My first day of classes was . . . eventful. I was too excited to sleep in and woke up at 6AM to do yoga with the sun rise. My first class at UCB started at 11AM. Class one was me starting from scratch - re-learning to 'YES . . . AND' in improv - the first rule you learn in the first class of any improvisation. I am staying open and trusting that this review will be great for me, and it really is! A few points I jotted down in my notebook which improvisers will appreciate:
- no need to search for conflict - search for the game instead
- share the specifics you know in your head with your scene partner and the audience - Boomer says this all the time
- stay with the characters in the scene and stay in the present (avoid talking about those not in the scene or past events)
- say Yes, AND to the SCENE - saying yes, and doesn't mean you have to fix all the problems and agree with your scene partner (or as Paul Constable says - Yes, And yourself).
Most of the people in my class are from New York so the rants we did today were awesome! People were telling stories about waking up in dumpsters, folks getting on the subway with dripping bags of bloody meat from Canal St, rooms filled floor to ceiling with dirt, and people who collect pigeons to sell to local restaurants for $2 a piece. Strangely - a good number of the games and scenes referenced Toronto or Canada (and weed). They were surprisingly well educated on Canadian customs.
Next was my first New York audition at NYU. It was a comedic audition and a lot of fun! It was also fun that there was a conference in the next room where NFL football players were learning how to invest their money . . . wait for it . . . in the music industry!!! It was quite an affair. I'm pretty sure there is a conspiracy here - does the NFL own a record label or something? Is this some way for them to cyphon those high salaries right back into the league? So confused.
I had time for a quick bite where I tried to save money by ordering poached eggs, tea and toast - $10. I need to figure out where to eat when I don't have time to come back to the apartment. Any ideas would be appreciated!! I am mostly in Union Square and at 30th and 8th.
Then off to my second class at Strasberg. I arrived early and took a brief nap in the hallway sitting up on a church bench while the annoying loud girl from the first day came and sat beside me to practice the same scene again with some other girl. I think she is stalking me. The class was acting for Film and Camera taught by Tom Brangle - a lifetime member of the Actor's Studio. I learned a lot of really pointed things from him about acting for film. We had to shoot three short (three shot) films in 30 minutes which was sooooo educational! I have shot shorts before, but not with that kind of time crunch. I LOVE being behind the camera. I realized very quickly how it is possible for directors to get so caught up in the shot and the time constraints and to not really care about what the actor does. Woah! Ya. Like Holy F*^%! I will never again feel slighted or annoyed with a director who does not communicate well. Here are my other notes from class:
- The Strasberg method is frequently mis-understood. It is a method for finding inspiration from a text when it is lacking, or when, during a long run the actor loses his emotional connection with the role. It teaches you how to program yourself and is foundational teaching, but not necessary as a constant tool as the actor develops. The method is also frequently evolving as are all great theories.
- The method teaches you to break down the barriers that we all have between us and our emotions. Learn to get in touch with your own intimacy first, and then infuse the character with theirs.
- To avoid cliche physicality or mugging in acting - do a regular activity - light a match, look for your cell phone, put on make up WHILE emoting - rather than just making faces. It is the WAY you look for your cell phone that shows that you are excited, or angry. Dig that.
- Don't blink so much. Think of yourself as a painting, or a series of paintings. I need to work on this one!
- Your energy or charisma on camera is the direct result of how much you care about what is happening. Tom Cruise cares a lot about everything - that comes across on camera.
- Film yourself answering questions on camera that make you uncomfortable and watch for things like a fidgety face, blinking, higher pitched voice, speed - these are things you will do in an audition if you don't learn to control them.
- React while listening to your scene partner - especially in an audition (this was also a MAJOR point I learned at the Raindance Canada seminar given by Patrick Tucker on acting for the camera) - a great deal of the drama of a movie happens in the reactions on the actor's faces while the other is speaking - it is also a great trick to get you more screen time.
- Often times casting directors will play auditions in fast forward or without the sound - do this with your monologues! Tape them and watch in fast forward to look for habitual behaviour patterns in your face. You will quickly notice things you do over and over again. BREAK THESE HABITS by doing facial exercises and facial relaxation - I hope I learn more about this.
By the time this class ended it was 10PM. I was starving, hungry (ya that's right - I was both starving and hungry - two layers of non-food-ness) and over-stimulated. I walked to the subway and passed a homeless person - hey, wait - that is not a homeless person - that is a young blonde girl with a cardboard sign that reads - THEATRE STUDENT in danger of losing her place at XYZ Theatre school (can't remember which one). AWESOME. I gave her $5 - it's all I had. I would have tried to save her, but had to save myself. I hopped on the NR and was at Sahar's place where she was waiting for me with a lovely meal (she has been SPOILING ME with food!). Oh wait . . . I forgot the part where New York kicks my ass. I got off the train at the Lincoln Centre - right across from Julliard. . . the place I spent most of my childhood dreaming about - and started hurrying home - texting a friend I will meet tomorrow and answering emails for the property I rent out (need to generate some cash!) and was feeling a touch of energy and motivation to get there quickly. I stuck the phone in my pocket and started to jog toward West End Ave. Apparently I no longer know how to jog, or I was too tired to move properly, but I tripped on the sidewalk and slammed down onto the pavement hard. I was so shocked I stayed there for a minute. I hit the ground with such ferocity that a woman almost a block away said SHIT when she saw me go down and checked in to see if I was ok. Here are some of my wounds - which I didn't notice until two blocks later cause my hand was so numb . . .
So what does it all mean? I cried because I had a dream last night that I was stuck in a parking lot and couldn't get out. The dream dictionary said that means that I feel like I am in over my head and maybe not ready for what I am embarking on. Am I pushing myself too hard? Do I need to 'train as though I am an Olympic Athlete Actor' in order to succeed? Am I pushing so hard because I love this so much, or because I am terrified of failing?
I think the lesson here is to slow down and have fun. I was so intense today. These classes mean so much to me! I was so busy listening and rushing the class and my partners along to get to the point where I actually learned something that I almost missed the conversation where I actually took most of my notes! Those great points in the Strasberg class came from the prodings of a young Canadian woman who likes to ask a lot of questions (not me) who I was huffing and puffing at and shooting looks every time she asked a question. I am grateful for her questions :D I plan to be extra nice to her next class - sorry Tina. I'm going to go to bed now after I kiss my boo boos better and have another little cry.
One thing I will say for New York - when it wants to teach you a lesson it doesn't fu*k around.
Just because I fall does not mean I have failed.