Friday, May 30, 2008
To be honest; at first I didn’t see how the analysis was going to help me be a better actress. I was confused, I didn’t know the meaning of many of the verbs in the list (a list of verbs Connor and Beth gave us to help with our work). I had to ask a lot of questions and do some research to figure out words I wanted to use.
After different classes and much homework, I am in the process of understanding better and better about this analysis. When I do the analysis I feel much comfortable, secure and centered when I work on my scenes. I know where I’m going, and if I don’t know, I usually know why. I usually need to redefine my objective or refine it (look for one that it’s more specific).
During my Shakespeare class I did two beat analysis, one for each of my characters (Tamora and Olivia). I found myself changing the objectives many times. We had time to practice and we did exercises specifically aimed to find the verbs or to try different ones.
The exercises made me realized the importance of the beat analysis and the many choices we could play. It was fun and challenging. I also find it easier now that I have practiced.
Currently I am taking Acting III where I have two scenes. I am working on my beat analysis for both characters. It’s not easy but it’s easier than before. Each step is a new journey… a great one!!!
I suck at props. Bam! There we are. Thank you and goodnight. Ok, that's not it. Here comes the serious part.
I have had an interesting time with props. There were some I thought I could never find. Thinking I would be searching from one end of the Earth to the other. But those were actually the easiest to find. The hardest ones were the ones that shouldn't be. Like my arch-nemesis... the tray! Dun Dun Dun!!! Just thinking about it makes my skin crawl! Oh, wait, that was a bug. Anyway, the thing is, I promised myself I wouldn't get stressed about props. Now, I didn't get crazy stressed, but it was still there. But when it was getting down to the wire, and I had very little time and money, that's when I found myself strangling babies. That's when I realized I just need to breathe and let it go and just ground myself. See, acting excercises aren't just for acting. After I pried my manly, manly hands from those babies and breathed, I turned into SuperProp Guy and was able to find, I hope, everything I needed. So, I guess, the moral of the story is to breathe and do not strangle babies.
How's that for a first blog! Anyone? Anyone?
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
And then, of course, there's lots of the play that I made up. Lots and lots and lots, though every character has a component of someone I know, and a component of me, too, I guess.
"The Hiding Place" was written in tandem with my musical "Avenue Q." Though I loved writing for the lively puppets of the musical, I found that I needed a release valve. I'd never say that the puppets have no subtext, but their subtext is necessarily fairly obvious to the audience. They are humanity simplified and then exploded. So I yearned to write a play where there could be something a bit deeper, a bit more sensitive and halting and unspoken.
So I started "The Hiding Place," and worked on it when I wasn't, say, finding the difficult entry to the "Q" song "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist." At the time, the projects seemed entirely different.
But looking back, I'm startled that the plays have so much in common: young people, moving to the city, filled with yearning, and dealing with the disappointments of life in the real world. And then finding resilience. Much as I was experiencing at the time, I might add, and in the years prior.
Both plays end on a note of ambivalence, of those dreams not necessarily coming true. You could plug the song "For Now" from "Avenue Q" into the end of "The Hiding Place," and while it might be jarring stylistically, it would be a perfect thematic fit.
(I wonder what Myra and Karl would think, on the beach, being descended on by a colorful lot of puppets? Hmm. Well, I approved the final galleys for the published script, so it's too late to explore, I suppose.)
I compare the life of a play to raising a child -- the first tentative readthrough, early in development, is like the baby steps. And then you keep raising the kid, revising, and at a certain point the child asserts itself, and your job is to get out of the way: removing obstacles, smoothing, developing trust that the kid has a life of its own. And then you're suddenly sending them to rehearsals, to college -- and then performance, a graduation of sorts. The kid isn't yours any more.
And with "The Hiding Place," that kid has graduated from college and is leaving to explore the world, without me to sit nervously in the back, taking notes, giving agita to the director. And it's a terrific feeling -- admittedly not without yearning, but hey. From all reports, "The Hiding Place" is in marvelous hands at Portland Actors Conservatory.
And what makes me happiest is this: this kid made it back to my home state of Oregon before "Avenue Q"! By a matter of days, as it turns out -- but hooray!
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
One of the things I loved about living in New York (at 122nd and Amsterdam) was public access cable. I don't recall ever seeing Jeff Whitty's show, but I remember seeing a wide variety of other strange yet compelling things. One of my favorites was The Church of Shooting Yourself by Nik Little. Pieces of it can be found on YouTube, but the best parts of it are probably locked away in memories. Another favorite was a show where clubbers like the club kids (not necessarily THE Club Kids) would go...clubbing. Most of these shows were awful. They were just the kind of awful though that makes you want to keep watching. My girlfriend, later wife, always refused to come into the room if I was watching public access.
I worked at an internet startup that was housed at W19th and 6th Ave along with Apex Technical School where a large contingent of felons would learn how to rebuild engines. We choked on exhaust while we built websites that were worth millions on paper, but worth nothing when the tech bubble popped.
I just realized how daunting it could be to chronicle my short time in New York City. So for those folks that love lists...here's a list of some everyday things I always liked:
The Compleat Strategist
Carmine's (on the upper west side...even though it could be touristy)
The idea of going to the Freedom Tunnel (but I was always too chicken to enter)
The north end of Riverside Park
Always walking by "that place" next door to my friend Dan's apartment.
The White Horse Tavern
Umm...that's enough...my list seems boring...but it's mine. Ellipses should be removed from my repertoire.
Anyway, I'm digging through lots of NYC memories (good and bad) as I move through this production.
As for The Hiding Place...I love it. I love it for alot of reasons. I'm glad Jeff Whitty wrote it. I'm glad PAC is doing it. I'm awesomely psyched to have a role in it.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
"By heaven methinks it were an easy leap to pluck bright honor from the pale-fac’d moon; Or dive into the bottom of the deep, where fathom-line could never touch the ground, and pluck up drowned honor by the locks; So he that doth redeem her thence might wear but out upon this half-fac’d fellowship!"
–Hotspur, from Henry 4th, part 1
"Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care."
–Macbeth, Act 2, Sc 2 37
In nature’s infinite book of secrecy
A little I can read.
–Antony and Cleopatra, Act 2, Sc 2, 9
Verily I swear ‘tis better to be lowly born and range with humble lives in content than to be perked up in a glist’ring grief and wear a golden sorrow.
–Anne Bullen, from The Life of King Henry the Eighth
"Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak. Whispers the over fraught heart and bids it break."
–Malcolm, from Macbeth
The Prince of Darkness is a gentleman. –William Shakespeare
You may ask what all this is leading up to, and I'll tell you: I love Shakespeare!!! Yeah, that's all. Shakespeare class has been one of the most fun, challengeing, engaging, and delightful classes I've taken at PAC. Every week I come and spend 3 hrs working on stuff by "The Bard;" Is there anything better?
For class we had to memorize and will present two Shakespeare monolouges. I like my monolouge from "The Twelfth Night or What you Will" but I love the one from "Much Ado About Nothing." Beatrice is one of the best written (or at least, the most fun) female leading women Shakespeare wrote. However, in the scene I chose she is anything but her usual merry self. Here she is frustratated and longing to transform herself into a man so that she can gain revenge on Claudio who has dishonored her cousin and basically just been an all around jerk. Benedick, the man she has spent the previous half of the play despising now declares his love for her and they have a kodak moment. Awww. In the rush of new love he tells her to ask anything of him so that he can please her. She does: 'Kill Claudio,' who is his best friend. He refuses, and this is her response:
"You dare easier be friends with me than fight with mine enemy. Is Claudio not approved in the height a villain that hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman?-- O that I were a man! What! bear her in hand until they come to take hands, and then with public accusation, uncovered slander, unmitigated rancour, --O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place! Talk with a man out at a window! a proper saying! Sweet Hero!--she is wronged, she is slandered, she is undone. Princes and counties! Surely, a princely testimony, a goodly Count-comfect; a sweet gallant, surely! O that I were a man for his sake! or that I had any friend would be a man for my sake! But manhood is melted into courtesies, valour into compliment, and men are only turned into tongue, and trim ones too: he is now as valiant as Hercules that only tells a lie and swears it.--I cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving. "
The temptation is to make this entire speech a rant, and quite frankly, its more fun for me as an actor to do it that way. Really, it is! Screaming, yelling, cursing people, is there anything more fun? ;) But that's a trap. If she's angry all the way through then how do you get to the last line? 'I cannot be a man w/ wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.' If that whole monolouge is a screaming rant then why is she grieving? Yes, grief can breed anger but a temper tantrum is only interesting for about 5 seconds before the audience starts thinking, 'Ok, and *now* what?'
Next Tuesday we present our monolouges to the class. Time will tell whether I have found the beats correctly and employed the right tactics. It's hard, but oh OH! so much fun.
*sigh* I'm still a silly little hack, but I'm a silly little hack who loves Bill Shakespeare so back off! ;P And on that note, I'll leave with with one last quote from dear old Bill:
"Nothing is so common as the wish to be remarkable."
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
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Tuesday, May 20, 2008
So last night I had acting Level 3. Lovin it. I have an awesome scene and a great partner. I'm really liking my character because I'm really feeling like i'm finding his personality and just in general feel like i have a connection, character was always one of my favorate things. So we're doing our scene from Biloxi Blues, it's a work-thru kind of thing where we get feedback and I'm all about that cause I really want to do a good job. I was feeling like I was really in touch with my internal landscape through the scene and when asked how i felt it went I said just that "I feel like i was really in touch with the inside and everything..." so then i'm asked "well what was your character feeling?" should be the easiest question to answer for someone who says he feels he's in touch with the interior landscape and...i can't answer it. It was so embarassing. I was so sure i was doing it right, I was so sure I had it...and then I find i didn't have a clue. I looked like an idiot. I'm trying so hard to impress and I just feel like I'm not doing the trick. Maybe that is why I fail. The main emotion this character needs to feel is fear for his life...i haven't been placed in that situation really so it has me worried maybe i won't get in touch with what that character needs to feel....it's like I really feel i might not be getting it when everybody else is totally getting it. Maybe I'm thinking too much into it. I need to try to let go and trust what i've got...hopefully i'll get it eventually.
Friday, May 16, 2008
But one biggie that comes up a LOT for singers, speakers, and actors, that doesn't get much focus in yoga sometimes, is the jaw. I heard somewhere it's one of the strongest muscle sets in the body.
TMJ, a painful jaw condition (popping and pain often accompanied by teeth grinding in one's sleep, and clenching one's jaw constantly) is becoming a more and more prevalent condition, especially in women. I've experienced TMJ for a number of years. I started wondering: WHY?
My theater teachers have helped me more with my TMJ than the physical therapy, massage and acupuncture I was given as treatment. Through acting, I am starting to see how completely my jaw is linked to mind, speech and inner world. In order to act, it's important to understand what we hold back.
In observing the differences of verbal form in modern theatre vs. romantic and historic theatre (ie: Shakespeare), we've been learning that modern works spend a lot of time and energy on inner life being physically observable. Shakespeare, on the other hand, tells you every single thought. Connor Kerns, our Shakespeare teacher, has been teaching us the fascinating fact that in Elizabethan England, people were closer to everything in the natural world. Death, birth, poop, mud, weather, food, sex - were all much more in your face. The philosophical concept of the separation of heart and head had not been discussed yet. The body, mind, and the natural world were more ONE. Thoughts weren't so hidden, private, and introverted as now. Shakespeare's plays process out loud; the characters share thoughts and feelings with the audience in real time, their inner selves completely open through their words.
Connor also pointed out recently that some people don't know what they are thinking until they speak or write their thoughts. It was like a sun shined in my soul! (I had always thought that I was a bit on the slow side because I had to speak or write to know what was on my mind. Maybe I'm just less evolved, and therefore exotically Elizabethan!)
These insights relate closely to to work we are doing in Meisner with Barry Hunt. A big part of our work is to respond to and act on our own impulses. I'm finding this is incredibly challenging for me because I have learned over my 38 years to keep many of my verbal impulses under wraps.
You know the scene: You're standing around at a party and you say something that makes perfect sense to you, and it's even pretty funny. Just as you speak the there's a lull in the conversation in the room and the nice people you just met look at you with a distant horror in their eyes, as the entire party falls silent. The chirping of a single cricket, the skittering of a tumble weed and the mournful howl of a distant coyote are the only sounds to be heard.
The most unnerving bit of these personal discoveries is the understanding that I often have no idea what my impulses are because I don't speak, write or act on them. Is my internal world so terrifying? I'm not sure I want to know...
In normal day-to-day life I shut myself down and greatly censor my speech. This may be a good thing for the party goers, but I still have to question how it came about.
How best to censor one's self? Keep one's mouth shut! This seems related to that old adage "Children should be seen, not heard". I grew up with that standard somewhat, and I took it to heart.
I also learned that a woman must look her best at all times. So around the age of 13, I examined how I look best - mouth shut or open? Where did my jaw need to sit so that I looked "prettiest" ? - and then I set it there. The other day, I was thinking about the term "mouth breather" - a term I've heard used for so called "dumb" people. I was overcome with a desire to be so senseless of my jaw that it could hang there and I'd never even think about what people thought of how I looked or what my intelligence was. What a sweet release that would be - an entire life with a slack jaw! Heaven on earth, even if bugs flew in from time to time!
I'm going on 25 years of a jaw set by vanity, and 38 years of sequestered thoughts, here. Bare with me.
With all of this new awareness, I find myself feeling a bit more confident in my acting, and personally gaining better access to my internal voices and practicing saying what's on my mind. Certain levels of politeness and privacy are not as necessary as thought. Speaking out is a great gift and natural ability we have as human beings. Theatre is based on this very ability. On some very large level we may have learned to narrow that tendency toward verbal truth because of cultural mores. Theatre speaks for us.
Connor taught us something his mentor Cicely Barry (a voice coach for the Royal Shakespeare company) imparted to him. She has an idea that it is our need to survive that compels us to speak.
Acting school is helping me survive. Maybe THRIVE would be a better word.
I wont be there to partake of the classes Baxter will build around these ideas, but I know that he will craft a deep practice for the jaw that will benefit many. We're planning a phone date to discuss exercises. I'll bring what I can to class. I'll unhinge my jaw, and let the words pour out like water. At the very least, I'll feed a tree.
Congratulations to Mi'Lady Phoebe Southwood, recipiant of the Teri McConville Scholarship Fund!!! Woot woot girlie!!!
Oh yeah ladies and gents, that's MY girl: fine actress, exceptional beauty, razor sharp wit, and a brain that just won't quit. Excuse me whilst I go to the happy dance and celebrate for my lady--
An exceptionally happy,
Monday, May 12, 2008
This weekend, I had to take a day to finally clean my house - and not a good cleaning, more just to sort the piles of exploded debris that has accumulated here and there. The mail table had reached and unsettlingly steep angle of repose made up of political glossy ads, opened, disordered bills and unopened credit card offers. The dishes here and there throughout the house left me wondering "What was I eating in the laundry room?". There is a stack of packages to be mailed that is beginning to number in the double digits. We were entirely out of fresh food last week because I had to catch up on reading "The Tempest" - a feat that took me about 12 hours to complete.
The pièce de résistance happened today, when my husband called me and asked if I had class tonight. He told me he wanted to take me to The Farm, one of our favorite celebration restaurants. I think I snorted as I said "Why?" incredulously. He responded "Because it's our anniversary."
My heart sank, and soared at the same moment. I laughed and cried at the same time. My husband remembered our anniversary! In my primitive understanding of modern marriage, I had thought husbands don't remember that date. I felt like an ass for not remembering because my head has been buried in scripts.
We've been together for 14 years, and married for two. I don't usually forget dates like this. In fact, I've always been super into celebrating milestones. I am so dreadfully embarrassed that this one slipped my mind. Luckily, Tyler really wants me to be the best actor I can become, so I can get away with this one. But his birthday is coming up. I'm thinking of having the date tattooed to my wrist so I don't forget it.
I have to go practice my Shakespeare monologues with Nicole and Linda at 5pm, I need to get homework done for tonight by 6:30pm, and I need to find something cotton (the 2 year wedding gift category) for my husband by 10pm.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
here goes it.
i have a small role in defunkt's current play, "the garden party". (defunkt only uses lower case letters and so i will compose the rest of the entry with that construct. hee.hee.). i remember when i saw the audition notice....it stated that the audition would entail cold readings. i hate cold reads and thought that it would be good practice. i was centimeters away from chickening out...i actually walked away from the theatre several times before entering the front door. eventually i found my way in. the audition WAS good practice and i was even offered a role. the smallest role, in fact. i was excited and relieved at first. the material was challenging and i found a strange comfort in the smallness of the role I was cast..... this comfort soon turned to anxiety.
i discovered quickly how difficult small roles are....how specific you must be before you even step onto the stage. you are only given a few moments to push the play forward, to help move the other characters along their arc. you have to create your own momentum, your own journey. you must paint a landscape for yourself that the audience does not directly experience. you must. this has been an incredibly humbling experience for me. i have been shaken, slapped and uprooted. there is an ocean of insecurity within me that is being transformed into something powerful and i am so thankful for the opportunity. every night i sit backstage i am faced with this question: why am i doing this? why do i come to a dark theatre 4 nights a week and sit in the dressing room for 60 out of the 80 minutes that the play is running? why? well, i do it because i love this process. all of it. it is hard and it is beautiful and it has become my heartbeat.
As I was reading Jack’s thoughts about the mirror exercise I got inspire and decided to write about my experience.
This is the third time I do this exercise. I have done in other classes as well, and it’s always a different experience, more or less intense, but worth it.
I LOVE this type of exercises that allow connection. I feel that every time we do one I get to know better someone I will share a scene with. It makes things easier and lighter, like they flow.
Yesterday I got a wonderful partner for the “mirror”. I felt we both walk into the exercise with and open mind and heart to let anything happened.
Our story built step by step, we create something that had a very nurturing essence, like we were giving birth to something precious. It was really amazing.
Every time I do “the mirror” I feel something different, depending on the person I am working with (and the circumstances, music, etc...). Many factors play in.
The first time I was really fearful, I resisted the exercise a little bit. I think I had the fear of the unexpected. The second time I was more relaxed, and definitively, this third time I was loving and grateful for the experience.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Mon nite was the first time I connected really deeply with my partner. I had connected before, but this time it was open and deep almost from the start and very intense. My partner, who shall remain nameless, is someone I'm very fond of but as an actor just haven't been feeling that connection with, ever. When we did the exercise though, I found myself looking at him thinking, "Oh, there *you* are, not the mask I usually see. It's so wonderful to finally meet you." It was amazing.
One tip for future reference is remember to BLINK during this exercise. My partner and I were staring at each other so hard I didn't and my eyes were on fire by the end. So BLINK people, BLINK!!! Blinking is important for your ocular health apparently (lol).
Now all I have to do is find my script (buried somewhere in the mess of my recently moved apt), memorize my lines by tomorrow afternoon, figure out how to walk with a bad leg (and how bad I'm going to make it) and finish up my (incredibly) over-due homework.
This won't be challenging at all. Right. Um. Sure. Definitely.
In Shakespeare I have learned many things, I am appreciating language more than before and I have practiced exercises that are SO useful and really get to the emotions in a very “practical” way.
Yesterday, we did a very moving exercise, where we first had to define the primary emotion of our monologue (I am playing Tamora in Titus Andronicus).
For me the feeling was fear. Then we had to breathe and ask (repeat) for something that we needed to fulfill that emotion. For me it was: “I need help”. And I had to repeat it as many times as I need it to really reach into the urgency. I repeat it, and repeat it until I felt I was shaking and then I did my piece completely immerse in that wave of fear and desperation. I feel it really worked for my intention.
Later I shared with the class that the fear I felt during that exercise compares with my fear to fly. I hate to fly; an airplane it’s the place where I probably feel most insecure, vulnerable and desperate of all. I fly quite often so I remember this feeling very well.
I just wish that the next time I have to fly, I give myself permission to say: “I need help”.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Since I began my journey in PAC last summer I have learned so much about acting, but must of all about myself.
I was born in Texas but raised in Venezuela. My accent is something I love and fear at the same time. Sometimes it feels especial, unique and reminds me of my life and where I come from. In the other hand, I am working in the consciousness that awakes when I have to work in a scene that doesn’t necessarily “require” my accent.
It’s hard because I usually have to work extra in my pronunciation. My teachers had been very patient with me. Connor, who speaks a very good Spanish by the way, has shown me the correct pronunciation and definition of some very old words (Shakespeare class).
Some of the words I struggle the most are “yes” and “this”. I really have to highlight those words in the text so I become aware where they are. In acting I Beth really made emphasis in my “yes” pronunciation.
I really love when teachers take the time to work in details like that. It makes me feel appreciated and the education becomes very powerful and nourishing for the actor.
It’s amazing to be in this place and be walking this path with so many great people…
Friday, May 2, 2008
So I went to a clown/physical comedy workshop the other day and the guy teaching it did a Commedia del'arte workshop for our theatre history class and it was one of the funnest things we did there. His name is Michael O'Neill and he studied at the Commadia del'arte school, Clown school, toured with both, etc. He's about 5'9-10 and probly 250 lbs w/ auburn super curly hair and beard. The dude is a tank. But a sweet and fun one.
There were only 4 of us there besides Michael: Phoebe, Shawnda (didn't know her), and Billy (Shawnda's 12 y/o son). Shawnda was funny, Billy was too but he was less into it (he's 12 for goodness sake and has a bad case of 'gotta be cool'). We did some movement stuff, some of which I know (Thank you Phillip). We did lead from your head, hips, belly, and heart. Now, lead from your heart is different from lead w/ your chest. When you "lead from your heart" it's kinda more of a mental thing; you're more open to the world and everyone around you. Your armor is off.
He had us do those on command, then let us pick one to do on our own for several minutes. I chose lead from the heart (for some unknown reason), and after we were done we circled up and this is what Michael said.
Micheal: OMG Jack, when you lead from your heart it was amazing! Your posture didn't change that much but you became so open and vulnerable I just wanted to pick you up and take you home. I thought, wow, if this girl can open up like that I wonder: Will you marry me? I mean, the first time I saw you you were so closed; you're not a person who opens up a lot do you? [I nod] and the difference is just amazing. I mean I just really wanted to put my arms around you and pick you up and carry away.
And he comes over and picks me up like he's gonna cart me off. Then he put me back down again and I went and hid behind Phoebe. Gah, don't use the m-word, even as a joke! Evillllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll!
Micheal: Hey, I embarressed her, I win the award!
It was funny. But the point of it is is that I have made progress. I know why, but if you want details you'll have to ask; that stuff ain't going on the public blog. Probably tomorrow I'll have my blocks back in place and I'm not there yet, not by any stretch of the imagination, but today I had a break-through. Yayness!