Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 11/14/17

Four of us.  Michael as the fast talking smart aleck (confident) lawyer.  Aaron as the office chick with a healthy dose of ‘attitude’.  Jean breaking the ice with the cute girl in the office at the beginning of their romance.
Here… its time to talk about cliches, familiar characters, stereotypes… or maybe what we can call a voice or an instrument that writers use.  

Both Aaron’s office chick, and Michael’s lawyer are the grating wise-cracking voice of conflict, judgement, antie-stablishment… and humor. Jean did the slightly shy likable kid we all root for.  As to the smart aleck… We all have seen and know this kind of character. And we all have had our moments inhabiting this attitude in our lives.  And that’s the challenge with this kind of character.  We have to tune into this wise ass inner rhythm and allow ourselves to listen and respond with our inner smart aleck.  At the risk of being repetitious… you must spend time as this character in order to get them into your body.  Plays allow us weeks of rehearsal and research to get comfortable and develop the stamina to stay in this character’s bubble.  But writing for the screen allows us only 24 hours to find our way into character… and unfortunately we actors most often just follow the dialogue and repeat the rhythms on the page.  To really inhabit these character we need to spend time as them and learn to listen and think and react in their edgy world… and the best part of that is actually finding the opportunity to incorporate some of the written vocabulary and dialogue into our daily speech and thought.  So walking in your character’s shoes in public and in improvs with fellow actors and in your daily life are the path to developing the stamina and vocabulary you need to really BE in character.  Our workouts provide the structure and challenge to perform these characters but the real creativity is not in the lines or performance… but in your life and your determination to spend time and be comfortable in their skin.

Michael…

What difficult sides.  Complicated legalese delivered with attitude… in a walk-and-talk with a fellow lawyer.  I admire your bravery in challenging yourself to this kind of material… and you should be able to do lawyers… so this is was a good character for you.  So… first of all you handled the language very well and diction and thought made it all the more comprehensible.  This too is pat of the growth I see since you’ve come back.    Our effort was to allow more of his cheeky character to come out in the dialogue and to make sure the thought process in the legalese was clear.  What most caught my eye was the physicality(the shrugs, falling asleep, mouthing his lines).  You were pushing the boundaries, behaving outside of lines, and that creates character.   It means you’re expanding your creativity and taking chances.  Now… not all those worked well, but they we’re behaviors that enriched character and seeing you make this effort is great. With this kind of character you can’t do anything half way… and those gestures felt timid and this guy’s ego allows for no timidity.  He’s a smart aleck who thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room.  I think that more commitment would have made those behaviors rock.  That line that trailed away… I find that when we’re not sure of our intentions we deemphasize words… let them trail away.  So this should be a red flag for you and when you find yourself trailing lines away you should focus on those sections and try something else.  What happens is that as we learn/rehearse we build a pattern of trailing off when we are unsure.  Its a kind of pothole… like continually forgetting a line.  When we aren’t sure of what we’re saying or thinking… we will forget lines or simply trail them away.  I’d love for you to bring this guy in again… smart aleck lawyers, office personas, cheeky friends… are a voice that enriches any ensemble and if you can nail that attitude in this complex language then you can nail him almost anywhere you find this kind of character.

Aaron…

Yes this felt much more like you were inhabiting this character.  We talked about how rehearsing plays allow you to the time to develop the stamina to stay in character.  But in our world the only way to get to spend that much time in a character’s shoes is to improvise on your own and then take her out in public so you can learn to listen and respond impulsively in the character’s thoughts.  And I saw her last night.  There was more ease and we could see you listening with her ears and that allowed you to improvise around the lines I was flubbing.  When you can do that… you’re listening and responding and solidly grounded in character.  This writing is a voice, a comic device that springs from the fact that you can find a smart aleck voice in almost any group of people.  It can be dry, or mean or irritating but it sets up a comic conflict that makes us want to watch.   Just be aware of yourself and try and be a little cheeky in your daily interactions and that will strengthen this muscle.  Today was good work and a real foundation for this kind of character that you can easily do.  The New York accent or a dry British accent are a way to explore.   I appreciate you working out later when you were so exhausted.  And congrats on working again with the USC director.  It means you were doing good work and who knows where their directors’ career will lead.  We all love these cheeky characters cause they say the things we all wish we were sharp enough to blurt out in our daily lives.  AND if starbucks is full of way too many grumpy people… don’t subject yourself to that karma.  Grab a vanilla late and head out the door.

Jean…

Welcome back. Viva Puerto Rico !  As often happens when someone’s been absent for a time we see that on their return they have grown as an actor.  You are much more grounded and comfortable with dialogue, took direction with ease and physically seem much more relaxed.  All of this is growth and it means you as an artist are expanding your performance vocabulary.  And you are allowing us into your space, your presence… you just seem more vulnerable and open.  That’s your growth as an actor, as a person and it was obvious in your work.  Its a growth in your ability to portray the Who… the character.  Now as you engage class again… your focus must be on the circumstances.  The What and the Where in the writing.  What do you want, where are you, what are you doing? So that when she knows your name… that’s great cause you want to make connection to her.  That’s what your character is thinking and feeling.   Your presence has grown but you must ground that presence in the circumstances of the scene and the character.  That’s why we had you sing the last verse of happy B’day.  When you react to where you are and what is happening in the scene(the end of happy b’day) it just feels more alive to us.  We will see what you see and hear what you hear as well as feel what you feel.  Our empathy is engaged when we are drawn into the life of the scene as well as what’s being said.  If we/the audience are ungrounded… don’t know where we are and what’s happening… we can’t fully connect to the character.  I looked back at past notes and this was/has been as issue. We’ll focus on this in coming weeks. But this was good work and welcome back!