Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 6/4/13

Six of us… Dominic auditing and doing the odd/cheery mortician.  Zahn the angry native con on the Res.  Casey assuaging his broken heart by being hired as a break up artist.  Will bringing  back the gruff NYC cop.  Aaron the cheerful unflappable tanning salon chick.
From the deep dark woods to the bright lights of the tanning salon…. There was a nice range of material tonight….. comedy, dramedy and pure dark drama. Most of the scenes tonight were actively in prep for performance or audition. Only one came from the library

The range of physicality was an issue tonight.  We explored the idea of a vocabulary of behavior/movement/mime.  The one rule of physical life is that you should pursue/explore/prep a path that makes you feel comfortable and grounded within the scene.  Each office will have their own rules about movment to be sure.  But it is my experience that most offices allow you to move.  So any admonition about not moving in auditions is accomplishing nothing but squelching creativity.  In your prep/exploration you must allow yourself to move as the character within the environment.  It’s the only way your body will become comfortable.  Once you’ve developed a physical life in the scenic circumstances your body will know where it is and what its doing and it will instinctively know what to do.  You can then do a performance just standing or sitting and your body will still have the muscle memory of your prep and it will know where it is and how to act.  One of the benefits of a workout class is that you can watch yourself as well as other actors and develop a range of behavior that feels right to your talent and looks good on camera.  BUT please don’t let what “they say” about having to just stand still in a CD office limit your exploration.  Your prep is your most creative time.  Use it expansively.  Play and explore and discover!

Good workout.  Everyone took adjustments easily… which is a great exercise for the set and for the office.  It’s rewarding to watch well prepared actors practicing their craft.  We not only experience acting empathetically…. but we experience an actor’s growth in a scene as a fellow artist works.  This kind of workout challenges you in many ways – and rewards you in many ways. Keep up the good work.

Aaron…

You were early in process.  The lines weren’t yet solidly into your body.  This was the right moment to put the script down and the beginning of pulling the written lines into the behavior and flow of the scenic circumstances… the activity of prepping him for a tan.  That’s why the dialogue slowed when you were spraying him down… because the lines weren’t solid enough to spray him without thinking about lines.  Just a little more time and practice would make that moment/process much smoother.  Your first take was just an exposition of a cheerful likable presence.  What we did was channel that cheerful demeanor into the physical life of a tanning chick.  It grounded you.  Much of that dialogue was just throw away stuff.  “Stand, sit, lift….” and much of it was probably stuff you’ve routinely said a thousand times.  It’s just chatter.  And to get to that place you have to pound lines to the point that they can fall out of your mouth without thinking about them.  It’s a contradiction that thoughtful dialogue (like what Casey was doing) is somehow easier because thinking of the dialogue is so easily interpretable as thinking about the scene.  Whereas fast chatter like what was here takes more concentration to make it seem thrown away.  This is another one of those girls that fits you perfectly and you make it look easy.

Will…

Gruff.  Maybe that’s the word.  New York is a place but it’s also an attitude.  As you moved into that character it became alive.  It moved it away from words and into behavior.  It’s just not possible that he would work on the streets of NY and not get roughed up by it.  And it’s such a great distinguishing character tone for him in a group of Ca detectives.  I loved the character arc you found for him when the boss doesn’t blow a gasket at him.  I think this is a case of the actor making the writing better because I doubt the writers saw the subtle possibilities of that moment the way you did.  I love the idea that he’s a potty mouth…. but the boss won’t let him curse (Damn Californians). So watch some good NY dialogue both real and performance. Take this guy out in the street and talk NY with some of us Californians.  You have to get him into your body and your persona. GO TOO FAR !  You can always pull it back.  This is a case where you have to build your stamina and strength to stay “in there.”  You have to build your concentration.  It has to become easy for you to be a New Yorker.  You have to build a vocabulary of behaviors and attitude that resonate with us as a native NY guy.  You can’t miss those guys when you meet them.  I think you’re afraid that you’ll be too big.  My suggestion would be to spend some time as this guy and bring him in full blown.  If they want you to pull it back you can… but building this strong a character will make the exposition easier and eventually be fun for you to play.

Dominic…

Welcome.  What fun.  That’s a great scene and you explored it well.  You played with it.  In the spirit of exploration I’d try it drunk or stoned… what else do you do when you’re stranding guard over a bunch of stiffs.  Just making what may be wild adjustments….. will often trip you into happy accidents and insight into a moment or a section of a scene or even insight into character.  It’s just structured play.  The issue of a physical vocabulary was the most on point discussion.  Don’t confine yourself in your exploration/prep.  The environment can provide activities (zipping bags) and impulses (seeing the lips, using the phone).  More than anything… “If your body knows where it is and what it’s doing….. it knows how to act.”  Most of our prep is creative play….. but creativity is stifled when it is hemmed in my negative rules.  Given that there are a number of offices that limit your physicality…. you still should not let it restrain your exploratory play.  That is perhaps the best reason for you to do this kind of workout…. so you can see what works and gain the confidence that expanding your physical vocabulary is a  way to expand your craft.

Casey…

Yes.  It’s frustrating to see where you think the scene should be….. but you’re not yet able to get there.  It’s just Practice.  It jumped exponentially in your run thrus.  We explored his pain.  We all loved your improv’d take.  It had the right emotional tone and flow… just add their words and it’ll be perfect.  As I wrote to Aaron… when you’re searching/thinking of words we interpret that as thinking as the character.  It’s a predictable stage when you’re prepping and you can use it in performance.  It’s a short term memory exercise…. where as Aaron’s dialogue had to get further into long term memory and her body because she had to combine the dialogue with a complex activity.  When you’re static and monologuing you can substitute thinking of their words for thinking as the character.  It’s just a technique.  I think the emotional base you found last night is essential….. and in prepping….. the emotional path should come first and then the words.  With the right director that improv’d take could end up the keeper….. but given that it’s a dramedy pilot.  I think they’ll want more of their written words expressed through “bitter ironic humor” and not solid grounded pain.  That’s the style issue I clumsily spoke of last night.  This guy seemed solidly adult…. that’s good.  There was no trace of the geek that is so foundational in most your work.  He’s a Brown grad… ivy leaguer.  This is a more mature character for you.

Zahn…

TWO CHARACTERS!

Copus/the lead…. the difference in presence was a defining element in how we perceived size.  Bigger presence actually made him seem physically larger and more threatening.  And as we said…. a gun is the great equalizer as far a size goes.  Carrying a gun should make you feel bigger.  Plus a touch of crazy that would allow him to swing a 2×4 makes him all the more threatening.  So the perception of size is malleable.  But all this is an issue you’ve faced before and will likely again.  Just remember you can influence their perception by character choices and presence.  Liked the sincere high school reunion stuff.  Those normal moments in the midst of crazy make for a sense of danger.  “If you want to paint a blue blue sky you have to have white clouds for contrast.”  

The tweaker… yeah you know this guy, you’ve lived in his world.  The twitches worked in the second scene because it was late at night and they were certainly snorting.  I don’t know why…. but to put them into the wake up scene would have made it seem laid on externally.  You just didn’t need twitches to build character at that point.  There was enough going on to define him without twitching.  “Don’t guild the lily.”  The sounds you added to his cowering from the 2×4 increased our perception of the fear/panic section.  Impulsive sounds are directly connected to your core and let us experience the emotional state of the character empathetically…  so you are effortlessly communicating when you allow sounds.  As long as you respectfully ask to do something in a CD office… it works for me.  These people know you and hopefully will allow you the professional respect to show them the work you have prepared.  If not…. just move on.  Their lack of respect shouldn’t interfere with your talent.