Archive for November, 2008

Nov 19 – Consciously Incompetent

Posted in Acting, actor, Art, Theatre with tags , , , , , on November 19, 2008 by actingchick

incompetence

I was talking to one of my classmates last night.  I mentioned that I had a blog about my acting school experience, but that I hadn’t been blogging much of late.  I explained that felt like I should blog, but my brain just felt like mush when it came to trying to process the information and experiences of class.

He told me about something he had read that Spalding Gray had said or written.  I’m paraphrasing his paraphrase, but I think you will get the idea.  He said the Spalding Gray was walking through the forest on a beautiful day, and the trees and sky were so exquisite and moving that he felt he should write about it, but didn’t want to, or couldn’t, or something like that, I’m not sure now. Did I mention my brain was mushy?

It’s like it is to hard to explain what’s happening, because I’m not really sure what’s going on myself. My paltry attempts at splicing words into a narrative are likely to fall short of what’s really going on.

Last night at the end of class, Robin asked us if we had noticed anything particular about that night’s performance bits.  People responded with various things such as the activities seemed more meaningful, the background stories richer, the interactions more complex, the connection deeper, the framework of the repetition exercise was looser, and on and on.

Basically what she was trying to point out was that we are improving. That by jumping through the Meisner-shaped hoops we are becoming better at our acting just by the act of doing.  It seems Zen.  Become what you are, become what you do, a no-matter-where-you-go-there-you-are sort of thing.

Robin made us all read Zen and the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel at the beginning of the quarter.  Basically it describes the process of repeatedly trying to master something and even though you keep doing it badly, the process of doing it despite all ones errors and misdirections, will lead to improvement and eventually mastery if you stick with it long enough.

The idea is to get to the point of Unconscious Competence, the fourth stage of competency.  The four stages of competency being:

  1. Unconscious Incompetency, you don’t know what you don’t know how to do.
  2. Conscious Incompetency, you know what you don’t know how to do.
  3. Conscious Competency, you know how to do what you do, but you have to concentrate on it.  And lastly,
  4. Unconscious Competence, you don’t have to think about what you are doing.  This is the realm of mastery.

Right now I’m in the land of Conscious Incompetence.  I know that I don’t know a whole lot.

Nov 14 – Add it up.

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , , , , on November 14, 2008 by actingchick

zer0_2

The Adding Machine by Elmer Rice, performed by the New Century Theatre Company at ACT Theatre.  Running from November 13, 2008 – December 13th 2008.

Verdict:  Go see it.  Now!

I think this is the best play I’ve seen in a while. It has a delightfully weird story, good actors, creative staging, all wrapped up into a disturbed fun house ride where you are not sure what is coming next.  Now how often can you say that, when you see a play or movie these days.

The story follows Mr. Zero, a plodding cog in the accounting department of a nameless store.  He’s been in the same job for twenty-five years, a fact that his nagging wife reminds him of continuously.  On his 25th anniversary his boss comes to tell him that he is being replaced by a new adding machine.  Let’s just say that he doesn’t take it well.  From there, the ride begins.

The play was written in 1923 at a time when the classic white American man was a mysogynistic racist, and Mr Zero is no exception.  One section of the play demonstrates the horrible racism of this time, and I’d warn audience members who might be sensitive to racial and religious epithets to be prepared for some graphic comments.

I was torn, feeling sympathetic with Mr. Zero and realizing that realizing that he’s an ass (and worse, but I don’t want to give the plot twists away).  Mr. Zero wends his way through his circumstances haphazardly.  He has moments where he dares to dream, but they don’t last, mostly his own fault.

If you liked the movie Brazil (especially the director’s cut), I think you would like this play.  It has a similar feel and look.  The set is miminal, but creates in the first half a decrepit art deco landscape. The ensemble creates a mood reminiscent of Metropolis, moving in rhythmic unison.  The music supporting the synchronization. I enjoyed the music, a mix of weird electronica, cinematic, with some singing bits now and again.  And there was dancing too. How fun is that.

What I liked about this play is that it kept me guessing.  I really didn’t know where it was going.  It wandered around seemingly randomly, not unlike what was happening to its protagonist.  I felt like I was riding on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland, wondering what was going to be coming next.  A weird delight around every corner.

I should talk about the acting.  I thought everyone was really good.  The juicyness starts in the opening scene, when Amy Thone, playing Mrs. Zero begins an impressivly alternating gossiping about the neighbors and complaing about her husband in a fast and long monologue.  I personally can’t imagine having to learn all that text, let alone get it out in a coherent manner that people won’t tune out in after 40 seconds.

I don’t have the program with me to accurately recall who played who and their names, so I will just say that everyone was good.  My favorites were the guy who played Mr. Zero, Amy Thone as Mrs. Zero, and the guy who played Shrdlu (I think that’s the character name – the guy who killed his mom).  In any case, everyone seemed believable.  I almost never thought some was saying their lines just to say their lines, which I of course am paying extra attention to since I’m in acting school, and taking Meisner classes.

I’m not a theater critic by any stretch, but I can tell you that I was thoroughly impressed.  Go see this show.  I mean it.

Nov 6 – Drive on

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , on November 14, 2008 by actingchick

Another review.  This time it is Becky’s New Car by Steven Dietz, making it’s world premiere at ACT Theatre in Seattle.

I have to say I liked this play. It was funny, and warm, and enjoyable. Not too deep, but not shallow either.  Having recently finished acting in The Man Who Came to Dinner, by Kaufman and Hart, I felt kinship with this play’s screwball heart.

Becky works at a car dealership processing the loans and paperwork.  She is overworked and under-appreciated.  She is steadily, if not excitedly, married to a roofer, and has the obligatory slacker psychology grad student son who likes to psycho analyze her.

One night she is working late when a very rich man, Walter, comes in looking to buy nine cars for his employees for appreciation gifts.  He claims he isn’t good at buying presents and asks her to do it for him.  Not wanting to turn down the sale of nine cars, she agrees.

In the ensuing coversation Walter, greiving for his own dead wife, mistakenly thinks Becky is a widow.  Not wanting to lose the sale, and also enjoying the obvious attention he is giving her, she doesn’t correct him, assuming that he will get his cars and be on his way, and that will be that.  What’s the harm? Oh, you know what’s coming next.

Of course he comes back later to persue her, and she is intrigued.  What follows is the classic mistaken identity/little white lie turns into writhing pit of chaos for everyone involved story.

The play had great screwball one liners.  The characters are cliches: The bored wife, the stable and intitaly clueless husband, the slacker son, the rich man who is surprised to find himself attracted to a real (read working class) woman. Still, you don’t mind because they are played well by the actors and are sympathetic.

The set was minimal, and the staging well done.  There was some audience interaction, which added to the laughs, and only at one point which I thought slowed the pace down too much, when three audience members were asked to come out on stage to help her get ready for her Cinderella ball moment.

I like to go on Pay What You Can Nights, because I’m a acting student who can’t afford the full price tickets.  When I go to the PWYC nights, I’m always expecting to see more poor college student types, but it is almost invariably the blue haired crowd that attends.  At this particular performance the average age must have been 68. I only saw one other person my age.  So when the poor ladies were called up on stage, it took them a good while to get there.  And at the end when the audience wanted to give them a standing ovation, I saw more than one person having a hard time getting out of their chairs.

But, really aside from that small snag, I thought it all worked wonderfully.

It closes this weekend (Nov 16th, 2008).  Go see it if you can.

October 31 – All for One

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , , , on November 14, 2008 by actingchick

Review of the Three Musketeers at the Seattle Rep.

I went and saw the Three Musketeers at the Seattle Rep.  It was Pay What You Can night,and Halloween.  My Stage Combat teacher Geof Alm played D’Artagnan’s father, and Treville, and a few other people besides, which was fun to see.  I always like to see my teachers in action.

How was the play?  Well it wasn’t bad.  The thing with any story that’s been done over and over and over again, is how do you make it fresh and interesting?  They tried, but I can’t really say they suceeded.

Not that there wasn’t some effort put in. They updated some characters, giving a few women a larger role, and more importantly control over their characters. For instance they added the role of Sabine, who is apparently D’Artagnan’s sister, who disguises herself as a boy to travel with D’Artagnan to Paris.  Oh and she’s a good swordfighter too.  If there is one thing I have a soft spot for is girls dressing up as boys to go on sword fighting adventures.  And it didn’t hurt that the actress was cute.  I give the production two thumbs up for that.

Still the story is the story and you know how it goes.  There was lots of sword fighting, with at one point 10 people on stage fighting simultaneously.  There was swinging from the rafter’s on ropes.  There were guns and cannon’s exploding. There was leaping from balcony to balcony, and all the sorts of swashbuckling action that you might come to expect from Hollywood movie.  And that’s what it felt like to me., a Hollywood movie put on the stage, which I imagine is no small feat.  And like many Hollywood movies, it was pretty to look at, but not much on substance.

Still it wasn’t a bad way to spend a Halloween.  Better than hiding in the dark in our house because we didn’t buy any candy.