Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sometimes I picture actors as horses

One place I'm doing great work right now is in class. I've started taking acting classes from Richard Seyd. Google him. In most classes I have a tendency to want to be the best: "Wow, your scene was the best!" It's my competitive side, and it's sustained me through a life of auditioning. Sometimes I picture actors as horses and auditions as races. I love racing to win - love everything about it, including winning. So to be the best in class, I use all the tricks I've developed over the years of acting. As a result, I rely on my old tricks, and don't really learn what I need to learn. Richard's genius is that he crafts these "stretch work" improvs with incredible detail so as to point you within two or three degrees of the exact direction you need to work on. i.e. "not just anger, but explosive anger." Then the next week, "not just explosive anger, but punishing rather than revelatory anger." And so on. He gives you all the circumstances you need so you can work in the exact area - if you choose. Or, like a horse, learning to jump, you can balk and run around the fence at the last minute. And there's no feedback of, "You really blew your chance to experience that, didn't you?" It's more like examining where you did decide to go and why. So last Tuesday, he laid out circumstances for this scene that just thinking about made me feel queasy in my stomach. I felt that I'd never be able to express that kind of punishing, attacking, dominating anger. "I can't do this. I can't do this," I kept saying to myself while I waited outside in the hall and he gave the other actress her adjustments. And then I thought, "What a great chance. I'll be so sorry if I don't try. This person is not me; I'd never be like this, but here's this absolutely free chance to pretend I am and see how it feels." But even as I waited on stage for her to enter, the thought was yelling in my mind, "I don't know how to do this!!" And just as the scene started, I decided to take the jump. I had moments where I said something, and couldn't believe it - no! you can't withdraw your love just to get what you want! - that's awful! I can't believe I said that! I had to stand there and just breathe and see what effect it had. And the other actress was great. She went all the way with her reaction to me too. It was a great scene and a great lesson. I look at it as a part of the field I've never explored, and now I know one path through it. In a while I hope I will be able to live there. Not in life - it's a terrible way to be - but in play - to really live there. So that was the brave thing, and I'm going to call it great work and hope I do more of it.

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