Archive for October, 2008

Oct 29 – It’s all in your mind.

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , , on October 29, 2008 by actingchick

So the tennis game continues.  Back and forth back and forth.  You are annoyed.  I’m annoyed.  You are boring me.  I’m boring you.  You are upset.  You are upsetting me, etc, etc, etc.  The verbalization part has remained the same, but now the framework is getting more complicated.

The repetition exercise is funneled through an increasingly complex conglomeration of imaginary machinery.  Every week new modules are strapped on affecting the output of the input.

Now we have put the exercise on its feet as it were, set it loose in an artificial environment.  First the criteria was Person A was in their room chillin’, Person B comes to the door and knocks.  Then Person A opens the door (or not if they so choose), and lets the person in and the repetition exercise begins.

Then an activity for Person A, the person in the room, was added.  Person A has to be doing some sort of task that has a cap, i.e., you will know when you are done with it.  The activity has to be done for some imaginary reason, but generally in regards to a real person.  Like I’m going to make a cake for my girlfriend because she has had a hard day work because her boss gave her a bad evaluation.  The girlfriend is real, but the bad evaluation is imaginary.

The next module was upping the importance of the activity.  It now has to be based on a life altering event of some sort, again involving a  real person, but imaginary circumstances.  You might be asking, what does that mean?  That’s what we all did.

An example that Robin gave was of previous student whose dad never thought he was manly enough, even though he was a perfectly regular guy, with a family, and a successful job.  His dad was apparently a NFL coach, so his imaginary life altering circumstance was that his dad was getting an award for his football coaching that was going to be shown on national TV.  The son would show up at the event in drag and embarrass the coach father.  The activity would be making the dress he would wear.  The emotional state generated: revenge.

This is all the background set-up for the exercise.  Then while you are sewing away on your dressing plotting your dad’s imminent humiliation, someone comes to you door and your only mode of conversation is stating either what you think their behavior is, or how their behavior is affecting you, while letting the background situation affect you however it is going to affect you.

So for this Sunday I have to come up with an activity.  I have something in mind, but I have to work out more details before the reveal.  I have to tell you this stuff is hard.  The purpose is two-fold (perhaps more-folds that i am unaware of as yet): to exercise our atrophied imaginations, and to help us experience a variety of emotional states, while hopefully managing to stay “present” with your acting partner through the repetition exercise.

If it sounds hard, and it sounds uncomfortable, it is.

Oct 9 – On and on and on.

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 13, 2008 by actingchick

Things are evolving.  When I last posted I was explaining the Meisner Repitition exercise to you.  The observing of your partner, the noting of a characteristic.  The saying of the characteristic over and over and over and over again, until some other characteristic or attribute pops to the forefront of consciousness, starting the cycle one again.

We started with simple statements, like “nose”, moved to “big nose”  then to complete sentences such as, “You have a big nose.”  Then we started noting emotions and the physical expression of those emotions, known as “behavior.”  This would be like “You are offended that I said you have a big nose.”  Often this would just be shortened to “You are offended,” for simplicity.  The person with the big nose would say from their point of view, “I am offended,” and this would repeat until someone noticed another behavior.  And as noted before, the person can change the statement if it is not true for them.

Now we get to also take our response to what someone has said to us, and then put the it back on them.  It’s probably just easier to give an example of what this means.

Bob: You have a big nose.
Alice: I have a big nose.
Bob: You are offended.
Alice: You offended me.
Bob: I offended you.
Alice: You offended me.
Bob: I offended you.
Alice: Your annoying me.
Bob: I’m annoying you.
Alice: You’re annoying me.
Bob: You’re boring me.
Alice: I’m boring you….

It goes on pretty much until some outside force stops it.  When we are in class, it is Robin, and when we are doing our practice outside of class it is generally when our alloted half hour is up,  when we spill our coffee haus beverage into our lap, or some other distraction breaks the flow.

You might be thinking to yourself, why are we doing this?  What is the point?  What do you learn?

These are all good questions, and when I figure it out I will let you know.

Sep 28 – You look silly.

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , , , on October 2, 2008 by actingchick

So the third night of Meisner.  Again with the warm-ups and exercises.  This time we do an exercise which I have done before, but I always find fun.  I don’t have a good name for it, but here’s what happens.

You pair up with someone and then decide who will be the leader.  Whoever is the leader will lead the other person around the room.  The other person, the follower, will have there eyes closed, and the only thing connect the two will be the very ends of their fingertips.

So the leader guides the the follower around the room, careful not to bump them into the furniture or the object that are now being strewn about for the blind followers to interact with.  Robin runs around pulling out chairs and pillows, mops and ladders, rolls of paper and boxes.

The leaders then take their followers up to an object and place their hands on it.  The follower gets to feel whatever the object is and enjoy whatever tactile information they get.  After a bit with that object the leader takes the follower’s hands off the object and moves on to another.

Then after a while the leader no longer uses the finger tips to lead but just the voice.  You pick a word (I used biscuit) and keep saying it over and over.  The follower tunes in to the sound of the leader’s voice. Again the followers get to interact with objects.

This whole process take about five to ten minutes. And then you switch.  It is very interesting to be the follower.  First of all you have to trust your partner will not walk you into the wall.  It is also more comforting to be led by the fingertips, instead of by voice alone.  Then there is feeling the objects and figuring out what they are.  And at last, you get to open your eyes, only to find yourself in some part of the room, where you didn’t think you were.

After that Gauntlet of Repetition was set up, the chairs aligned in their rows.  We did the Basic repetition, described in the previous entry.  Then we moved on to the level known as Point of View.  In Point of View you get to say a complete sentence.  Back to Alice and Bob. Bob looks at Alice, notices an attribute and says, “You are wearing a green shirt.”

Alice says, “I am wearing a green shirt.”
Bob says, “You are wearing a green shirt.”
Alice says, “I am wearing a green shirt.”
Bob says, “You are wearing a green shirt.”
Alice says, “I am wearing a green shirt.”
Bob says, “You are wearing a green shirt.”

Now here is where it gets a little more interesting.  Let’s say Alice says to Bob,”You have brown eyes.” Now Bob, thinks his eyes are Hazel, so he would say, “I have Hazel eyes.” Then Alice would say, “You have Hazel eyes.” and the repeating would continue.

You only get to change the attribute to make it “true” for yourself.  Someone might say,”You are serious.”, because that is how they interpret your look.  Then if that person feels they are serious, they would say “I am serious”, but if they were not feeling serious, they could change it to whatever they thought they were feeling.

Alice says, “You are serious.”
Bob says, “I am sleepy.”

This repeats until Robin stops it, or until one of the actors, notices another attribute, and then says that.  Again, if the person agrees, they repeat, if not they change the phrase.

And again, we have to meet several people outside of class to practice.  Ignore the crazy people in Starbucks; they are most likely actors.

Sept 23 – Repeat After Me

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , , on October 1, 2008 by actingchick


So day two of Meisner class.  We started doing the basic stretchy acting warm-ups that I’ve tended to do in every acting class. We did some more acting exercises as well, the basic stuff, but nothing Meisnery yet.  Then it came.  Robin, our instructor, lined up two parallel rows of chairs facing each other, separated by about six feet.  Between them she placed two chairs facing each other about three feet apart.  From this arrangement the people in the two parallel rows, would be able to see the profiles of the people in the center, and the people in the center would be looking directly at each other.

She gets two volunteers.  The two suckers, I mean, students went up and sat in the chairs, hands in laps, trying to seem relaxed.  She explained the exercise.  It is Meisner’s famous repetition exercise.  The version we were doing was called the Basic, and as we progress more complexities will be layered on to this most basic of forms.

The Basic consists of exchanges between the two actors in the middle.  One person is chosen to start, let’s call her Alice.  The other actor we will call Bob.  Alice will close her eyes, and try and clear her mind.  Then she will look at Bob, and whatever physical attribute she first notices that pops into her head she will say.

Alice closes her eyes, and then looks up at Bob.  She notices he is wearing glasses.  She then says, “Glasses.” Bob listens then repeats “Glasses.”  It goes on like this

Alice: Glasses.
Bob: Glasses.
Alice: Glasses.
Bob: Glasses.
Alice: Glasses.
Bob: Glasses.
Alice: Glasses.
Bob: Glasses.
Alice: Glasses.
Bob: Glasses.
Alice: Glasses.
Bob: Glasses.
Alice: Glasses.
Bob: Glasses.
Alice: Glasses.
Bob: Glasses.
etc, etc, etc…

After a while Robin will stop the actors, and then Bob would start by looking away, and then back at Alice, and then says the first attribute that pops in his head. For instance, “Hair”. The progression again goes on until they are stopped.  After a few rounds of this, the actors in the middle are switched out and some new ones come in.

It is a bit like watching a tennis match.  Sitting on the sidelines, I could see my fellow actors heads swiveling left, then right, as they listened to and watched, the riveting exchange.

After we all went the first time we got to do a second round, this time getting to be a little more descriptive.  People were saying things, like wire-rimmed glasses, and long brown hair, and red t-shirt. Not poetic, but functional.

We finished the second round and then were given our homework assignment.  We needed to meet at least three people between now and the next class to do this exercise with for a half an hour.

Because we are all spread out over the greater Seattle area, most of us decided to meet in mutually accessible locations, like coffee shops located between people’s homes.  So if you were in a Starbuck’s and saw two people sitting across from each other saying “Nose.” “Nose.” “Nose.” “Nose.” “Nose.” for minutes on end, most likely they were actors studying Meisner.

Or they were crazy.

Sept 21 – Meisner

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , on October 1, 2008 by actingchick

So I have started the Meisner Program, or what I like to refer to as advanced acting class to my friends who don’t know who Sanford Meisner is, or the history of his style of acting training.  It probably isn’t really advanced, although you are required to have some base level of experience before you start, and are screened through an interview process to make sure that you know what you are getting into.

I actually interviewed for the program last year, but it was recommended to my by Robin Smith, the instructor, that I wait until I had more experience.  She would have let me in because I did have some experience taking Freehold classes, and had been in one Freehold play, and also that I had gotten my blackbelt in Aikido, which demonstrates a certain amount of willingness to stick with something difficult.

Still, she thought if I got more experience I would get more out of the class.  I chose to follow her advice and put it off for the next year.  I can see now that she was correct, and that what I learned in the year between, was invaluable, and I am much more ready to milk this class for all that my current level of abilities can.

So class started.  I think I entered with an advantage, because I already knew half the class.  Over the summer I did my second Freehold play, The Man Who Came to Dinner, by Kaufman and Hart.  All but one of the cast members from that play were in the Meisner class, in addition to two people I had taken other classes with.  Out of the 17 students, I knew 10 of them already.

The first day there was a lot of talking.  The usual, introduce yourself, what do you want to get out of this class sort of thing.  We did some basic acting type warm-ups and some basic acting exercises.  Nothing Meisner specific yet, just the sort of stuff you do in Acting 101.

One of the fun things we did, to give some variety to the say a little about yourself thing is called Video Pen Pal.  You get up in front of the class, and you get a minute and a half to present yourself as if you were being recorded on video as an advertisement for a pen pal, or dating service.  So you get up and ramble on about yourself for the set amount of time.  “I was born in California, I moved to Seattle when I was 20, I like kittens, walks on the beach, and reading mid-19th century German philosophers….”

Then someone else in class gets to do what is called Playback.  They get to go up and recreate as much as they can your portrayal of yourself, repeating what you said, as best as they can remember, and trying to reproduce your mannerisms, and convey your overall personalization.

So you get to ramble on about yourself, while everyone is watching you, and then you get to see someone else ramble on as if they were you, while everyone is watching them. Nothing there to make anyone feel uncomfortable.

Acting is so fun.