Great News! I Don’t Have to Move to Alaska!

I swore I would move to Alaska if I botched the first scene for Acting for Directors. As I have mentioned, it’s a pitiful little scene (although I do get to play a possible serial killer, which is always a hoot.) It’s only two minutes and after a week, I’m still fudge on the lines. That’s a bad sign, considering some of the students take a 10 minute script home and know it, pitch-perfect, the next day. Anyway, the scene was a success. The director DID comment on how short it was. Told ya’! I swore that if I screwed up that scene after having a good week to get into it, I was going to drop everything and move to Alaska. Luckily for Alaska, that did not happen.

In other news, our script analysis class is moving along swimmingly. I really like Professor Russ. He’s smart, passionate, alert, aware, ready to spring, ready to help, ready to act…the guy’s got tremendous energy and his enthusiasm for words, for scripts, is downright infectious. I haven’t done the best or worst job of getting a grip on the course material, but scripts are looking more fascinating and less daunting to me now. Going over Shakespeare’s The Tempest line by line, thinking, exploring, questioning, it really deepened the experience and made clear some of the impenetrable nuances of Shakespeare on cursory readings. We’re turning in our analysis work this weekend, but there is more to go with this play. We’ll be deconstructing plot, and examining what happened before the play begins and what happens after it ends.

Here are the blogs in other classes for the week:

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Acting for Directors:

9/11/2013

 

I emailed my G.O.T.E. to Professor Young. It’s pretty clear he’s all over his email, because he remarked as he walked in that he got it. That’s good. Our scene was today. Believe it or not, as short as it is (too short, Dr. Young later remarked), I had difficulty putting those lines in my head. I don’t know if I don’t connect to the material because it’s a ‘monologue scene’ and not a part of a larger play. It has that feel too, of an exercise rather than a thought-out piece of writing. But you know, there’s a challenge in that too, to make it seem professional, to bring weak material up and give it more than it has…more than it deserves. We were first. For all practical purposes, we nailed it. I had been so nervous even days leading up to it. Doesn’t really make sense, with all my experience (30 years), here I am overthinking maybe? And I owe my director an apology…I judged early. The fact is, some of the direction was extremely helpful. Some of her exercises which I had blown off helped. I still think her sensibilities are, some of them, polar opposites of where I would go with the material, but again, finding the director’s vision and marrying it to what I can do within her constructs…GOOD SKILLS TO KNOW AND GOOD LEARNING: ADAPTABILITY / THE SHARING OF TRUST. My scene partner is beginning to warm up. I’ve been making little in-roads trying to break her out of her shell, trying to get her to laugh, enjoy the process. She did quite well. We received good and fair criticism from Dr. Young and a few classmates, and we’ll do it again with those suggestions in mind in a week. I was so FUCKING pleased (pardon my French—it’s to indicate intensity) that the round is over and the ground is broken for me as a performer in this class. I am so FUCKING pleased that I, for the most part, delivered the lines correctly and organically from the character. Now that the ice is cracked, I can relax and get to work! Dr. Young’s suggestions are typically brilliant and helpful. He reminds me, if I haven’t said it before, of a friendly Al Pacino, but boy, does he know his stuff. His observations are keen!

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ACTING II:

9/11

 

Today, we continued with Stanislovski (which I now have discovered is with the ‘i’ and not the ‘y’). Details are truly important. My ‘beats’ and ‘motivations’ are sketched out into my monologue now. I did not yet get a chance to do a first reading, but I’m growing more and more to like it. Our warm-up was pretty fun. If the Professor says ‘Bippity Boppity Boo’, you have to say ‘Boo’ before she does or you’re out. If she say ‘Boo’, you do nothing at all, or you’re out. Believe it or not, it’s hard to do nothing when someone barks, ‘Boo’ at you. If she says, ‘Hop’, you hop one time or your out. If she says ‘elephant’ the person she says it to pretend to be an elephant and the people on either side pretend to be the elephant’s ears. If she says ‘jello’, the person she says it to pretends to be jello and the people to either side pretend to be the bowl. If she says ‘angel’, the person she says it to puts their hands together as if in prayer and the people to either side do that as well and sing like they’re in church.

 

When the game begins, it’s so frenetic and easy to lose concentration. “Bippity bob…” “BOO!” someone says. “ELEPHANT” [elephant noise, trunk, ears] “PRAY! JELLO! BOO! BIPPITY BOPPITY” […the Professor goes around the circle fast and indiscriminately…] It’s fun. It goes on like this but teaches awareness, connection, cognitivity (my word), and the like.

 

We had comments on the four or five who presented their first readings. Comments included: Vary your rhythm so you don’t do a monologue that is “one note”. Use the space. Keep your points of focus clear. Be specific. If you’re at the dinner table, who’s there with you? How old are they? Where is each person sitting? Etc.

 

Very productive day. I’ll present my first read of the monologue on Friday. This gives me some time to get it into my body and mind.

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ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE:

9/10

 

Our session began with an NPR cassette tape program which talked about a researcher at the Chicago Art Institute. He had been evaluating responses to the ‘I Know’ writing process. We have examined this in Acting II to create a self-monologue. Something tells me this will be similar, but as I’m approaching it as if I haven’t done it before, it will be interesting to compare the difference. Basically, you have five minutes to write down any statements (the less thought the better) on a sheet of paper and each statement must begin with the words, “I Know”. Examples: I know I’ve done this before. I know, that although I’ve done this before, the results will be different and illuminating. etc. Next, we continued with contact exercises. Beginning with the floor (we’re on the floor and the ‘floor’ is our first ‘contact partner’, we begin imagining ourselves as water balloons and become aware of various points of contact on the floor. We listen and tune in to our bodies…does this motion hurt, are we stressed when we roll this way or that, what does the floor feel like? What parts of us like the floor more than others? Under direction by the Professor, we begin to rise and fall ‘into’ the floor. We begin to organically come closer to other actors in the room. We undulate in and out between the spaces. At one point in this exercise, a beautiful feeling of being a part of a single organism washed over me. Those were beautiful moments…no thinking, just experience and flow.

 

We found our way to partners and did some sharing of weight (this requires balance, kinesthetic conversation, and most of all, trust). Trust, I am discovering, is a UBERCORE word in theatre. It may be THE word. It is required by actor, audience, and crew-member alike. I am noticing a freeing of my inhibitions with contact, touching other people. I’m not a touchy-feely guy, but I’m working on it. My partner was fantastic and very comfortable to work with. We rolled over each other, put our backs together and and lowered ourselves to the floor—and back up again without using our hands for support. We ‘surfed’ each other. It was like the massage that teaches you something about yourself, something about your partner, and something about each other as human beings. The macro and the micro are in full motion. I feel I am becoming more comfortable in my own skin.

ADDENDUM: MY “I KNOW” PAGE

Tom Miller – Alexander Technique

‘I Know’ Exercise – 9/11/2013

 

[5-minutes]

I know this exercise takes five minutes.

I know the sun is shining.

I know the weather is a beautiful thing.

I know what being color-blind is like.

I know I like typing better than writing.

I know I love writing.

I know some great poets.

I know computers help and hurt.

I know I have too many phone numbers but nobody calls me anyway except creditors.

I know UF is teaching me a lot.

I know I’ll be nervous if I ever have to take a dance class.

I know I’m out of shape.

I know I’ll get into shape once I get up off my ass and do it.

I know I still get nervous before performances.

I know I have trouble remembering some scripts.

I know I have body issues.

I know I need dental work.

I know I am happy with who I am.

I know sometimes it’s good to do nothing and be quiet.

I know sometimes it’s good to shout and scream.

I know violence is wrong but I know sometimes it’s good to get in a fight when necessary.

I know fights are necessary.

I know people could be better at being people.

I know there is a lack of compassion in the world.

I know religion has its good and bad points.

I know modern art is by and large either something shocking or something I could paint with my ass.

I know television shows today are lacking imagination.

I know I don’t watch television shows for reality.

I know I loved Gilligan’s Island, I Dream of Jeannie, and I Love Lucy.

I know Lucille Ball and Marilyn Monroe were underrated actors.

I know I love acting.

I know I love actors.

I know I love good stories.

I know I can talk about cinema for hours on end.

I know how to play the bass guitar.

 

[END TIME]

 

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