Archive for May, 2009

May 29 – There’s always tomorrow.

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , on May 29, 2009 by actingchick

procrastination

So here is something I’ve learned about being an actor.  It’s not good to be a procrastinator and be an actor.

Should seem obvious, but it took me a while to catch on.  First of all, I shall admit  that I am a procrastinator, and a fairly skilled one at that.  I have pretty much managed to get through my life knowing how long I could get away with postponing something. Then running around frantically doing whatever it was I had to do at the last minute, cursing myself, that if I had done this earlier I wouldn’t be all stressed out.

I think I learned this in school as a kid.  I was smart enough to figure out what I needed to do to pass a class, and that’s pretty much all I did, and generally waited until the last moment to do it.  This sort of method, while stressful, lends itself to a more academic and paper writing, test-taking environment.  Not so much the performance world.

Because let’s face it.  It’s hard to memorize a bunch of text in a short amount of time. I find for myself this is done best in short bursts over a longer period of time, rather than trying to cram everything in at once.  It doesn’t stick very well, and the brain has trouble processing it all.

Then of course, anyone who has done a play or a scene realizes that you can always use more time to work on it.  Eventually you just have to go as is, but there is a certain amount of groundwork that needs to be done, or it just comes off as crap.

So here is my problem.  I’m a dyed-in-the-wool procrastinator, in fact at this moment I’m writing in my blog instead of doing my play research, and even this blog post was delayed several days, while I browsed the internet for useless widgets and weight loss miracles.  How do I get over this and start working on my acting preps that I’ve posted about before?

I have to day dream my character’s life and relationships. I have to read the play and mine it for statements about my character.  I have to analyze my scene for beats, and actions, and triggers, and blah blah blah.  Somehow I find time not to do it, and then, of course,  I stress out about not being prepared enough.  Why?

It’s that line about insanity is doing something the same way over and over again and expecting a different result.  My job is to figure out how to break this habit of procrastinating, because I want to do a good job.  There’s enough crappy acting out there, I don’t need to add to the pile.

Anyway, if anyone has suggestions, let me know.

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May 20 – Light at the End of the Tunnel

Posted in Uncategorized on May 20, 2009 by actingchick

tunnel

So we have started on our final scenes for class.  This is it, we are nearing the end, ambling towards the stagelights at the end of the tunnel.  Twelve classes left and then we are released like baby turtles on the beach, to crawl out of our shells and see if we can make it to the ocean without becoming  dinner.

The scene I am working on with my partner is from Edward Albee’s The Marriage Play.  To sum up the story: Man suffering a mid-life crisis, after having a revelation at his desk, comes home from work in the middle of the day, and tells his wife of thirty years that he is leaving her.  Let us just  say that she doesn’t take it all that well.

Lots of verbal sparring, similar to what goes on in Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but without the other couple.  There is a knock down drag out fight in the middle of our scene, which will be interesting to see how we pull that off.  I’ve had some stage combat experience, but my partner hasn’t.

Anyway we started our working reading last night.  Just running through the lines, with Robin stopping us to ask questions, about why we were doing or saying whatever we were doing or saying.  It was good.  I went early to watch some of the other people run through their scenes, which helped me feel more comfortable with the process when our time came.

There is so much to learn about a role, especially something complex like this.  Luckily Robin is there to help point things out to us.  It makes me wonder what we are going to do without here when this is all over.

May 5 – Tools of the trade

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , , on May 6, 2009 by actingchick

toolbox

So we have attacked the text of the play we have been studying from all sorts of angles.  The way we have learned to break down text so that you as an actor have a fighting chance of pulling out a good performance is as follows:

Read the play or script, a lot.  Read through a few times just to read it, as an audience member, for enjoyment, whatever.

Then read the play and go through and pick out all the things said about your character by your character, by other characters, and by the author in the description.  Things are are stated out plainly and things that are implied.

Research things.  The author, the culture and history of the time period in which the play takes place, and in which the author lived at the time  they wrote the play.  You should also go through and find words you don’t know and learn how to pronounce them, learn what they mean.  If there are names of people in the play that are real people, find out who they are, and try and learn why they were included by the author.

Look at all the relationships in the play.  Who wants what from whom? and why?  Who are you allied with?  Who are you against?  Who has power?  Who doesn’t?  And does the power shift?

Find the main conflict of the play, and the major turning points throughout. Look for changes in the dynamics and tactics of the characters, especially your own.

Then start looking at the scenes.  What is the  conflict of the scene?  What does your character want and how do they go about getting it?  Is this scene a private scene between characters or is it “public” among the other characters?  Important to know since people behave differently in public and private.  Yes, you have to pretend that a bunch of people aren’t watching you on stage for your private moments.

Then you have to start looking at the beats.  Why am I saying this?  What am I trying to get from the other character?  How do I want them to react to what I’m saying?  Is it working?  Do I need to change tactics?  What is my stake in this situation?  What are my obstacles?  Are there secrets that I have that other’s don’t know?

What about the physicality of the scenes?  Why do you move to a certain place when you say this?  Are you close, are you far away?  Is your back turned, and how does that effect the dynamic and power plays between characters?  The director will do a lot of this in blocking, but trying it on your own in rehearsal can be very enlightening.  I found myself moving to one part of the stage, only to feel that it wasn’t right, or maybe tried sitting on a line or standing, to see if it had a different feel, a different emotional effect.

This is only some of the things to ask yourself, there are more, but these are the ones I could remember off the top of my head.  You can spend, and should spend, a lot of time with this.  If it seems overwhelming, it is.  I’m overwhelmed.  We are about to start our final scenes that we will present at the end of our nine month journey.  We are to use all the things we’ve learned to help us.  It’s a lot of stuff.  I’m not sure I realized that until now.

I guess it’s good that we have a bunch of tools to use. Nothing is more annoying than trying to build something, fix something, put some IKEA furniture together and not having the right tools.  The more tools, the more likely we will have what we need. So I will take the overwhelmed feeling I have now, and try and enjoy it.