Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 8/6/13 + Acting Emotion Exercises

Six of us… Andre the contractor making a pitch.  Tracy the high class lawyer.  Lauren the killer.   Casey grieving for his Dad. Will the magic warrior, and Aaron as the fairy….  Oh why did we have to wait so long.
No real theme tonight.  Great variety of writing.  Sit com fairies to serial killers.  Love the observations about style…. playing magic and fairies. This was another long class.  I find that the commentary of late has been very enriching and thus the longer sessions.  At least that’s the excuse for this week.  I want to raise this question in class and get some feedback from you guys. Thanks for all your hard work.

BELOW ARE THE TWO EXERCISES REFERENCED FOR CASEY AND LAUREN…

Will…

We ended up digging for a style.  We came up with a sort of generalized movie version of…… Magic.  I guess you could maybe play it more “real” (your first take) but it’s more likely they’ll be looking for a style.  This “magic” style demands size and presence that you delivered in that last take.  But when you prep something like this….don’t just do the style.  In your prep try it more real, with accents and adjustment and play.  The broader your foundation…. the more thorough your prep…. the deeper will be the resonance that underlines the style.  What’s nice is that you are more relaxed even though you are hitting the demands of this exaggerated style.  We are all seeing the marination of your talent.  You are more grounded…. and yet playful at the same time.  You just seem to be planning less and playing more.  This is an important time for you to work/perform/act so you can reinforce this new comfort and presence that you have discovered in your work.

Lauren…

Yes.  As we worked….You used your body, used the words, and created a place. And in that last take…. added a healthy dose of you.  She was a nice synthesis of you as a believable killer.  You just seemed to relax into her in that last take.   Maybe stillness isn’t the key…. maybe it’s being relaxed or just quieter (“Don’t play all the butter notes”… see below) as in not trying to do too much.  You seemed a bit overwhelmed and unconfident as you started this work.  Confidence can be a result of your prep…. when you know what you’re doing and a character is right in your wheel house.  But it can also be an external decision.  That is….. you can decide to be confident as a performer and pump yourself up to that point.  It’s really and ego issue.  You can and should be at least to the point where you feel like your talent can engage and resolve the challenges that the a scene poses.  In rehearsal for a play we all accept that we can’t solve all the problems in one rehearsal…. BUT we are confident that if we engage our talent ….we can and will find a way to solve scenic problems.  “L’audace.  Toujour l’audace.”   Remember….  Avoid the triangle.  She’s a useful character type.  I hate to ask but I think you should bring her in again.

Casey…

Serious work.  You pressured yourself…. good.  You brought that seriousness to your persona and stayed isolated before class so you could take care of yourself and sought distance so you could stay down in that emotional stew.  That’s all good process. And…. That second take was near perfect.  Were tears necessary?  No.  Could certain moments have been deeper.  Yes…. and we’d get those in other takes.  But this arena of emotional material is a challenge for you.  So lets find something for next week.  We’ll try and keep your performance cup at “rallaboule”.  It’s just practice.  Working out.  Developing muscle memory…. perhaps emotional muscle memory.  I wonder….if they’d written an activity (like Lauren’s cleaning a gun….. rather than just a straight face to face) how you’d have handled it.  We talked about front loading all the emotion.  It’s hard not to with the way the scene is written.  But the object is to let the scene effect you and create emotional reactions….. rather than bringing a generalized emotional state.  Emotions can well up when your character can’t say something… because its too ugly, or revealing or scary.  Silence can bring emotions.  Listening/hearing a line a certain way can do it too.  This area is a challenge.  Exploring it will inevitably bring growth. Below is an exercise my teacher, Peggy Fuery, used to recommend.

Aaron…

She’s lovely…. everything a fairy should be.  Loved the discussion about developing a lead character.  Sometimes you have to think differently… expansively.  And dance could be a part of that aesthetic.   If you were auditioning this….. we’d work to develop a movement vocabulary for her that would work for camera.  How much fun would that be?  I agree that you don’t want to put pressure on yourself about doing a lead role.  But I do think that you can press/expand your creative vocabulary when you are developing a lead character as opposed to a guest star.  It was a Disney/nickelodeon three camera style after all.  It begs the question…. How big can you be in an audition ?  Certainly there is a limit… but if she full of the “Sugar Plum Fairy” you can be BIG.

Andrei…

Welcome…your first time up…This guy is making a pitch.  You must be in control….. and improvising plans at the same time.  You first see the back yard and immediately and correctly assess it as impossible…. unless you go in “halfsies with the neighbor.”  So on the fly…. you lay out a nice quick plan/look for her yard that you are obviously good at.  And maybe you don’t have 3 other jobs…. maybe you’re just driving the price up.  So the key here is rehearsing with someone before you perform/audition so that you can just take control and make a sales pitch.  This character is about confidence and your approach to the audition must too have the confidence that you can step up and perform with ease.  Very few actors can approach auditions without having run the lines with someone and learning to listen and be in the scene.  Auditions are a performance arena. You have to be confident about what you want to do and playful enough so that you don’t plan everything.

Tracy…

Nice work.  He’s a believable character.  One you can replicate in future work.  He’s your high powered attorney, or politician, or businessman… he’s a useful character.  Pace doesn’t mean flatten out delivery or just arbitrarily going faster.  He wants to get back to his card game, he dislikes this guy and wants to get away…..  whatever.  You need to take the result direction(Pace!) and find an organic reason to go faster.  Remember you can’t go faster than you can use the words….. and it you feel yourself flattening out the dialogue(which you did) then you are going too fast.  If this were a David Kelly pilot how different would be our approach to being work perfect !   But you have to practice to get pace and delivery.  I think in your prep process you can go slower… your default pace… but in prep you should also just do some faster paced run thrus so you get the feel.  This is something you’ve heard before… so it clearly needs attention… and we can focus on organic ways to achieve pace as well as weaving pace exercises into your prep.

EXERCISE ONE: ACCESSING YOUR EMOTIONS

Peggy’s emotional exercise.  If you are facing a scene where you need to be emotional……  where they want you to cry.  Just pick 3 arbitrary times each day.  For example 9:30 am, 1:15 pm, and 7:20 pm.  No matter where you are or what you’re doing at those times…. just slip into a bathroom or somewhere private and marinate in your emotional stew.  That is… think sad thoughts, do a sense memory, go to the dark side.  Just stay there till you cry.  Do that exercise over several days preceding your performance.  The idea is to build an emotional pathway… or perhaps an emotional muscle memory…. of how to get to tears.  The specific times are just to get accustomed to putting performance pressure on your emotional talent.

EXERCISE TWO: SIMPLIFYING

Quincy Jones told Quentin Marsalis, “Don’t play all the butter notes.  If you can communicate a phrase with 5 notes…. hy play 6 or 8 or 10 ?”   Meaning simplify.  Don’t try and reproduce everything you find in prep.  Let some of it be unconscious, unspoken, unacted.  Everything you find in your exploration will add to the complexity and depth of your performance but you don’t have to act it out.  Trust that its there and just be in the scene and listen.  You will remember/experience the thoughts and feelings of your prep and communicate them to us unconsciously.  We all have the ability to communicate unconscious feelings and thoughts.  And thus the phrase…. “Don’t play all the butter notes.”