Tuesday, November 17, 2009

my friend Bill

William Haugse is a film editor, director and actor. He has worked with luminaries such as John Cassavetes and Orson Wells, and he was nominated for an Oscar for his work on the documentary Hoop Dreams. He has been coming to my class recently to shoot some footage for a short documentary film on the class, and offered me characterization of what he saw there:

Watching Andrew Utter conduct an acting class was a revelation. I was putting together a short film of teaching technique, Andrew was conducting sessions of scene study and the workup of character. He strives to maintain a generous, warm relationship with his students, some of whom may be feeling vulnerable as they walk on the stage for the first time. He is very thoughtful, never speaking just to fill the silence, never rushing the student for an answer. He is patient in an unsentimental way; gentle and attentive, he never coddles a student. He keeps moving forward, prodding the student with questions aimed at deeper and deeper understanding of the character being worked up. I felt certain that were I to study again, I would feel very comfortable in Andrew’s class.

Andrew can spin out a relentless string of questions which will poke holes in even the most intensive preparation on the part of the student actor. This questioning is aimed not only at the development of a specific character, but beyond that, Andrew is always conscious of the goal of training the actor how to generate these questions for himself, as his career continues outside of the class. How to actualize their own inquiries, how deeply to pursue them, how to meld the answers with the development of the other actors involved and, of course, the constraints of the written text. This intense dialog which Andrew has with his students aims above all at the foundation of the actor’s courage, that he or she might find the courage and commitment to discover the character he is playing – as well as his or her own identity - beyond the facile and the cursory into the realm of deeply successful acting.

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