Thursday, October 29, 2009




the actors in the hallway

I arrive early at the space where I teach in LA on Wednesday nights. My classroom is off a hallway that has doors to studios where other classes are taught simultaneously with mine. Invariably, there are actors out in the hallway at a quarter to seven, clutching scripts (or sometimes not) and speaking earnestly to each other, apparently "rehearsing". Thet are all in street clothes, so it doesn't appear that they have given any thought to what they will wear in their scenes. Because they are rehearsing in the hallway, they have no physical environment. In a word, they got nothin. And they know it. And they are about to present that fact to their teacher and their peers, in their class. The resulting anxiety is so palpable you can cut it with a knife. I unlock my classroom and make my way in as quickly as possible, tape my poster up on the door, and then close the door, and wait for my students to arrive. I do my best to shed any of the free-floating nervousness that may have found its way into me as a result of passing through this activity.

My class starts, and 90 minutes in, we take a break. I head out into the hall to run down to the corner store and/or make a pitstop, and there are still actors out in the hall, reading off of photocopies and getting ready for the big moment. I am told that these actors are preparing to read in their "cold reading" class (I'll take that canard up another day).

The misguidedness...it burns. The practices I promote in my class for rehearsing couldn't be further from what is on display in the hallway. First off, I strongly encourage students to rent space to rehearse, rather than rehearsing in someone's apartment, let alone in the hallway before class. The act of formally setting aside time and space to give to rehearsing is very significant, apart from the practical advantages of such an arrangement, which are many. By setting aside time in this way, the actor affirms for herself the importance of what she is doing when she rehearses. She says to herself: "What I am doing when rehearsing is important enough to take steps to assure it gets done well."

When you do that, the creative part inside of you has a way of waking up and taking notice. And then, you never know what might happen. With the actors in the hallway, you always know what will happen: not much.

3 comments:

Madhypnotist said...

When you say rent a space to rehearse.. are you speaking of just for class room situations ? I prefer to rehearse on the actual set. If the set isnt available.. I recreate it somewhere. Most auditions take place in a small studio... or.. a rented room... If the goal is to be comfortable for that situation..shouldnt you rehearse in an environment that is even less appealing ? Kind of like practicing hitting a baseball with a heavier bat ?
I mean, you dont know me.. and maybe thats the case because I have been doing it wrong... Just opening a debate...

Mother of Invention said...

Thanks for the comment.

While I understand the impulse to try to create a situation like the audition situation, I don't think this is the way to go. The point of setting up a space when you are working on a scene is create and define an environment for the scene you are working on. Bu doing the work of defining the environment, you make it that much more likely that you will be aware of your environment when you are acting, and that an interesting physical life will resuly. By repeating this process, over time, the actor begins to awakren theur intution about scene environment, strengthen their ability to project themselves into an imaginary situation, and take advantage of the opportunities in that situation for physical life in the scene. An actor who is not attuned to the physical setting of a scene will likely not be phsucally animated or alive.

In an audition situation, where you have nothing in the way of a set supporting you, as you describe, then it is that much MORE important that you have a highly developed ability to create and define an environment for youself with your imagination, and then work in that environment. This comes from extensive experience working in defined scene environements.

Mother of Invention said...

Thanks for the comment.

While I understand the impulse to try to create a situation like the audition situation, I don't think this is the way to go. The point of setting up a space when you are working on a scene is create and define an environment for the scene you are working on. Bu doing the work of defining the environment, you make it that much more likely that you will be aware of your environment when you are acting, and that an interesting physical life will resuly. By repeating this process, over time, the actor begins to awakren theur intution about scene environment, strengthen their ability to project themselves into an imaginary situation, and take advantage of the opportunities in that situation for physical life in the scene. An actor who is not attuned to the physical setting of a scene will likely not be phsucally animated or alive.

In an audition situation, where you have nothing in the way of a set supporting you, as you describe, then it is that much MORE important that you have a highly developed ability to create and define an environment for youself with your imagination, and then work in that environment. This comes from extensive experience working in defined scene environements.

 
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