Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Acting Workshop, Day Two

The second night of the weekly workshop had it's ups and downs for me.

To begin with, due tot he unexpectedly long commute of the instructor the class did not begin until well after 8, or about 40 minutes late. The suggestion has been made to make the starting time later. I am in agreement with that solution.

As for the class itself, we each were to bring in an object of personal significance. We sat in a circle, (there are about 12 of us), as were slowly instructed to do such things as look at the object, pick it up, weigh it in our hands, feel it, smell it, even "taste it if you dare". (I didn't dare.) This process was repeated for an imaginary version of said object.

Finally we would pass the object to our left, and take the object of the person to our right. We were then instructed, just as slowly, to do the very same thing with this object. Duplicates and all. At the end of which the object was passed to the left again.

This was done for each object in our group, until we got our own object back. This part of class took just about 45 minutes. After which we shared with the group what the object was, and why it was important to us. At which point we were instructed to look at our objects once again. To examine them from all sides, to weigh them, smell them...the whole thing repeated itself all over again, taken just over an additional half an hour I would guess.

The object of the exercise was clear to me; to both pay very specific attention to the details of an object and what it invokes in our minds, and compare to same after we have the story behind said object. Infusing something with back story to give it more potency.

A legitimate goal. A legitimate method. In my view an unnecessary length of time. All told we spent just over half of the three hour allotted time on the objects. For me I was beginning to get numb with the process of examination, and though the same point could have been made by merely switching objects with one other person.

The next exercise was similar in goal, if I understood it properly. The instructor recreated, in as much detail as he could, his living room, there in the green room of the theatre. By moving furniture, and having things represent his own furnishes, as broad facsimile of his own living room came into shape. (Brought alive by his descriptions of his room.)

He then took questions about his living room, (our group providing more than he had ever been asked during the exercise.) All told this took half an hour. One of the other students then did the same thing, this time recreating her kitchen. When she was done, it was announced that the normal next step of trying to repeat, word for word and step for step the previous 15 minutes of the class would be done away with in the interest of time. The point would have been, it was explained, to use the same mental patterns we had seen in creating the rooms to do it all over again. By becoming aware of the patterns we used to watch the rooms being built, and the patterns used by the two "builders" we could recreate the previous 15 minutes of the class with a surprising amount of detail, had we attempted to do so.

I personally did not get very much from this exercise, as I found myself spending more time on figuring out what the "secret" was. It may even be an element to my way of thinking that hinders me in this class; trying to determine what the twist is on any given exercise. Be that as it may I did not personally care for that one.

Then I was called up to read a two page scene with someone I have known several years. This was a very distracting and unpleasant experience for me, because of all of the very specific rules involved; memorizing a line before looking into my partner's eyes and delivering it. Having to share one script between the two of us. (Something I always get lost in doing no matter how closely I pay attention.) The goal was to, in theory, make sure each of us was giving, truly giving, a line to the other one, and making it a part of what was going on, and a part of our motivation. I failed to do this, however because as I said, there were too many unproductive distractions for my mode of thinking and rehearsing.

I feel these tactics may be more useful to someone brand new to acting. But I have been studying the craft for ten years this very month, and some of it felt like an attempt to reinvent the wheel. I obtain those goals when I am comfortable and permitted my own methods. But making use of these methods did not, at least on the night, blend very well with my mindset. I had a similar reaction to the concept of throwing a t-shirt to my scene partner at the end of every line delivered. (Still sharing a single script mind you, making it virtually impossible to know when my next line was.)

I must stress that I find nothing intrinsically unacceptable in these methods. nor do I believe I am beyond learning, or else I would not have bothered to take this workshop. I am however suggesting that the methods, as employed on the evening, were very counter-intuitive to my previous training and practices, and as such, felt like an encumbrance to me.

Then scene assignments were made. He assigned us characters, scenes and partners. No scripts were available, so as of yet, I do not know what my scene will be, only that it will be from the play Proof. The scenes are to be emailed to us in the coming days.

This concerns me, however, because much to my shock, we are expected to be off book and ready to deliver these scenes by the very next class! (just over 5 days from now.) During which time he wants each group of scene partners to work on the methods I described above on at least five separate occasions.

I'm a very committed actor, and I work hard and what I do. But having a scene cold to off book in five days, using methods I am not familiar with, and not knowing if schedules or commutes will allow five meeting with my scene partner, (whom I have never met before this class) feel very daunting to me. The instructor says that doing it this way, (the way it is done at Yale and many professional programs as he mentioned) will make memorizing very fast and simple. I cannot of course comment on that until I actually engage in it with my scene partner.

I have yet, as I said, to receive my scene. So I have my homework cut out for me, for certain this week. Once he sends us the script via email, I must read the whole play, study my scene, make time for 5 meetings with my partner, and find a space in which to practice, (we are not allowed to use the actual theatre), and be off book by Monday. (This may be lifted if the class needs more time.) Either way, much must be done.

And you know exactly where to go to find my progress on same; right here at AOB.


Anonymous said...

I'm not an actress, so I do not have professional experience to contribute here, but it does seem like the exercises are not suited to the class based on your description. Especially assigning a task to people who do not live in close proximity to the theater or to one another (unlike the college atmosphere at Yale), and expecting students to learn a play in 5 days when you didn't even bother to bring the scripts. As a teacher and public speaker, I can say he seems to be breaking the first rule of instruction, namely knowing your audience and shifting your presentation/lecture to their composition and interests. Hope that you find it more fruitful in the near future.

Ty Unglebower said...

Thank you for you comment on my blog and for reading it. I just want to point out one thing in fairness. It was only one scene we were expected to learn, not the entire play.