Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 8/28/13

Just the three of us. It was lawyer night at the Elephant. Tracy having the guy by his one good ball.  Lauren coming back as the lawyer applying for a job but being mistaken for a secretary.  We certainly have enshrined lawyers as the stars of our TV world.
These two scenes have significant amounts of humor… though they’re dealing in situations that are not all that funny at first glance.  It’s classic “dramedy” writing.   Perhaps the rule is play the drama and let  the comedy play you.  We’re really laughing at the absurdity of the scenes and the characters may or may not even be aware of the comedy.  So we’re laughing at the situation and not the characters.  It’s one of those moments where the more sincere and unaware you are the funnier it will be.  Perhaps your guy knows it’s funny, Tracy, and he cant’ help but enjoy it a bit.  But he’s a lawyer and is constrained by a code of conduct.

Thanks for all your hard work.  You both were nicely open and supportive in your commentary and that’s always appreciated.


Lots of issues.  Language first.  Lawyers USE language.  Words can cut.  Thoughts are cudgels.  And when you’re constructing an argument and a line of logic you have to cary thoughts through a barrage of words to get to your point.   But you have to verbally MAKE your point. That’s an action.  Remember how useful using a third person in the room can be.  It can allow or prompt a completely different tone of voice… which is wonderful to see on camera.  In our process we went hard ass on one take and then more playful and manipulative on the next.  What we were looking for is the combining of those two.  When you’re doing a hard ass or a playful adjustment your in the “Always Discovering” mode.  When we do strong adjustments it’s much more exploration not performance. I think it’s unplayable to say to an actor… “give me a little of both.”  I think you have to get him to do both separately and then fold those two internal states into a middle ground.   Remember you can use the script as a prop and especially here when you reference it as a court paper.  Don’t be afraid to look at it for words and refer to it as a prop.  In emotional, life-filled scenes we want to get off the book to the life.  With lawyers and doctors and technical language you can and perhaps should rely more on the script in your first audition. Let’s do this guy again or anther of his scenes or another lawyer.  We’ll sharpen this tool and get you comfortable with it because it’s one of those guys that you should be playing.


That last take was lovely.  As I think about your work…. it feels like there’s an element of you trying to do the scene right.  Last week I referred to it as executing an idea.  You were showing us your reactions and pushing a bit.  We’ve all commented on the impulsive playful eccentric side of your personality.  That gift expresses itself best when you don’t plan.  You must allow yourself the room to react.  That “connecting the dots” approach we talked about is relevant here.  I think that having a few specific moments to structure the path of the scene around is good as long as you are not trying to repeat a moment that you’ve discovered.  Like the expression when he offers you the job.  Don’t try and make a face… rather just listen and react.  So you can use those points/moments as the markers of where you are and where you’re going in the scene.  But you can allow yourself to play and explore and listen and react and be yourself in all its eccentric loveliness in between these points.  This is going to sound like an invitation to a disaster but try leaving you mind a bit more blank.  Trust your prep.  You’ve loaded the scene into your memory so all you should have to do is follow the path of the scene (from point to point) and just listen, and react, and play. This is sophisticated advanced problem in acting.  It’s poetry not prose.  It’s a little like the girl in Miracle on 34th Street…. ” I believe.  I know it’s silly but I believe.”  Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way says, Leap and the net will appear.  Your prep teaches you the path thru the scene.  Your prep/the path is the net.  Trust that it’s there and jump into the scene.  Be brave. I’ll try and come up with something from the library for you, Lauren, and I’ll see if I can get that last take out to you soon.