and live the life in the scene.

Andy…

Character first ! and then emotional tone is probably a good rule. And so interesting that the obvious sympathetic choice…. suffering the loss of a partner… wasn’t the most fruitful. It was surprising that Making him less sympathetic, less likable, didn’t make him seem more guilty. So maybe the rule is be careful of strong emotional choices. They always feel good but tend to limit exploration. Play should be the creative force in your learning/prepping/exploring as well as in performance. Sim[ply try an adjustment that’s the opposites of your first instinct. Just hear my whining voice saying, “If he seems sympathetic try it without sympathy and hope for happy accidents.” “What if he belted back a couple of shots before the interview.” “What if there was some incriminating piece of evidence that you suddenly saw or remembered.” Strong emotional choices feel so good to actors that we lock in too early and tend to build a rut. This episodic bad guy guest star is a great example of the TV writing you’ll face. Bring it back and explore the physical environment… See if you can develop a movement/vocabulary that makes your body feel like a walk and talk. That period piece character enjoyed being evil. This guy is not enjoying it. He’s got a whole different tone. That presents an interesting range for bad guys…. and this seems like a logical place for us to concentrate for a while. We know you can do comedy…. let’s see how much fun evil can be.

Casey…

Character! Leading vs comedic? Different instruments have a distinct style and feel. Tonight’s was perhaps like a sax (leading man) and then an acoustic guitar (the more comic but still a leading man who perhaps is still much a boy). Even if they play the same piece, same notes…. it’s a different feeling. It’s a comment on you talent that you can do both. And probably a comment on your lack of prep that you first chose the wrong instrument. So….. we found the right instrument/character… the comedic lead. And then we confronted Andy’s challenge…. using a strong emotional choice. But here the emotion was an insight into character. We care about this guy cause he cared about this girl. Andy’s character either doesn’t have or is hiding strong emotions. You however…. must experience that emptiness, loss, grief…. and maybe some anger (some or all of the “5 stages of grief”). That’s what will let us inside. And the writing has a scattered unhinged feel to it…. so drop yourself into this emotional maelstrom and speak out of that battered place. It’s hard to do but it’s what will allow us to know and like this guy. That you got a tear in your eye was great. That’s your challenge here. We have to see you gob smacked/bitch slapped and propelled into this emotional stew. Sometimes character is revealed by showing emotions and sometimes it’s shown by hiding them. And here he’s showing us his emotions even as he tries to hide them. I think you should bring this scene back. It’s a good time to examine the difference between different kinds of leads and it’s an emotional challenge to your talent.