Today, during a break in my acting for film class, I had the chance to stick my head into the Marilyn Monroe theatre and hear Anna Strasberg address a group of students who were performing scenes for her. Here are the few things that she said:
Play the subtext. The author has done an extraordinary job of writing the words for you. You do not have to play those lines (hence the importance of learning them!) Play the scene as though the subtext is all that matters - (my interjection is that the subtext is also what the character wants from the other character in the scene, and that the strongest choice is to play that want as though it were life or death to him or her).
Using props as though they have emotional meaning will infuse the subtext. (I have been reading about this a bit in the Uta Hagen book 'Respect for Acting' that I bought at the Strand).
I am a book hoarder. (Anna didn't say that. It is me, and I am).
Risk Risk Risk (That's what Anna Said).
Comedy is REALITY taken as far as it will go.
She told a story of Lee meeting Lucille Ball in an elevator and her saying that she can not tell a joke; that she can only be funny if she believes that the situation could be real! This is EXACTLY what we have been studying in my UBC improv class. My teacher, God Love Him, is very dry, but he is VERY clear on his point of view on improv and the rules by which the UBC kids operate. Today he broke down for us - the game of the scene:
He said the game of the scene is about IF . . . THEN. He described IF . . . THEN as a grown up version of YES . . . AND - If this (offer) is TRUE then this (same type of offer) must also be true. He said that we need to set up the who, what, where (the baseline REALITY) very quickly in the scene so we can get to the game. The GAME he describes as: A consistent PATTERN of behaviour that happens in reaction to the FIRST unusual thing that breaks from the pattern of our normal lives. So - you start a scene, quickly establish the who, what, where and carry on until the first unusual offer happens - then continue with that pattern! Hmmm - and then what? We haven't really done a complete scene yet, but I am working with people who are mostly new to improv so we shall see what happens as things continue. The improv I saw at the theatre did not have the same complete, sketch type scenes that can happen at Second City. This is all really interesting and I am waiting to pass judgement on the UCB way until I get the full picture - so stay tuned.
For my Strasberg classes I am working on a scene from 'I am a Camera' - I am playing Sally Bowles. The second is a scene from 'Chapter 2' by Neil Simon. I have to read both plays and prepare the scenes for Friday as well as two monologues. It will be a busy week :D
The preparation for the scenes is to be as follows:
1. Find yourself in the character. Meaning - how do you relate to the character - what is the same about you and her?
2. Find the character in yourself. Meaning - how are you different from the character?
3. Illuminate the play - serve the text. Meaning - WHY was this scene written - what is the point of view of the playwrite? What is the subtext in terms of the commentary on society, or humanity, or politics or love!?
Soooo what have I learned about New Yorkers - they are wonderful. I am making some great friends. One lovely lady in my improv class, Stephanie, saved me from a potential mugging - some wack job was stalking me - I felt at one point he was going to steal my sunglasses off my face. I thought he was looking at me because I am lovely to look at, or he thought I was famous (because maybe he was at Hip Hop Karaoke on Friday where I unloaded all of my NY energy on the MIC), but no - she was pretty sure he was targeting me for something so we made a sharp left and lost him.
Speaking of HHK. It was a great f*ing party. There were a couple of hundred there - more than Toronto this time. It was a tribute to Biggie Smalls so I obviously did Jay-Z's 'U Don't Know' cause I always wanted to do that song in NY. At the end of it, a man came up to me and bought me a drink. He told me that he was from Brooklyn and that when I started the first line of the song a shiver went up his spine. I think that may be the best compliment I have ever had from HHK. Just because - if anyone was going to critical of my performance of a Brooklyn icon's hardest most badd ass-ist song - it would be a music lover from Brooklyn. I am proud of myself - even though I made some mistakes with the lyrics.
And what have I learned about myself??? I am good at this acting thing. I am a performer and I have a helluva lota fun doing it.
Now - time to get to work.