Thursday, October 7, 2010

It's HERE! Our 26th Anniversary Season of Plays Announcement


26th ANNIVERSARY SEASON SIZZLES WITH WIT, PLAYWRITING PROWESS
AT PORTLAND ACTORS CONSERVATORY

PCS’ Riordan Guest Directs at Oregon's Only Professional Actor Training Program

PORTLAND, ORE. – Oct. 7, 2010 – Portland Actors Conservatory’s 26th Anniversary season of plays champions playwrights new and old with high-pitched satire, classic Shakespearian farce and contemporary theatrical reinvention. As part of its unique model of integrating professional and student actors in their second year of professional training, The Conservatory will produce "Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them," by Christopher Durang, William Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” and Sarah Ruhl’s “Passion Play,” directed by Portland Center Stage associate artistic director Rose Riordan.


The Illustrious Class of 2011
“The playwrights in our season offer our students an incredible range of voices for our professional actors-in-training to embody,” said Beth Harper, artistic director. “As an indispensible component of our course of study, performance closes the loop between theory and practice. These carefully chosen works and give our students access to American theater that is at once comprehensive, contemporary, and challenging in all the right ways.”
Durang’s 2009 "Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them” was dubbed “a hilarious and disturbing new comedy about all-American violence” by the New York Times (April 7, 2009) when first produced at The Public Theatre. This absurdist domestic piece from the author of beloved 1980s side-splitters "Sister Mary Ignatius,” “Beyond Therapy,” “The Actors Nightmare,” “The Marriage of Bette and Boo,” takes on post-9/11 paranoia and preoccupation with torture in characteristic Durang fashion. Anxiety and irreverence are never as funny as they are in Durang’s hands. ‘Torture’ runs Dec. 1 through 19, directed by Beth Harper.

In Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors,” directed by faculty member Philip Cuomo, Egeon has a day to scour Syracuse for the ransom that will save his life and find the missing half of his family lost at sea 33 years ago. In his way are twin slaves, a Courtesean, a gold chain, and the mistaken identity politics that make this farce definitively Shakespearean. An entire town is beguiled and horrified by the characters’ seemingly magical powers as slapstick physicality prompts us to reexamine what we think we know. “Comedy of Errors” runs February 16 through March 6, 2011.

Director Rose Riordan, associate artistic director of Portland Center Stage, directs the Conservatory’s third selection, “Passion Play,” by Sarah Ruhl. This epic panorama of amateur actors participating in re-enactments of Christ's Passion portrays productions of the ritualized Christian drama taking place in 16th-century England, Germany in 1934, and 1969’s South Dakota Black Hills. “‘Passion Play’ is the most exciting, stimulating, and thrilling piece of theater to hit New York since ‘Angels in America,’” Backstage wrote earlier this year. “Passion Play” follows the Conservatory’s critically acclaimed 2010 production of “Melancholy Play” by the 2006 MacArthur Fellow. “Passion Play” runs April 13 through May 1, 2011.

In traditional, Conservatory fashion the Class of 2011 will select and produce monologue and scene selections for its Graduation Showcase May 18 through 21, 2011. The showcase marks the culmination of two years of fulltime professional acting training.

2010-2011 Portland Actors Conservatory Season of Plays
  • Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them by Christopher Durang
    Director: Beth Harper
  • The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
    Director: Philip Cuomo
  • Passion Play
    Director: Rose Riordan
  • Graduation Showcase
    Director: Class of 2011 and Cristi Miles
All productions take place at Portland Actors Conservatory’s Firehouse Theatre, 1436 SW Montgomery St., Portland, Ore., 97201. Order tickets online, or by calling (503) 274- 1717; tickets range from $13-25 and season subscriptions are available for $50 to $80.

ABOUT PORTLAND ACTORS CONSERVATORY
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Portland Actors Conservatory is the premiere school for professional actor training in the Pacific Northwest. Artistic director Beth Harper leads the Conservatory's multiple offerings including its fulltime, Two Year Professional Training Program, ongoing Studio Class offerings, and the Summer on Stage youth theatre program. Portland Actors Conservatory provides the highest standard in actor training with distinguished faculty including Beth Harper, Connor Kerns, Philip Cuomo, and Michael Mendelson among others. The Conservatory is located near Portland, Ore.'s city center in the historic Firehouse Theatre, housing an upstairs studio space as well an intimate 70-seat theatre. Portland Actors Conservatory annually produces a three show season featuring its second year students working alongside professional guest artists, in addition to two student showcases. Portland Actors Conservatory is Oregon's only independent professional actor training school accredited with the National Association of Schools of Theatre.



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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 1: Meisner Technique = No Makeup, No Masks

Meisner Technique teacher Michael Mendelson pulled no punches yesterday in addressing our First Year students on the first day of class:
Michael Mendelson
"There are currently 17 of you. Some of you will not be asked back at the end of this year. And of those who make it to the Second Year, not all will work as actors...To give you a frame of reference, there were ten students in my graduate acting company at the University of Washington. Four are still working."
It was bad enough that none of the girls were wearing makeup and the boys all had to shave off any facial hair - Michael's required "undress code" for Meisner's brutal honesty.
But then came something even scarier: sitting in front of an audience with nothing to do.

 You'd be surprised how nerve-wracking this "simple" exercise is: sit in a chair for three minutes facing the class. Know how long three minutes is? A heck of a long time when you're being looked at. Nervous ticks start to emerge at about 40 seconds, then excruciating pain at minute two. By minute three, it's not unheard of to be experiencing some serious, and very unexpected, emotions.

Image courtesy Joanne Baron / D.W. Brown Studio

Like manna from heaven, Michael then gives the hotseat-scalded student something to do. It is a simple activity, like separating and counting coins or rolling for a Yahzee! (what's that? they say).


Instantly, the face previously contorted in attempted control becomes relaxed, expressive. Kind of like you want to feel on stage...

Who WAS this Meisner guy and what was he thinking?

Start here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day Two of Professional Actor Training: Just Breathe

 
Kate

It's not very nice of me to do this, but I'm posting our new First Year students' ID card photos in honor of Day Two of classes. I mean, cheap camera, first day nerves, orientation dementia - probably not the most flattering pic of any of these folks.

But I want you to get a bird's eye view of what we mean when we call them "newbies." I mean, that's not very nice either - kind of condescending - but it's really hard not to compare this lovely crop of 17 bright eyed, bushy tailed professional actors-to-be to the first episode of a performance-oriented reality show say, or for the really old, "Fame."
 
Gilbert

All that said, we love them already, and they are starting to think about what it will be like when they love each other. Or at least have exchanged more than one five minute conversation.

Not that they aren't well on their way already. In fact, Acting 1 co-teacher Jane Bement Geesman has officially bestowed a title on the Class of 2012: "In a word, supportive."

Brad, or Bradley if you're nasty

When you look at these pictures, you will see:

a) what a good photographer I am, and;

b) the equivalent of a "before" picture in a weight loss ad - but it's not weight we're losing here.


Christina
It's more in the neighborhood of self-preconception, limitation, fear and...you know. All those things that make you a bad actor. :) Or say, not as good as you COULD be.

So for day one, what did they do? Self confessed, breath obsessed Acting 1 co-teacher Sarah Lucht got them to resemble both a Lamaze class and "I Dream of Jeannie."

Reports of sparkly, tingly, lightheadedness and heat came from our intrepid first years. So THAT's what breathing feels like!

Lexi

The good news: no one has ever passed out in Sarah's breathing exercises.
 
Why do they do this, the teachers asked themselves rhetorically before the class. 
 
(Hmmm, Sarah Lucht has something to say about it in this post. Would you like to leave a comment below about it? Perhaps?)

Well, ever get dinged for being "in your head"? Breathing may well be the solution. And even better, Jane and Sarah have an ambitious plan: to get First Year students to be able to think AND breathe. At the same time.

Lissie
And why exactly do we stop breathing? Seems odd, given that we need oxygen to survive. Come to find out, restricting your flow of oxygen is a good way (not only to sustain brain damage, but also) to cut yourself off from feelings one might not want to feel - say, anger, sadness, or discomfort.
  
Katie
The thing is, you NEED those feelings when you're acting. And if you can't get to them, your experience will be empty. And so will the audience's. Says Jane and Sarah, anyhow, and I'm inclined to agree with them.

Jeffrey, or Jeremy if you listen to Gilbert

Anywhoo...then we DANCED. And that dastardly Jane made even yours truly dance. In an unfair advantage, the students were all warmed up from Movement with Philp Cuomo. Where they also danced. And swayed. Some even demonstrated.

I, my friends, had none of this preparation, and simply had to whip off my heels and join in. I did, in fact, have an "anticipation of dread," as Jane called it, and then unexpected fun. Also, I thought about what a weird / cool job I have. I needed to breathe more, obviously.

The rest of class was devoted to introductions, wherein each person "presents" their partner to the class from name to goals to obstacles to deep thoughts. Or not so deep. You'd be surprised how much you can learn about a person from the way they introduce, or get introduced. These mini-performances were peppered with pop quizzes from Jane on people's names, which showed ... um .... that there are a lot of new faces to learn.

I'll let you devote yourself to name/face study.

Emery











Genevieve












Carl with a 'C'

Bjorn












Jessica











Rebecca

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Steve











Adam












Ursula

 
 
 








And for fun, I'd like to draw your attention to the latest snaps of our Second Years. They are not quite to the "after" stage yet, mind you. But it's fun to see what a year can do.




Emery


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The First Day of Portland Actors Conservatory's Professional Training


And we're off! Drink it in, everyone: here's what the Class of 2012 - and PAC's 26th year of professional actor training - looks like:


Our esteemed faculty joked plenty, but the students were facing a whole new world.


 
Just like on "So You Think You Can Dance," they faced the future that would soon be theirs.

These are the pictures they'll look back and say, Remember that first say! Oh my gosh we've changed so much!


Connor Kerns (below) named himself Senior Faculty, after Beth (been here 16 years, or some such)!



















Jane Bement Geesman and Sarah Lucht - an indomitable duo, just you wait - will give our First Year students their very first acting class at the Conservatory. Woo!


Welcome one and all!



Thursday, September 23, 2010

Second Year Orientation at Portland Actors Conservatory

  
It was a very exciting day as the now-Second Year students (the big men and women on campus) came together after four months apart to jump into the culminating year of their study at Portland Actors Conservatory.

Lionel McCann, Ty Boice, and Sam DeRoest reunited after four months.

Nicole Bensching, Jessica Anselmo and Juliana Wheeler pal around.

After getting off on the right foot with artistic director Beth Harper....



We went round the magic circle.


 To be continued....more pix on our Facebook profile!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Bawdy Tale Opens Tonight!

After a hilarious preview stint at The Woods last week, "A Bawdy Tale" opens proper at Curious Comedy tonight! Don't miss this PAC-infused confection, written and directed by longtime faculty member Connor Kerns and featureing an all-PAC alumni or current student cast: Nicole Yoba, Juliana Wheeler, Natasha Terranova, Scott Rogers, Tom Mounsey, Spencer Conway (hey, he just won a Drammy!) and Rob Ciardi.

 
From the Montgomery Street Players' web site:
A Bawdy Tale is inspired by the poetry of John Skelton, and tells the story of young twenty-somethings sent to die at an island resort because they have contracted a rampant disease to which older people are inexplicably immune. The resort’s immune bartender serves the drinks while the dying youth deal with their impending demise by seemingly not dealing with it at all. They choose to drink and screw their way to happiness as they wrestle with how to make their final exits.


 

 
Buy tickets here! But not before whetting your whistle with some words from Mr. Kerns in conversation with Conservatory Confessions:

Conservatory Confessions: If you had to choose one line from 'A Bawdy Tale' that sums up the experience, Connor, what would it be?

Connor Kerns: Sarah: “I want to make-believe. That’s the play I think we really want. I want to remember I’m alive.”

Conservatory Confessions: Tell us a little bit about the premise.


 

Connor Kerns
 Connor Kerns: If you were going to die of a disease within the next few months and you were in hospice, what would you do? Pain medication, expenses, social contact are not a problem. Very few rules are enforced. Like in a college dormitory, you are surrounded with other people your age and there’s a party every night at the bar. Would you grapple with issues of mortality or would you try and forget? Do you feel lust or love, anger or horror? How would you live when you’re about to die?

 
"A Bawdy Tale," then, is about three young couples suffering from an unnamed terminal disease and how they deal with their last days while quarantined on an island with a bartender/hospice worker. It is inspired by 15th century poet John Skelton's harum-scarum wit and dark sense of humor. I sought to combine those qualities with spare, gritty realism. What I tried to create, in short, is:

  • a dirty, pretty play
  • a dark comedy with make-believe: ghosts and sword-fighting
  • some poetry, and a little sex
Conservatory Confessions: What does the play mean and how do you project that to the audience?

Connor Kerns: Superbugs, SARS, AIDS, Black Plague—whether from history or the present, the play explores pandemics and how they affect those who can’t pay for treatment. We are facing overpopulation and global cross-contamination that could easily separate the haves from the have nots. This gives audiences a chance to re-evaluate the peril of being lower middle class in a decaying society.

 

Conservatory Confessions: Why did you want to do this play?

 
Producer #1
Connor Kerns: The producers, Scott and Tom, said this when selecting the play for their company’s second production:
"We think that A Bawdy Tale is the kind of thing that Montgomery Street needs."
I think this is because it seems more raw, less concrete, and more challenging a play to produce. It seems like it would require some kind of development process to figure it all out, which is more exciting to us.

 
Conservatory Confessions: What do Skelton's images say to an audience today, right now, in this particular time and place?

 
Producer #2, on the left, in the dress
Connor Kerns: I studied Skelton (1460-1529) in British Literature in college. His poetry is like no one else’s, and I never forgot it. I came across his poem "The Tunning of Elinor Rumming" some years ago, and the idea for writing "A Bawdy Tale" emerged from it. Here is a bit of Skelton’s rollicking verse describing Elinor and the folks who visit her pub:

 
“Tell you I chill

 If that ye will

 A while be still,

 Of a comely jill

 That dwelt on a hill . . .

 Such lewd sort

 To Elinor resort

 From tide to tide:

 Abide, abide,

 And to you shall be told

 How her ale is sold . . .”

 

I envisioned a contemporary version of Skelton’s pub. Instead of the bubonic plague, I imagined a modern day disease that has confined the infected to a blasted island. The island pub would be the place the characters would come to fight, dance, drink and maybe forget their cares.
 
Check out "A Bawdy Tale" running Thursday through Saturday, September 16 through September 25 at 8pm. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door at Curious Comedy Theater.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ted Rooney: Making Your Audition Less Dependent on Mystery or Mood

Ted Rooney

Ted Rooney is a veteran of the professional acting world with over 35 TV guest-star / recurring credits including ER and Gilmore Girls, over 15 principal movie roles and 35 principal commercial appearances (Including the Rozerem campaign as Abe Lincoln). 
Television credits include Lost, Weeds, My Name is Earl, CSI, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and many others. Locally, he has appeared in Leverage and the upcoming Bucksville. Ted has appeared in several films including Legally Blonde and Almost Famous.

On stage, Rooney has appeared on the Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson Stage in Measure for Measure and Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Sir Peter Hall. Regional theatre credits include Williamstown Theatre, The McCarter, The Wilma, The Arden, Idaho Shakespeare and 10 off-off Broadway plays. Ted has coached acting at the undergraduate level and directed for several years, and is currently at George Fox University. Ted holds an MFA in Acting from Temple University.

This Fall, Ted is teaching Audition Technique in our Studio Program starting October 5. He'll also lead a Film Weekend Intensive Nov. 5 through 7. Here’s a conversation we had with Ted.

Conservatory Confessions: What’s your approach to your career, and how does that translate into your Audition Technique class?


From comedyshortcuts.net
Ted Rooney: Oh boy, how can I explain it simply? Hmm. In a word: Professionalism. My mantra for auditioning: practice and preparation. With that foundation, I am able to then let go and have fun. Early on in my career in NYC--over a three week period--I once did 51 auditions. That is 17 per week. Many of the parts I was being seen for were simply not my type, but I wanted to gain the practice, so I auditioned for anything that moved. I wanted my body and mind to get used to this auditioning, instead of it being an unusual, uncomfortable, pressure-filled event. I wanted to be walking in the door thinking and feeling "this is something I do". To that end, I feel there is nothing like practice. So, in this class I want to get the students up and practicing as much as possible.

Conservatory Confessions: But isn't there more to it than just repetition? What do students work toward as they do it over and over?

Ted with funny thing on his head.
Ted Rooney: Combining this practice with disciplined preparation makes for consistent auditions. It is difficult not to get nervous when one feels ill prepared. When you have done your best to prepared, you can have the confidence to let go and enjoy the audition. But doing the obvious preparation work (script analysis, rehearsing and staging), is not always enough. You can still get bogged down with nerves if your mind is dwelling in unhelpful thoughts. So, part of preparation is the practice of getting in the proper audition mind set...and remembering to breathe. These are all things we will cover in the class.

Conservatory Confessions: What if you're one of those actors that just doesn't audition well?

Ted Rooney: In the end, auditioning the actors job. And if we are willing to see it that way and do the hard work necessary, we will see results in the quality and consistency of our auditions. And it might even begin to be fun!

Audition Technique begins October 5 and takes place Tuesday evenings through November 23 (no class Oct. 26) from 6:30pm-9:30pm. The cost for the class is $325.

Film Weekend Intensive begins Friday, November 5 and concludes Sunday, November 7. See website schedule for details. More info on studio classes or register.


***Add our new Film Weekend Intensive to your registration for any class and get the low low price of $500 for both. That's a $25 to $100 value, depending on the class you choose!***

***As always, sign up for one class and get 10% off each additional class of equal or lesser value!***

Fill out your registration form, and we'll automatically process your discounts.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sarah Lucht: “There’s nothing more vitality-inducing than acting”

Sarah Lucht has served on the faculty of the Portland Actors Conservatory since 1998 teaching Acting, Audition Technique, Breath and Energy for the Actor, Meisner, and Master Class weekend intensives. Sarah has thirty years of experience as an actor in stage, film, television and voice-over work. Local stage appearances include Emilia in Othello, Gilda in Design for Living, Vera in Distracted, Woman #3 in String of Pearls (Artists Repertory Theatre), Mrs. Benett in Pride and Prejudice (Quintessence Language and Imagination Theatre) and Bananas in House of Blue Leaves (Profile Theatre Project).

arah Lucht and Ted Roisum star in John Guare's
"House of Blue Leaves" at Profile Theatre in 2008.
As a teacher, Sarah has taught fundamentals of acting and a Shakespeare intensive for teens at Portland Center Stage; playwriting, scene study and audition technique in area high schools, as well as numerous weekend intensives, master classes, workshops and private study focusing on breath work, advanced scene work, Meisner and ensemble building for actors of all levels of experience. Sarah is a faculty member at The Haven Institute in British Columbia where she leads workshops in acting and theatre arts to non-actors to enhance personal and professional performance and experience. She is also Education Director and an instructor for Portland Shakespeare Project and has unique training and expertise in Reichian and bioenergetic breath work. Sarah received her BA in theatre from the University of Oregon with continued studies in Los Angeles, London and British Columbia. Sarah is a member of Actors Equity Association, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

This Fall, Sarah is teaching Acting: Act I in our Studio Program starting September 27. Here’s a conversation we had with Sarah on life and art at the beginning of the year.

Conservatory Confessions: For the past two years, you’ve had a very demanding schedule of performing at Artists Repertory Theatre in several productions while teaching a full courseload here at PAC. How did you balance these actor / teacher roles?

Sarah: I found that one really informed the other, in a great way. I’ve had the opportunity to evaluate in my teaching, “Does what I teach, help me as an actor?” and in that way, what I bring to my students is road-tested and current. I found it very reinvigorating, both as an actor and teacher.

Conservatory Confessions: What were some of the adjustments you found yourself making?

Sarah: I took myself to task to articulate specifics to demonstrate - it called upon me to provide more structure to my classes.

(from left) Michael Mendelson, Sarah Lucht
and Todd Van Voris star  in Noel Coward's
"Design for Living" at Artists Repertory Theatre.
Photo by Owen Carey
Conservatory Confessions: You teach a lot of non-actors through the Haven Institute in Canada. How do you find work with that population translates or doesn’t to beginning or more serious actors?

Sarah: I find that people who take an acting class, even if they never walk into a theater again, give me such great feedback about being so glad they did it, and how they feel differently afterwards. Non-acting students tell me they are better at communication and expression in the whole of their lives. Most importantly, they find an increased vitality they may never have felt before. There’s nothing more vitality-inducing than acting.

Conservatory Confessions: Why do you think that is?

Sarah: Acting demands presence – that alone makes all our experiences richer, more vivid. Add to that being in contact with another person, and you discover the charge of being intimate and vulnerable with another person. In a way, acting is like practicing intimacy - and that is what people really crave – authentic connection. The end result for a lot of people is an increased will to live – and that’s not an overstatement!

Conservatory Confessions: Are there any pedagogical influences that come out in your teaching?

Sarah: Absolutely. Breath and contact are the foundation of everything I teach. I have a passion for and fascination with the mechanics of breath that I’ve been cultivating for the last 15 years. A lot of it comes from Wilhelm Reich, who was the granddaddy of most of the bioenergetic and bodywork you see being practiced today.

Acting: Act 1 begins September 27 and takes place Monday evenings through December 6 (no class Oct. 11, 25) from 6:30pm-9:30pm. The cost for the class is $350. More info or register.
 
***Add our new Film Weekend Intensive to your registration for any class and get the low low price of $500 for both. That's a $25 to $100 value, depending on the class you choose!***

***As always, sign up for one class and get 10% off each additional class of equal or lesser value!***

Fill out your registration form, and we'll automatically process your discounts.


 


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Guest Artist Tom Mounsey on Big Love

Post from Big Love Guest Artist Tom Mounsey (Class of2008)


When I was a first-year student at Portland Actors Conservatory, way back in 2007, my biggest goal was to audition well and make it into the second year. Once I had done that, I strove to grow as an actor throughout the course of our season and graduate feeling like I had accomplished something I could be proud of. Once I had graduated, the focus of my acting goals moved away from PAC, and out into the wild world of Portland theatre. But deep within me, I knew that I had not yet achieved everything I wanted as far as the Conservatory was concerned. No, there was one mountain left to climb: appearing as a guest artist. Philip Cuomo, for reasons I cannot begin to imagine, has given me that opportunity this year by asking me to join in the crazy adventure that is Big Love.





It was strange, coming back to PAC this way. Guest Artist. Let's ignore the "artist" part, and focus on "guest." Isn't that someone who comes and stays in your home, but is never really part of the family? The students at PAC work and practically live together throughout the course of their training, and I know from experience this creates a bond that one can only describe as familial. Would they accept me? I can answer that question with a resounding "yes." I haven't worked with a more welcoming group of people since I graduated from PAC, and I have only worked with lovely people. This goes not only for the students, but also the other, much more talented, guest artists involved in the show.




And what of "artist?" My first reaction to that word is always, "I'm no artist. Van Gogh was an artist. Come on." So let's think of it a different way. How about someone who does this acting thing out in the

"real world," and therefore knows what s/he is doing, and has experience and wisdom to share with those who are not out there yet? That sounds about right, but that's an insane amount to live up to!

Would I have wisdom I could share with them? Would I in some way be able to set a positive professional example? I have to admit, I'm a bit of a goof, so I don't know about setting a professional example. Wisdom? The best thing I can come up with is "always be polite and respectful," and that's something people are supposed to learn in kindergarten. Looking back now, I can't think of a single time I provided wise words, or a specific example that I set. I hope I have been helpful in some way, but to be honest, they seem wiser and more professional than I have ever been. I think I've probably taken more away from them than they have from me.




So I achieved my goal of being a guest artist at PAC. Yes, this is in some ways the icing on the cake of my graduating in the first place, but the main thing I have learned is that I am still a student. Not officially at the Conservatory, but of acting and of life. I have learned every day, both directly from Philip as my director, and indirectly by watching my cast-mates take Big Love from a table-read to the living, breathing piece of art it is now. And it's been wonderful. I would do it again and again.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Clown for the Actor – Guest Post by Philip Cuomo

WHY study Clown?!?

Philip Cuomo, PAC Associate Director, faculty member and clown, answers this question with his top five reasons:

5) Clown is fun. It demands silly hats, colorful costumes, energetic music and lots of dancing.

4) Clown is extreme. This form demands commitment and energy, while breaking down psychological barriers and inhibitions.

3) Clown is laughter and tears. Between ying and yang, a clown can’t have the joy of laughter without the pathos of tears.

2) Clown is exaggeration. These timehonored techniques are stagecraft, magnified.

1) Clown is character development.

Clowning demands digging deep into one’s unique psychology and physicality, and revealing the self the actor chooses to present to the world. That self is then held up for celebration and derision and its inherent ridiculousness.

Using heightened stagecraft and dynamic physical exercise, patterns of behavior and attitudes are revealed without judgment. As the actor gives attention to his or her unique imaginative associations, the shape of the individual clown emerges. This is an intimate, internal exploration, exaggerated in a fantastical theatrical world. Actors who learn clown must develop skills to be vulnerable and intimate, while expanding expression and dynamics - skills appropriate for any style of character development and theatre.

My ongoing clown workshop through the Studio Program at Portland Actors Conservatory is intended for both the actor who has never clowned before and clowns who are looking to refresh characterizations or further develop bits. Exercises for both the beginner and the street wise professional are the same: starting with dancing, basic stage/streetcraft such as entrances and exits, the take, the rule of three, the three second rule, and other fundamentals. Elements (earth, air, water, fire), materials (glass, oil, steel etc.), and Laban effort actions (dab, flick, glide, etc.) are also explored in an exaggerated form, demanding both the new comer and the old timer to stretch and extend physicality. This strenuous approach demands commitment and focus, concentration and energy, which break down psychological barriers and inhibitions revealing deeper truths about the individual.

These moments of revelation lead the performer to make choices about who he is and how he presents himself to the world. This presentation is then exaggerated for effect and an opposite truth is chosen to offset her psychology. All clowns are all things and can be in one moment vulgar and in the next elegant, or sweet and sour, or prude and lusty or arrogant and humble. The ying and yang of the clown, the primary quality and its opposite comprise the clown character. In the creation and execution of bits the performer in the clown world is required to shift from one extreme to the next and back again one moment to the next.

It is in the distance traveled between the extremes that moment-to-moment reality is elevated into a clown reality. The skill to travel in an exaggerated way from one extreme to the next translates to good moment-to-moment behavior on stage in any style or form. The requirements to stay connected and organic in the clown world are demanding, and amazing exercise for the actor in developing the skill to stay organically connected and in character from one moment to the next.

Last reason to take a clown class: Clown is demand.
Are you ready to demand something of yourself?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Guest Post by Philip Cuomo - "Unleashing The Monster"

This post comes to you from the tech week for "Big Love," directed by PAC associate director Philip Cuomo.

Charles Mee’s Big Love is a huge story. All about power and gender, sex and love. His narrative exposes the elegance and the vulgarity of life. It is sophisticated and base, witty and boorish.

As we approach tech week everything is still very polite. We seem stuck in low gear. Many of the performers have shifted out of second into third gear, some from third to fourth, but we have yet to open up the throttle. Repetition will help, adding tech will help, picking up the pace and understanding the text and action of the play better will help. But as I watched our run-through Sunday night I wondered if that will be enough, will we reach overdrive, attain maximum velocity.

It occurred to me I needed to take the reins off big Rich Cashin. Let his character Constantine explode onto the stage. I have been working Rich to find the cap to Constantine’s emotional life, which has stifled and contained his instrument. He has worked the text with a sophistication that has shamed his arrogant director and taken my direction fully to heart, working to govern his impulses, and as a result Constantine has become polite.
It is time to honor Rich’s large physical instrument, his booming voice, expose the head banger he once was: unchain the beast. Let him tear it up, over the top, big and bad. No apologizes. Rattle the stage and upset the delicate imagery created by the director.

It is why I cast him in the role in the first place. Allow him to be the electric performer he is capable of being. Unleash the Monster.