Saturday, March 27, 2010

what elektra said

I met with a prospective student the other day named Elektra. Elektra is Greek, and had recently completed her studies at a piano conservatory in Paris. Such schools are extremely difficult to get into, and even more difficult to survive. The French have an obsession with flawlessness, and their relationship to music is no exception. Elektra felt drawn to San Francisco as a place to decompress after all that French intensity about being flawless.

I was explaining my class to her (which the marriage of her sister will prevent her from attending this cycle, but which she plans to attend in the cycle starting in June), and I was talking about how I don't get everyone up in class every week, largely so that I can spend real time with the scenes I do look at. And before I could say it myself, Elektra chimed in with "Yes, and you learn so much from watching!" Which was, of course, music to my ears. But she went on to say that this was especially true in classes with beginners, because as en experienced student you are often thinking of the more complicated issues in your work, and you can lose sight of fundamentals. The presence of the novices in the class meant, in Elektra's experience in master classes at her piano conservatory, that she got reminders about fundamentals that she had lost sight of in her concern about the more sophisticated aspects of her work.

I told her I wished I could have her saying all of that on video.

When I was assisting Evan Yionoulis with the Yale Summer School Acting Program, Evan, who went on to chair the acting program at the Drama School of five years and win an Obie for her direction of Patricia Clarkson, among others, in Richard Greenberg's Three Days of Rain, would often remark on how vital it was to revisit the fundamentals in conducting the technique exercises, how this revisiting had a renewing effect on her and her work. Or, as a wise man once said: Zen mind, beginner's mind.

I know that sometimes experienced actors decide to forego my class because I allow beginners in the class, and I think that is a crying shame. The lack of humility aside, this attitude displays a lack of understanding of creative practice in general, which calls for revisiting the basic issues involved in the craft in question, often and with curiosity. An actor who believes he has nothing to learn from revisiting the basics has lost his way. To quote another wise man, anybody not busy being born is busy dying.

There is a place for working with peers who have achieved some comparable level of facility or mastery, but there is also always a place for keeping company with those who are at the beginning of their journey. Their passion and enthusiasm can be infectious, and they have some surprising ways of looking at things that challenge the seasoned actor to reflect in some pretty valuable ways.

Ask Elektra. She knows.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

san francisco friends and family night pics

(If you just see HTML below, click the headline above to go to the blog)

Monday, March 15, 2010

beyond bizarre

Watch it all the way to the end. It's worth it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

great new resource: Daily Play blog

I just happened onto this blog, Daily Plays . The author, Kristin Palmer, apparently reads a play a day and does a write-up explaining the premise, the main characters, and what the play is like. She writes simply and thoughtfully. I am looking forward to discovering some new plays and writers to work on in the class, and all you actors out there looking for monologues...well, you know what to do.

unhappy hipsters...good for a chuckle


Saturday, March 13, 2010

henry rollins' ethic

From a recent Village Voice interview with the First Dude of Punk Rawk:

Do you think Black Flag helped focus your work ethic? You seem to have a pretty tremendous work ethic.

I had a lot of that from my upbringing. But then you get around Ginn, Dukowski--I thought I was hard worker and then I joined Black Flag, and that was like boot camp. I found I'd never gotten out of second gear and those guys were continually in fifth.

The first year in that band was like running to keep up with these guys who could do a 16-hour days standing on their heads. That first year was a lot of adjusting for me to do. I had no idea what I was in for. Where you draw the line and say you're done? They're a mile up the road and saying, "Hurry up."

And then there's this:

Believe me, many slings and arrows came my way. Every bad review of the book--probably because it sucked--but I'm still here. And when you win doing it your way, your name is signed at the bottom of all the sheets of paper. And so it's all yours at the end of the day because you toughed it out.

Are you listening, actors?

Friday, March 12, 2010

got something you want to share?

I think you should watch this.

H/T a poor player

happiness is...

...finding something like this in your gmail:

Hi A

thanks a lot for last night. it was really great to work on the scene with you. just wanted to share with you a couple notes about the experience from my journal this morning:

when i stayed on the offensive i was vulnerable in a totally new way. i was putting it out there and seeing what i would get back in return. there was greater force, clearer direction, and a sense of truly fighting for what i wanted. i don’t think i’ve ever acted that way before. instead i’ve always defaulted to reacting, which generally comes out as a “mood” or “emotional state.” in fact it’s a very neutered way of being.

through the rehearsal i also understood viscerally (and dramaturgically) how Ben is the protagonist in the play, even though everything seems to be happening to him. in the end he’s nearly brought to his knees, until the last scene when he does finally win the fight to count & bring meaning into his life.

that's it. thanks again & see you tonight!


--email from Travis Shakespeare, actor

Monday, March 08, 2010

Mother of Inventioner to play Henry V

Veteran of four cycles of Mother of Invention Los Angeles and currently-enrolled student J.B. Waterman will be gainfully employed playing the leading role in Shakespeare's Henry V this summer at Island Stage Left in Washington state.

Heartfelt congratulations JB! What a magnificent opportunity! And well-deserved!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

what Nina says at the end of The Seagull:

When I think of my vocation, I am not afraid of life.

I thought of that after reading this piece of an interview with Jeremy Renner, the lead in The Hurt Locker:

Did you ever think about quitting acting?

Not even for a moment?
Never. It's not about anybody else. It's me. It's that determination and persistence and belief in oneself. When you come up against an obstacle, what do you do? Keep being persistent. I started doing plays again, whatever it took. I did whatever makes me happy. I lived by the candlelight for two years because I couldn't afford power. It was nice and romantic at the time, but if you can't afford power you're pretty broke. You endure it. The sacrifices are you can't have a family, you can't do any of that. I was willing to do it.

What it takes.

H/T Zoo O

Saturday, March 06, 2010

actors on Broadway going (not Lady!) Gaga

It's all the rage in Tel Aviv! It's a new form of movement training called Gaga!

how it works:

Gaga is a new way of gaining knowledge and self awareness through your body. Gaga is a new way for learning and strengthening your body, adding flexibility, stamina and agility while lightening the senses and imagination. Gaga raises awareness of physical weaknesses, awakens numb areas, exposes physical fixations and offers ways for their elimination. Gaga elevates instinctive motion, links conscious and subconscious movement. Gaga is an experience of freedom and pleasure. In a simple way, a pleasant place, comfortable close, accompanied by music, every person with himself and others.

Apparently, in preparing for the current Broadway production of The Miracle Worker, the actor playing Helen was coached by a professional purveyor of Gaga. Says the Gaga coach:

“For scenes like that we have to help Abby’s body find a new way of being — the way she moves, the way she sits, the way she reacts to Annie — so that the audience will not feel so familiar with the ways that Abby’s Helen acts and reacts,” Ms. Sher said. “Abby, Kate [Whoriskey, the play’s director] and I want the audience to feel that Helen could do something unpredictable, wild or scary at any moment.”

The blogger at Dancing Perfectly Free (linked to above) describes what they did in the Gaga workshop:

We started standing in silence, finding multi-dimensionality in the chest in order to breathe more freely while gently shifting our weight from one leg to the other. Some of the prompts and instructions included: finding quivers at the center of your body and allowing them to move outward to your limbs, back, neck, and even to your voice; melting into the floor and then moving as if you’re standing, but using the floor’s gravity; lifting your bones away from your flesh; sensing a cloud around your body while feeling the earth below your feet; imagining a pool of water in your stomach and a pole that connects your arms by running through your chest.

Gaga is not the only movement discipline to come out of Israel of interest with actors. Feldenkrais is a very powerful modality, comparable to the Alexander technique. It was created by Moshe Feldenkrais, who was a phyicist and a Judo master. There is also the martial art Krav Maga. Martial arts are fantastic ways for actors to develop strength, responsiveness, agility, focus, and groundedness.

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