Archive for June, 2009

June 26 – The end and the beginning.

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , , , on June 26, 2009 by actingchick

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So it’s over.  Last night was the final class of the Meisner progression that I have been taking for the last nine months at Freehold.  I have spent the last three years taking acting classes at Freehold Theater.  It has been a wonderful, terrifying, exciting, hard, frustrating, magical, roller-coaster of a ride.

The last class was a performance where we presented the scenes we have been working on for the past few weeks to our friends, family, and other students.  My scene partner Bill and I did a scene from The Marriage Play by Edward Albee.  We have been working hard on it, and it paid off last night.

The process wasn’t without its turmoil though.  Our last two rehearsals with our teacher, the incomparable Robin Lynn Smith, were hell.  When she starts of her notes with, “Well, the nicest thing I can say is that you don’t have any stakes,” then you know you are in trouble. She sliced and diced our performances until we were left thinking, why are we here?  What have I been doing for the past three years?  I have to say this was justified ginsu-ing.  We were lackluster, but we didn’t realize it, until we really turned up the heat.

My scene partner Bill had a hard time with his part of the scene.  He has a rather long monolog in the middle of it.  He would get contradictory notes from Robin each time we had a rehearsal.  He tried to do them all and ended up in a mush.  My problem was getting my stakes.  I had trouble connecting emotionally with the scene, because I don’t behave the way my character does, and I didn’t know how to be that way.  I got a lot of notes, that I had to go further, be bigger, be more of this, or more of that. I’m timid by nature, so this was really hard for me.

The last few days I was so desperate to break through my inhibitions I started to try self-hypnosis.  I stared at a hypnotic swirl on my computer screen and repeated phrases like, when I perform I am fearless and confidant.  When I perform my emotions flow freely.  When I perform I am relaxed and creative.  Anyway, I think it actually worked.  I was nervous, but not as much as I normally am, and I was really able to amp it up during our final performance.  I did things we hadn’t rehearsed, and I dealt spontaneously with the fact that my shoe fell apart in the middle of the scene.  I also was able to respond to Bill when he tried new things in the scene.

He too really shone in the final performance.  He managed to overcome what had been giving him so much trouble, by deciding that instead of trying to do the notes Robin gave him, he should do what worked for him.  It totally worked.  It wasn’t that he didn’t do what Robin suggested, because he did, but not all of it.  He worked out for himself what worked, and then allowed that to happen.

Before the scenes started Robin reminded us that we are here to learn how to use all the tools we have been shown, and that though this was a performance, we should approach it with astonishment as if it was happening for the first time.  I think this really helped us all.  We both tried new things in the scene. We played.  It was fun. everyone’s scenes in class were wonderful.  It was amazing to see how everyone grew, even in the last few weeks.  We all shone up there, basking in the glow of the support of our families, friends, and fellow students.  It was a wonderful experience, that filled me with hope, and a sense that I have arrived, not at the final destination, but at the top of the long hill I’ve been climbing, and now I can look back and see where I have been, while getting ready to descend into the forest, the unknown future.  Not with a sense of dread, but a sense of accomplishment, and a sense of adventure.

I’m an actor.  Now I have to act.

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June 12 – Kick em when they’re down.

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , , on June 12, 2009 by actingchick

So we are less than two weeks away from the big final performance of our scene.  I feel as if we are doing as much work as we would for a whole play as we are doing for this ten minute scene.  We are doing a scene from Edward Albee’s The Marriage Play.  In the section we picked to do there is a knockdown fight.  My scene partner Bill and I really wanted to be able to do a good fight, since it really makes the scene, so we hired one of the teachers at our school to help us choreograph the fight, and make sure we didn’t kill each other, while trying to kill each other.

The first night we got together with the wonderful Brynna Jourden to help us, she ran us through some basic moves and concepts.  I’ve had three quarters of stage combat, but that was a year ago so I was a bit rusty, and Bill hadn’t had any experience with stage fighting.  We started warming up with trying to touch the other person’s stomach while trying to keep the other person from touching our stomach.  Our hands and forearms had to maintain some contact with each other.  It’s a fun thing to do.

Then we moved on to doing some basic unarmed combat techniques.  Mostly review for me, but new for Bill. He did really good on picking things up.  We did some slaps, some strangling, elbows to the stomach, arms twisting, groin kicking, basic falling, and rolling around on top of each other. A good start, and we didn’t get injured, so that was good, although I’m feeling a little tenderized from rolling on the hardwood floor.

We got together a few days later and then started crafting the actual choreography.  Brynna had some ideas, but took our input and modified things to our abilities as well.  At the end of our two hour session we had the basics of a good fight.  We are supposed to be exhausted at the end of this fight, our characters laying on the floor, and there won’t be any problem with playing that.  No actual acting necessary.  We were properly winded and we weren’t even going that fast yet.

I think it is a good fight, it has some slaps, some wrestling, a groin kick (scripted), some choking, rolling, hair-pulling, grasping, biting, crawling, and elbows and strangleholds.  What more could you ask for.  Now we have to work this into the part where we are doing the “acting”.  It’s almost like working on two scenes that we now have to put together.  We only have four classes left, and we are going to cram as many rehearsals in as we can.

This Sunday, we have our first full run through in front of our teacher, Robin, and this is the first time she will see the fight, and we will  see how much we can actually pull off.  It will be interesting to hear what she has to say.  I will report back with an update .

June 1 – Wrestlemania

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , on June 1, 2009 by actingchick

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Last night in Meisner class we got to do our physical metaphors.  What is a physical metaphor?  Well, we are supposed to take the essential conflict of our scene, and then translate that into something physical that we can do.  In our scene, from Edward Albee’s The Marriage Play, I want to keep my husband of 30 years from leaving me, and he wants to get understanding from me as to why he needs to leave.

So my challenge was to tie him up with a sheet, thereby keeping him from leaving.  His goal was to get an item (a sock) that I had hidden on my body somewhere (not on my foot that would be too obvious), and then get out of the door.  To add to the difficulty, I had to stay sitting on a mattress while doing this.

We had to do this while saying our lines.  To help us out, we each had “shadows”,  people who would feed us our lines, in little phrase bits.  We both were pretty much off book, so this was something  just to help us out, because in the struggling you can forget where you are in the text.  We also had a selection of spotters that were around us to make sure we didn’t run into poles, or furniture, or other people.

I don’t know how long it actually was, but it felt like an eternity.  Guessing on how long it was for the other people I’d say it was about 10 minutes.  Try wrestling with someone for ten minutes, it’s exhausting.  I was wearing a pair of cargo capris with lots of pockets.  I stashed the sock in the lowest pocket on my right leg, right about knee level.  I folded it flat as possible, so it wouldn’t be noticeable.

We started out energetically.  I tried slinging the shet over him and getting it wrapped around his arms.  He kept searching me.  He didn’t go for the lower pockets, tried sticking his hands in my upper pockets and back pockets.  I kept trying to wrap his arms up, or get the sheet around him, and of course do his task, he kept having to break free of my attempts.  This worked in my favor, at least for a while, because he couldn’t search while he was trying to free himself.

Eventually though, he found out where the sock was.  Then my game plan changed from trying to wrap him up, to keep him from getting the sock.  I twisted and turned so he couldn’t reach the pocket, rolling one way and another, but eventually he got it.  Then he tried to leave, so now my job became to hold on to him and not let him go.  I’m supposed to stay sitting on the mattress, but he is stronger than me, so eventually he pulled me off, but I wouldn’t let go.

He was on his butt, dragging himself across the floor, pushing with his legs.  I was holding on with a death grip to his pants (each hand located dangerously close to either side of his crotch), on my stomach, as he dragged me along with him.  I wanted to let go, and get a better grip, but I knew if I did that he would spring away, and the way I was laying I wouldn’t be able to get him fast enough before he got out the door.

So we inched along across the floor, with our entourage of shadows and spotters.  Frantically saying our lines, until finally… finally, Robin came over and told us to stop, when we were about five feet from the door.  We lay there in an exhausted heap, sweaty and out of breath.

Fun you ask?  Yes,  but it also had the desperation of the scene, especially at the end.  I couldn’t do much but hang on and hope that he wouldn’t leave.  He interestingly said, that at that point he was hoping I would do more to keep him from leaving.  Interesting when you think about it.  A husband who wants to leave, and wants his wife’s blessing as it were, but also wants her to fight to keep him more than she is.

I also got in touch with the desperation that my character has.  That was important for me, because I hadn’t been able to get in touch with that much, just on an intellectual level.  Also, interesting was that the fighting was fun.  In the play, the husband and wife snipe and verbally jab at each other.  I think this, in better times for them, is how they have fun and connect, how they challenge and stimulate each other.  That came out in the wrestling

So very productive, if exhausting.  I burned a lot of calories.  I was saying, who needs aerobics, and Tae Bo, and ab machines.  Find someone and wrestle them for ten to fifteen minutes.  You’ll get a great workout, and you might learn some interesting things about your relationship.