Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Acting vocabulary ...

Pretty much once a year for the last three years, I've done Will Wallace's workshop when he's in Austin.

And though it was a kick in the teeth to not be with loved ones on my B-Day evening, I am an actor, and doing Will's workshop was a really good thing for me to do.

At the very least, tonight was a chance to meet new actors, watch them work, watch Will direct, and get a good workout myself. And it was more than that.

Something Steve Prince's Meisner class has given me is vocabulary. Vocabulary for acting words and concepts learned from previous coaches and methods. New vocabulary for new words and techniques he's teaching. And exercises for maintaining a discipline for all of that vocabulary.

Because as anyone who knows the power of words knows, vocabulary is not just about words and definitions. Vocabulary is about concepts. About the denotation (stated definition) and connotation (inferred, vernacular, or visceral definition). About the application of those definitions to change life.

Steve's also given me a sensitivity to vocabulary in my acting. Like tonight.

Tonight's word was "opportunity".

In cold read auditions -- screw it -- in any scene, there are "opportunities" to be taken. It's kind of like my note from last week's class: "Where am I playing it safe, and where can I make it harder?"

Will did a great warm-up exercise where we paired up and did mirror exercises to take turns "leading" and "mimicking", with the goal being for Will to not be able to tell who was leading and who was mimicking. That played into recognizing opportunities on the fly from our partner in our scenes.

In a sitcom cold read, where is the gimmick that sets me and your scene-partner apart?

In a comedic film scene, what is everyone else going to do, and what is the over-the-top, ballsy risk that will get the laugh because it's so out there and outrageous, and may be funny?

In a dramatic piece, what's the hook, that piece that turns an expected inward-facing pity party to more painful, this-is-what life-deals-so-it's-OK-I-lost-the-baby that's more poignant, more tragic, more engaging than the former (and caveat: this is in "Stoicism" or "Being an enigma", which are big actor deaths).



Come to think of it, Steve gave us a bunch of specifics about taking big risks after class last week.

Good night. And it all builds on previous stuff and is a massive feedback loop.

And I finally met (and got to do a scene with) Mylinda Royer, in one of those crazy, "You're that Adam / Mylinda" epiphanies.

I feel great about our scene. It was a comedic bedroom scene, and took my overshirt off (I was wearing a T, relax, ladies), mussed my hair, took off my shoes, and we laid out a sheet and put up couch cushions to denote a bed. Really simple, really quick way to set the stage and commit to the role. And Will gave great direction and Mylinda is amazing, so we blew it up the second round. Good times.

Plus I just like Will as a guy. Seeing him warms the cockles of my heart. And reminds me my heart has cockles. They're prickly. But in a good way.

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