Thursday, June 30, 2011

Post # 2 (Finally!)

Hola, Bloggers! Thanks for hanging in there...I know it's been a while since I rapped at ya. I have been my usual indecisive blogger...unable to find time to sit down to vent and then unsure about what information out of all of it to send over to you guys. Part of the deal is that at this ACT program, you get bombarded with a barrage of information on any given day. All in one day you have to be a super-student, clown, performer, dramatist, etc... Any second you might be asked to purge all of your emotions out in front of a group of individuals without batting an eyelash. It takes a lot out of you and you find yourself operating on a level that is selfish to the rest of your body. You spend your 9-10 hour days "cranked up to 11" and then you don't have enough time to get home and get the rest your body deserves. I myself am recovering from a small cold. Not really a disabling one, but leading to at least one pretty miserable day of low-energy, stuffy nosiness.

The answer to the BURNING question that I'm sure is on everybody's mind is: Yes, I am learning and yes, I am becoming a better actor than I was coming in. In some ways, I am the same. My work ethic has remained hard and my methods have not become avant garde. Their program doesn't redefine the wheel of acting with any bizarre outlandish technique, just shows you how to use all the component parts. What has really increased is the depth of which I am learning to probe in my work, how to push myself to explore drama at a professional level. For example, we do scene work, like in any acting class. Prof. actors will work on getting a show up for maybe a month, with 40 hour weeks of working on it. I imagine that, before the program, any one scene I might work on for less than eight hours and think, 'yeah, that feels pretty good.' I am learning how to get a better grasp of how deep scene work needs to be, and gaining a variety of rehearsal techniques to help deepen understanding.

Most of the ACT program is about fine-tuning your rehearsal process. After all, Theatre is 90% rehearsal process, and it's not a performing arts program, so the performance is mainly in our hands. ACT tries to provide us with a plethora of tools and instinctual abilities to deepen our performances. We explore new ways of moving, breathing, talking, and rehearsing so that our work can become more real, more life-like and more active. It caters hard to Stanislavskian principals: Text, action and physicalization. Right now, trying to say 'Sure, I'll just apply all this stuff to my work!" Seems kind of like saying your going to mow the lawn and heading out with a lawn mower, scissors, weed killer, clippers, a knife, weedwacker, etc. etc. I journal and take notes so that after the program is over, I can start to look over what I did and figure out "What the F*** just happened!" But I do sincerely believe that yes, I am becoming a better, stronger, more assured actor and that it will show in future productions I do.

is inspiring seeing what different things my group brings to the table. I am part of the green company, and we are all now, extremely close. People shine in movement, or improv (with the help of experience with Mr. Nepom and Severs) or clowning or monologues (my rough point.) Every day is an opportunity to learn from each other, and every class is applicable to what we do as actors, generally and philosophically. One of the cooler moments of connection I saw was in a classmate of mine, Thomas. On the second week, I was getting a little worried about Thomas. He is a very talented, charismatic actor, but is still victim to many actor ticks on stage that make his work the same. Over the first week and a half, I could see him getting down on himself, getting frustrated and going inside himself. Then, in clowning class, we were doing an exercise where we went and stood in front of the class as our clown, having just experienced some triumph or failure. Our wonderful teacher, Letitia Bartlett, happened to say something about how "Clowning is a great place to exaggerate actor ticks." Thomas took note at this, and when he went up, his clown was a comical, exaggeration of Thomas on stage having ticks. Over the next hour, I observed him use every exercise as an opportunity to vent all that frustration and nervous energy out in an exaggerated form of the very thing he was having trouble controlling. Later that day during scene work, he was much more calm and in control of his work.

I see inspiring little moments like these to jot down in my wonderful journal (thanks Liz) and I do believe that I will look back on read on my thoughts from this summer for many years. It truly is a life-changing experience, and has made me gravely aware of the realities of pursuing acting professionally, and what it will take. I will use this weekday post as an opportunity to sit down on the weekend and journal again. That's all for now. Here are some pictures of the people I spend my day with.
I can't figure out how to upload pictures right now, so I will try to have some later on.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

First post of the summer.

Hey Y'all,
Welcome to my blog! Thanks for reading. Sorry I have been late with getting this blog up and running. It has been a really busy week! I get up at seven every morning, hop on public transit by 8:15 so that I can get to ACT in time to warm up for the days work. Then I spend an average of 9-10 hours (with lunch and rehearsals) there at their studios before going home to unwind for a couple of hours. Then I collapse into bed and wake up to do it all again the next day. Now that I have the blog up and running, I will try to post on a more regular basis.
The program I'm doing at ACT can be described as nothing short of amazing. Every day I am having my limits pushed and my ideas about theatre and acting reformed. The idea of the program is that they don't teach anything avant-garde. It is very meat and potatoes, but there is so much meat and potatoes I have found I have to learn. As well as doing scene work with fellow actors at a very high level, I have the entire spectrum of my acting knowledge reworked throughout a week. Movement, breathing, posture, improv, clowning, voice, speech, audition technique, and acting craft are all visited in two hour sessions that can only be described as master-classes. The level of learning and speed of the process is high. It's a lot of information they throw at you at once.
Chris Herold, the fabulous director of the program, talked about this at our orientation. He explained that some things will hit us in the head, some in the heart, and some things will go completely over our heads. Then, thirty years from now, we'll wake up in the middle of the night and say, "So that's what that fucker was talking about!" Another of his theories he told us about is that actors are a combination of two things, an extreme paranoia and an extreme egotism. What the program tries to do is find a healthy way to balance these. He warned us that we can be our own worst enemies. If we try to reject what they teach, close ourselves off or become resistant to their ideas, it's going to be a long hard five to seven weeks. I have made it my goal to remain open, absorb as much as I can like a sponge. Instead of saying, "well I like this, I'll keep this, I don't like that I won't ever use it..." I try to take in everything. What I use will become apparent later on.

A typical day involves showing up in the morning, and then starting with either voice, a class on text and action, or something more textbook, like learning about the phonetic alphabet. ACT's school is a beautiful set up, ranging from the 6th to 9th floor of a building in the heart of downtown San Francisco. As well as having a lab theatre, they have an assortment of studio spaces on each floor, and they are all BEAUTIFUL!

The inside of one of the studios.

The view out the window of the same studio!

I frequently find myself chuckling at the universal elements of theatre spaces. Each studio has chairs, tables, platforms and blocks just like the lab in Withycomb. The only difference is that these spaces get turned into rehearsal rooms where an assortment of big name actors rehearse shows that get put on in one of the finest theaters on the west coast. I will continue to update this blog about what is going on in the program, the triumphs and the failures. Currently I am in rehearsal for two different scenes, one from "Waiting for Godot" which is really a short exercise in making blocking and action interesting, and then a longer scene where I play Hal from "Proof." Later I will describe a rehearsal technique called "Dropping in a scene" that our teacher had us use. Really changed the way I think about scene work.

I feel so lucky to be surrounded by all of my talented classmates. They all have a varying degree of experience but can all bring such warmth and talent to class every day. There are 17 of us in our company, and we all agree that after a week it feels like we have been friends for years. One guy has a cool bit of history that will interest any hardcore sci-fi film fans. His dad is the man on the table from this iconic scene in John Carpenter's The Thing (NSFW!)

That's right, his dad is Mr. Head Spider.

One more cool thing is that I have an unexpected roommate. I had thought of the idea earlier of asking my parents if we wanted to offer housing to an out-of-state student attending the program, since we have a couple extra bedrooms now. When I was waiting for my interview that first morning after getting off the train, there was a girl named Elicia waiting to go after me. She explained that she's from Utah and is currently staying at a hostel and has no living arrangement yet. I brought my mom over and we talked about setting something up, and now, we are roommates! She's a lot of fun and I'm happy to have someone else in the program around the house.

Here is an unflattering picture of me and a flattering one of her in front of the painted ladies. (We had a touristy San Francisco day for her benefit.)

That's all for today folks, I will blog again soon.