Sunday, October 18, 2009

Acting Workshop Day 4...and Not.

I never expected my updates on my acting class to end up being so complicated, because I never expected the class itself to be so. However...

The class is somewhat up in the air about a few things. And in fact until Friday night, the it's very continued existence was questionable. Again, I don't want this blog to be about anything but acting and my thoughts thereof when I can help it, but so much has gone on with this acting class that I feel a brief overview is due.

We were scheduled to have class this passed Thursday as well as Friday. On Thursday I arrived to be told that the instructor was stuck in very heavy traffic over an hour away. It could be quite late before he showed up.

Those of us in the class then began a discussion as to what to do. It seemed a universal sentiment of those present that the schedule and timing of the class had thus far been a total disaster. Some even spoke of asking for refunds do to the perceived lack or organization on the part of several parties.

The confusion continued in that not everyone knew we were also supposed to meet the following day. This turned out to be odd, however, because this day was agreed to weeks before, despite the fact that meeting in the theatre was impossible on that day; the theatre's next play would be opening that night. So there was confusion and irritation about the fact that this was not known. The discussion moved to how and when to next meet, and how to possibly make up for the lost evening (which Thursday was turning out to be, most doubting the teacher would arrive in time to do anything.)

After much discussion, someone's private home was secured for the next evening's session.

As for Thursday, there was little that could be done. Some wanted us to work on our scenes alone, but two of the actors opted to not come to class that night, which left their scene partners unable to present their scene, even informally. One member of the class was not in a scene, and I had just started work on my monologue that day. (More on that later.)

One of the actresses who had no scene partner read the missing parts for the one group's scene, while the other scene practiced on their own. (All this while the final dress rehearsal for the theatre's next show was taking place in the next room.)

I, along with 2 others, left early. There seemed to be little reason for me to remain there. I could have offered opinions and advice on the other scenes that were being independently practiced, I suppose, but given that I have so little grasp on the way the teacher thinks acting ought to be, I didn't think my advice or observations would contribute anything. So I abandoned the "class" and went home.

The next day, this last Friday, I had my doubts as to weather I was going to make it to class, for various reasons. I wasn't even sure if we were having the class on Friday or not, as an email had not yet been sent out to confirm same. An email did come around 1PM, just after an email from one of my classmates expressing a great deal of disappointment and frustration about the organization of the class. It was not a vicious email, and in my view many of the frustrations were understandable. (This is where to continuance of the class was called into question.)

But we all met at the agreed to private home, the teacher somehow managing to not get stuck in rush hour Friday traffic. (Miracle.) Five of the ten students in the class opted to not attend this session for various reasons. (Including some who had missed the previous night as well.)

A discussion ensured as to the future of the class. I kept a low profile for this chat. I didn't think i had anything different to offer than what had already been offered, and I was prepared to go with whatever the consensus turned out to be.

What happened was that in order to make up for Thursday, (and possibly add a bonus day in order to repay everyone for their patience) THREE sessions were scheduled for next week. One on Tuesday, one on Thursday and one (Tentatively) on Saturday. During this time our new scene assignments for our second scene will be given out.

Everybody following me so far? No? Don't feel bad, I am barely keeping up with it myself.

It all comes down to several examples of poor communication and organization on the part of multiple parties, I dare say. I don't really have much more to say about those aspects than that.

So, what about the actual acting involved in this whirligig? It follows below...


As far as the acting aspects of the class, I continue to struggle with some aspects of the curriculum. For those not presenting a scene, the sessions consist mostly of watching the small fragments of scenes that the performing group gets through, before the instructor stops them and engages in what he calls "interviews". I mentioned these in previous entries. This is where the instructor addresses the actor, in character, and asks them numerous stream of consciousness questions. One question ;leading to another, with no option for the actor to take a step away and look at the material or the performance objectively.

Indeed, at one point, when an actress referred to something in her script she had not followed, the instructor replied with things like "what is this script you are speaking of? I see you talking to the couch as though there were people sitting on it...(which I happened to be at that moment.) Sometimes these question sessions to one individual character can go on for 30 minutes at a clip. All I can do is watch it happen. I cannot engage in the process.

Then the scene will continue, only to be stopped a few moments later with either some more interviewing, or some instruction as to specific moments. (The "Good or Bad" exercise, which I also mentioned before. Here.)

All told it was several hours of this. (We took a small break at the halfway mark during which the instructor talked to each of us about the progress in our own scenes.) I cannot stress enough that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with any of this. But I must stress with equal zeal that 85% of the time I get little out of proceeding in this fashion. In fact, to some cast mates I have come to be known as someone who is "learning nothing" from the class. I do not think that is entirely true, as I have picked up on some overall broad concepts that I like. But it is the execution of those concepts, and the straitjacket that is put upon me by the format of the class which bothers me. It prevents me from exploring any of those previously mentioned agreeable concepts. I don't feel I have enough freedom to explore what I am doing. I feel distracted by technique at the expense of developing character, and that is worrisome to me.

I don't think it would be of much use to talk more in depth about the specific things that were said during these sessions. It was, after all, in most ways not my session. It was the session of my fellow students who were doing there scene. And while there were theatrical concepts that were discussed during the time that would provide interesting and relevant material here, I think I will hold off until after I have presented my own scene. All of those concepts and questions and methods will be present for when I run the gauntlet myself. I will get into more of that when the time comes.

I can say that after watching a few of these sessions with my fellow students, I have a better idea of what to expect from my own. I am comforted by that. I am at least learning the nature of it.

As to my actual presentation, I have chosen not to go with the first monologue of the play, but with one of the later ones, wherein Father Flynn is delivering a sermon on gossip. I think it is more charged, and I can do more with it. I don't know how useful it will be to invest in one particular interpretation right now, as I know I will not in all likelihood be able to present the sermons in one single presentation. But I am going to try to etch out some general directions for Tuesday. (When in theory I am supposed to be able to deliver this.)

The final thing that happened during class in Friday was the assignment of our second scene. (Which seems very odd to me, as I never really actually ever worked on a first scene, given the split with my ex-scene partner, and the short time I have for this monologue.) But the good news is he allowed us to choose partners this time, and I chose to work with a theatre friend of mine that I have known for several years and am very comfortable with. I would have been alright with a new person, but given the choice I certainly prefer to work with people I know. So, it would appear, does my friend. So that is a go. We do not have the scene yet, but it looks like it will be from Chekov's Three Sisters.

So at long last that is the overdue and long update on the acting class. What an experience it has been so far.

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