Drill, Baby, Drill (or “Mmmmm, Chocolate”)

I’ve been watching for 10 minutes. And I’m wondering why Fred Waggoner leads drill class relaxation with his students seated in chairs. I’ve only done relaxation work splayed on a floor or slumped against a wall, so I’m curious how you find full relaxation while trying not to topple sideways off your chair.

“There’s a certain amount that has to keep us in the room,” Fred explains. “If you’re in an audition situation you need to find a way to relax.” This prompts Paul to ask how he should handle chatty fellow auditioners when his goal is to quiet himself and achieve a relaxed state before going into the casting room. “What if they think I’m rude?” he asks. “What someone else thinks of you is none of your business,” Fred says.

Direct and simple. Which pretty much sums up Fred’s no bullshit, insightful and compassionate approach to all the work happening on this particular Friday afternoon.

Once the initial relaxation exercises are done, the six students embark on their own specific sense-memory tasks. Arnold is creating a place – and he sits upstage, stretched out between two chairs, doing some imagined journal writing. Justin and Mae are each working on a private experience of pain, Paul is working on substitution in a particular place, Brian is exploring an animal, and Kaija is conjuring a cup of coffee. Fred reminds them to vocalize “to physically unstick yourself.” Moans and yelps begin to puncture the quiet of the room.

Mae is gingerly investigating a pain on the side of her torso. I wince as Justin breathes into and feels out what seems to be a busted nose and lip. During a lull in sound, Fred says, “When you’re working, sometimes you’ll wonder, ‘why am I stuck in this scene’? Well, it’s probably because you’re physically stuck. There’s a tension somewhere.”

Brian is now on his feet, moving his large cat (I’m guessing) up into his human body. His physicality has entirely changed but it’s grounded and true. A distinct character is emerging, one that’s Not Brian. Fred asks him to move his animal vocalization into some text. As Brian begins to speak, Fred calls up to Arnold – “I want you to find a song, start singing it.” At first, Arnold is discombobulated by the direction to sing while still keeping to his journal writing. But before long, he’s integrated the tasks and settled into the exercise, his legs rocking slightly to the rhythm of his low singing.

I look at Kaija, who’s holding her coffee a little above her head. Her absorption in each moment, considering the bottom of her imagined mug, gently testing its weight, is weirdly soothing to watch. Minutes later, I glance back at Arnold, and I’m struck by how relaxed and private his work has become. He’s completely given over to his tasks. And I feel a spark of guilty pleasure, like I’ve snuck up and caught him being utterly himself, for only himself.

A guttural longing courses through Brian’s next bit of dialogue, startling me. He spins out this skein of sound and dialogue a bit longer. Suddenly he stops. He sinks down on his haunches. Then he drops to the floor. Fred crouches next to him, checking in. Brian tells him that’s he’s feeling lightheaded. After a few minutes – and a few bites of chocolate (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYSBPo_mAD0) – Brian rejoins the fray. Later, as the individual exercises wrap up, Brian confirms he’s okay. “It was really, really good there, Brian,” Fred says, then adds with a smile: “til you almost passed out.” Brian nods. “I was vibrating.”

That experience of being physically overwhelmed during a sense-memory exercise can be scary. And like all the delicious, scary-safe stuff – vulnerability, great sex, roller coasters, great sex on roller coasters – it’s intoxicating. You crave more of it.

I was itching to clamber into a chair, not tip out sideways, and give over to letting my body and imagination guide me. What the students were doing individually and collectively was beautiful to witness. I wanted to be part of it.

At one point, Paul, Kaija and Justin, eyes closed, were simultaneously vocalizing and extending their left arms above their heads – an inadvertent synchronized expression. Their voices and arms hung in the air an achingly long moment. And though I was strictly an observer, something physically unlocked and released in me as they sighed out and lowered their arms in oblivious (intuitive?) unison.


Drill Class with Fred Waggoner meets on Fridays from 2pm to 3:45 pm. It’s a great steal – and a great gift to yourself – contact studio for pricing.


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