THE HOME STRETCH

alastair-sim3

Script analysis has been the most valuable course (they all have been, but in particular…) because the script is the heart of the matter of theatre. And it is in the script alone, first and foremost, that we glean the who, what, where, why, how of our play. Mamet argues all an actor needs is in the script and the audience doesn’t give a flip about the actor’s knowledge of a character from cradle-to-grave. Stand and say the words and your play is at hand, Mamet suggests. I counter that if we take this to be true, then he denies the actor. For if it helps the actor to say the words by informing his character inside the play from outside the play, all the better for the actor and if the audience doesn’t give a shit, so be it. What difference does it make to them? Maybe none. But what difference does it make to the actor? Maybe ‘all the’. I have never come closer to understanding characters and going deep into the words and structure of a play as I have with the techniques provided in this course. Last time I read The Tempest, I had no idea what the fuck was going on. A storm, some king, some girl, fairies flying around? I was eight. Whaddya’ want? Now, i can give a college-level dissertation on it. That won’t make me right about every point, but it will be my perspective defensible and valid. Were getting into the home stretch of this semester and I have a strange calm pervading my psyche. It doesn’t really make sense given all the challenges before me, but somehow, I know I have it in me to conquer and improve. I want to be a good storyteller. It’s so important to remember that at the core of human culture is storytelling and that without it, we die. Really. Morally, spiritually, emotionally, we die. I don’t want the wonderful gadgets and miraculous inventions to suck us into a void, I want them to be meaningful and useful. I’m on a rant here, but iPhones are not a required element of a play. However, I love that we can share information about a play, when a play starts, what it’s about, analysis, discussions, lessons learned…that’s a good use of iPhone. But if you can’t sit and hear a good story without constantly checking your iPhone, please understand, you are just plain fucked up. There’s no polite way to put it. And you know, somewhere, there’s a kid playing with a stick out in a meadow and having so much more of a sense of imagination and wonder that we who serve the smartphones and computers. And I promise you, if you traded your amazing gadget for that kid’s stick, you wouldn’t know what to do with the stick and that kid would NEVER EVER haphazardly drop his pocket-computer (connection to the entire world filled with vast knowledge) into the goddamn toilet. I see these phones dropping all the time and to me, it is symbolic of privilege, ironic isolation, and the death of dreams. Do remember your first play? How about your first cinematic experience at the movies with a group of your peers? Think about it for five minutes and switch off your phone/computer. For me, it was watching (on a field trip with classmates) a Christmas Carol (black&white 1951 with the outstanding Alastair Sim as Scrooge.) Now here I am, forty years later playing Jacob Marley. To me, that’s so much more amazing than anything I’ve ever seen on Duck Dynasty or Dog the Bounty Hunter or all the other stories being told in reality TV of today. (I actually like Dog the Bounty Hunter, Judge Judy…I’m a weirdo. But you can’t beat the magic of a really good story well told (theatre, literature, cinema). Enough of me for now. Here are the journals:

ACTING II:

11/4/2013

First showing of our monologues on-book today. Sam and I flipped a coin to figure out which character in our Glengarry Glenn Ross scene we wanted to play. We didn’t like how the coin-toss went so we just picked what we wanted. The Mamet language is a serious challenge. I’m pretty up on it because I’m a long time Mamet fan, and am acquainted with friends of friends of Mamet (Shamrock McShane—met and chatted up William H. Macy once…) So the cadence and precision of Mamet-speak is no mystery to me. But you have to get things just exactly right, cadence, timing, the words…this will be some work!

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ACTING FOR DIRECTORS:

11/4/2013

We are continuing to watch first-attempt final scenes for class. The scenes for this round are much deeper emotionally. One scene in particular looked completely like professional off-Broadway—totally committed actors giving everything they’ve got to their characters. We’re talking tears, stage combat, blocking (this is after only less than a week of work), so the bar is getting set high. One of our upcoming tasks is to summarize points we have learned in participating in Acting for Directors. Dr. Young doesn’t want the whole journal—just the sort of main bits that we’ll be incorporating into our work. So I think I’ll take a stab at this right now:

Tom Miller
Journal: Summary of Acting/Directing Notes

  • It’s good for a Director, when faced with a challenge from an actor who isn’t quite making the magic happen, the director can say, “Well, what would you do?
  • Specificity is the actor’s friend.
  • Set pieces (chairs, desks, counters, etc.) can take away from an actor’s energy (ie. Standing too close to a chair or desk can take away from the actor’s power/presence. In some cases, they can also suggest power (ie. The CEO Behind his desk is a ‘power’ location.)
  • Using an animal/color to help realize a character’s attributes is good advice. (ie. A lion/red character will be entirely different from a butterfly/pink character.)
  • “Crotch Energy” – The crotch-forward (power, masculinity, aggression) is very different from the crotch-backward (timidness, weakness, fear, powerless, softness) position. The psycho/sexual center of the body should be used for maximum effect.
  • What a character wears informs much about him or her (ie. A woman in high-heels has an entirely different presence. A man in a trench coat reads completely differently than a man in a T-shirt.) Costume is important for both the actor and the audience.
  • Use the performance space, use the set. Do not get locked into a holding-pattern or a single placement.
  • Scenes have a rhythm and a pace. Find them.
  • When performing an audition monologue, find a fixed point for whom you are speaking that is not in the direct eye-contact of your adjudicators.
  • Be aware of and make good use of tonality of voice.
  • There is always further to go and there is no perfection.
  • Period scenes need actors to use their ‘period bodies’. Beware of modern or contemporary bodies in period pieces (ie. No high-fives in a classical production of Shakespeare.)
  • Rehearsals can be stylized to improve certain performance aspects. (ie. If things need to be ‘larger’, do a rehearsal where everyone is quite over-the-top to get that sense into the body/mind/muscle. If enunciation or precision of language is required for a particular role, do a rehearsal where every word is over-enunciated, over-emphasized. If more sexual energy is required, try a rehearsal with more physical contact and over-sexualized body-language. Etc.)
  • Be on time, prepared, and respectful. When others are speaking, do not speak.
  • Different methods for different situations. The actor/director relationship is varied and requires various approaches. Use what works.
  • Actors should fully commit, take risks, be adaptable—things can always be dialed down and directors generally seem to prefer actors give more and let directors scale them back.

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ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE:

11/2/2013

Today I watched a number of videos available on YouTube of Marjorie Barstow, a master Alexander teacher. I read an article called “A Little Bit of Nothing” by Robert Rickover in which Barstow said described her work; ‘A Little Bit of Nothing’. Rockover was alluding, by way of describing Barstow, that we put so much efforting into our actions because we do not have clear intention. When we have clear intention (a little thing but an important one), all the actions surrounding that intention naturally ease, almost all on their own. From this, I deduce that both mind before the body and body before the mind result in tension (I think of my discussion in Script Analysis class where we talked about on side of a rubber band being what you want, and the other side being what’s preventing you, and we pull those sides apart and there is tension. Or, more precisely, one side of the rubber band being brain, the other being body, and if they move forward together in ease, no problem. You get one far ahead of the other, tension. Intention connects the brain body.

11/3/2013

Today I began my investigation of my topic for our partnered presentation for our Alexander final. My subject is ‘kinesthetic awareness’. I read an article called “Developing the Kinesthetic Sense” by Dona Sauerburger, M.A. in which she discussed our topic as “Muscle Memory” and relates how blind people can easily navigate by remaining internally ‘oriented’. She describes a series of exercises for people to increase their kinesthetic abilities including turning in place, walking a measured distance, walking a straight line (all with eyes closed) under the direction of a supervisor who can provide feedback and guidance such that one becomes gradually oriented to the space around them. Very interesting.

11/4/2013

A great quote from our textbook, Body Learning by Michael J. Gelb: “Everyone wants to be right, but no one stops to consider if their idea of right is right.”

Reading the parts about kinesthetic feedback, and how the body adjusts to how it ‘thinks’ it should be. We use our kinesthetic awareness to comparatively analyze in our brain whether what we are doing matches our body map, but as the quote suggests, the body map we are reading may not be ‘right’. I am reminded of that quote, “The map is not the terrain.” These are just little ideas popping into my head, and working them out—or rather how they work out will be very much the mission of this presentation we are to give as our final. The book refers to ‘sensory appreciation’. One of those senses is kinesthetic. Knowing exactly what the shape of one’s hand is when it is out of our view. How? Kinesthetic sense. A great article “Your Body Knows” at: http://www.massagemag.com/Magazine/2007/issue136/Your-Body-Knows-Kinesthetic-Awareness.php defines Kinesthesia as “…an internal awareness of your body.” It goes on to say, “The word “kinesthesia” comes from the Greek words kines (movement) and aisthesia (feeling)—so it literally means “movement feeling.” “Kinesthetic Dysfunction” is when that relationship is distorted, and I think this is exactly what Alexander is addressing. I like Alexander’s fun-to-say word better: “Debauched” kinesthesia.

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Thanks to the magic of YouTube (see, computers and gadgets aren’t all bad) you can travel back in time and enjoy the entire 1951 A Christmas Carol in the privacy of your own home for free. Just don’t drop it in the toilet: A CHRISTMAS CAROL – 1951

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