Archive for acting

Notes from Tuesday Afternoon

Great rehearsal tip from Caymichael Patten:

Cay gave this piece of advice to a couple of actors working on the scene from Arthur Miller’s, All My Sons, where Chris proposes to Ann. One of the main obstacles in the scene for both characters is the memory of Larry, Ann’s former fiancée and Chris’s brother who was killed in World War II. In order to make the obstacle of Larry stronger, Cay suggested that the actors do a rehearsal where they sensorally put Larry somewhere on stage with them. Really amplifying the presence of Larry will inform the scene and help the actors to discover how much the memory of the dead brother is really affecting them.

In Tuesday’s class we saw Shayna Albertson and Javan Nelson putting to use the rehearsal tip above which Cay had given them the week before. The scene made a huge jump forward. It was very moving; congrats to both Shayna and Javan on such a successful rehearsal and implementation of technique.

Next up was Max Miesel and me, Annie Grier, working on George Bernard Shaw’s, Arms and the Man. Cay helped us through a very guided rehearsal, showing us how necessary it is to land the moment to moment staging, for the scene to work. Max is approaching classical material for the first time and learning how to apply everything he has been working on with Cay to this new style. While I am not approaching this material for the first time, I am STILL learning how to apply everything I am learning with Cay, truthfulness, bringing myself to the material etc. It is a fun and exciting challenge for both of us!

Christina Dancu and Kim Maresca were up next with, Elaine May’s, The Way of All Fish. Kim had great success in this class with applying Cay’s previous note to bring herself to the text and not initially impose character on it. Check out Cay’s blog to read more about this note.

Migina Tsai finished the class with a monologue from, Loose Knit by Theresa Rebeck, a piece that she had worked on, but not recently. She was relaxed and allowed herself to explore the piece. She found something new and Cay encouraged her to do the piece again really exploring what she had found. The result was very full, spontaneous, moment-to-moment acting.

I believe in the personal

While I was thinking what I wanted to write about in my first blog for our revamped (thank you James Donegan and Mike Levy!) website, I went hunting for a quote I love from Eudora Welty about the task of the artist. But before I found it, I came across another of hers that struck so deep a root in me that I changed my plans.

Here it is:

“I believe in it, and I trust it too and treasure it above everything, the personal, the personal, the personal. I put my faith in it not only as the source, the ground of meaning in art, in life, but as the meaning itself.”
— Eudora Welty

It’s only logical that I would find inspiration for actors in the words of a writer advising other writers, because I observe, like many others, that the actor now has a different role in the creative process. Since the end of the nineteenth century, the work of the actor expanded as playwriting changed and required greater inner life. Think Chekhov. With the advent of psychology, the audience became more aware of a character’s interior journey. With electricity in theaters, actors could now be more brightly lit than the audience, isolating them in light. While there still were pieces that required presentational performances, the demand for truthful work grew as audiences watched films and fell in love with the close-up, where the camera took them into the character’s personal space.

I am reminded of a class I recently taught, and of the repetitive nature of the notes I was giving. “Personalize, personalize, personalize.” It had turned into a “theme” class because the work felt very safe. The actors made choices that were “correct” for the material, and though truthful, seemed opaque to me. They lacked that extra something that brings things truly alive. As we worked through their scenes for each of them to find that hook that connects one deeply to the role, the characters seemed to jump off the stage. Those generous actors left a little of themselves up there.

Who could ask for more?

Do You Give Good Audition?

Click True or False.

This is a shortened version of a test I give on the first day of Audition Class.

True  False I hate it when the auditor asks me, “What have you been doing lately?”
True  False I behave professionally and never waste the auditor’s time with chat about something other than the business.
True  False I let the auditor set the tone for the audition.
True  False If I can figure out what they want, I can give it to them.
True  False I repeat exactly what I did in the previous audition if I get called back.
True  False I hate people who sell themselves, but that’s what you have to do to get work.
True  False I have a hard time remembering the names of the  people conducting the audition.
True  False I feel good when I’ve shown my range during an audition.
True  False Acting in an audition isn’t real acting.
True  False If I had an agent with some clout, things would be a lot different.

I think the more often you answered “False”, the better off you are. This isn’t the forum to go into a lengthy discussion about why I think that, but class is.

If you answered “True” to a lot of these questions, if you’re not booking from your auditions, if your work isn’t up to par or if you know you’re either too passive or too defensive to see the business accurately, maybe the audition class is for you.