Recap Day: October 2017, Yeah, This Is Long
2017-12-24, 10:53 a.m.
Uh, actingwise, I mean.
At some point within the last few months I had a talk with my friend Melinda (who used to act/do other things in drama) about what’s wrong with my acting and why I’m not good enough at improv, or acting in general. I’ve had her watch all my videos and she said the issue is that I’m too much in my head, and that while I’ve taken acting classes, none of them actually taught me how to act. Which is totally true. And I was having trouble finding anything else I haven’t taken around here on a non-academic level.
So she suggested that I sign up for a community college class. American River has a good drama program (and costume program, according to our writer group friend Melanie). I found a class that runs for 8 weeks on Mondays and Wednesdays after work (though in Rainy Season for most of it, which sucks), three hours a night. I signed up for it.
But I have to admit that the idea of going back to school after having graduated yonks ago is...extremely weird to say the least. I am not one of those people who ever wanted to go to grad school. Once in a great while I will consider it for about three minutes and then realize (a) I don’t want to go back to school (I am pretty damn sick of school these days), (b) I don’t have the money to pay for it and never will have the money to, (c) I refuse to rack up debt for a pointless advanced degree I don’t need and could never pay off as a permanent clerical worker who will never get out of being one, and (d) I can study whatever the heck I want without having to do official schooling for it.
Not to mention: community college? After having already graduated? I wasn’t a transfer student (I wanted to avoid a CC because I feared I’d never leave home if I was forced to go to the one in my town), so...y’know, weird. Oh yeah, and having homework to do at night after fifteen years or so of fucking off and knitting/reading/whatever every night? Yikes.
But anyway.. I should get around to actually talking about what happens in class.
He talked about plot analysis--breaking plots apart in order to study them and see how they work. Plot is the telling of the story, the story is not always told in order. He went into GREAT DETAIL about retelling The Wizard of Oz. Seriously, I’m impressed. If I hadn’t seen it twice within the last year I would not have remembered all of that. I also enjoyed the commentary along the lines of “They wrote this play to mess with us” and about Glinda saying Dorothy could have gone home all along, “Don’t you just wanna slap her?”
There’s going to be three quizzes (based off the opening chapters of the textbooks--one book of 2 person scenes and one book of monologues) and a final exam, four scenes, two term papers that you watch plays to write about, there’s opportunities for extra credit if you see other plays, usher or audition for shows. This all seems a wee bit much, but I did go to a college where terms were either six or ten weeks. He wants us to (if possible) go see the two plays that the campus is putting on--Beauty and the Beast and The Seagull. Write one paper on plot analysis and the other on character analysis. He also talked about given circumstances-- the setting for the world of the play/character, that set you up for what you want.
Lecture: objectives equal obstacles. What you want to do and what’s in your way. We relish conflict. Conflict is not having something that you need.
Hamlet’s superobjective is to kill the guy who killed his dad, but he has other objectives. Scene objectives work toward superobjectives. You want to win, that’s the idea.
Apparently he picked our textbook, Contemporary Scenes for Student Actors, because it teaches you how to act. I was suddenly a lot more impressed with the book.
It goes into how to approach a scene--what the audience expects, what the actors need to do to give them what they want, and what the director needs to do to help the actor prepare to give them what they want. Desires and conflicts are revealed by actions and utterances. You’re supposed to create fully realized characters by drawing upon your past and fantasy life, and generate experiences for the character.
Interesting tip: don’t even act in a closeup on film--just think through the situation and your face will change. (Oh, speaking of: for fans of The Good Place who’ve seen season 1: check this out.
Tonight he assigned ten line scenes. He picked out two of the scenes from the book--one from uh, Dracula (seriously, Dracula and Renfield) and the other from a play called The Gingham Dog by Lanford Wilson. I probably don’t need to explain Dracula, but The Gingham Dog takes place in 1968 and features a divorcing interracial couple. The scene in class is between Gloria and her teenage future ex-sister-in-law Barbara, who are starting to fight. (I got the play and read it, and hoo boy, does it get uglier from there. Kinda glad I wasn’t going further.) He asked who wanted to do what scene and about 75% of the class wanted to do Dracula. The class is mostly dudes, though a few ladies wanted in on that too. However, I wanted to do The Gingham Dog. I haven’t the faintest idea how I’d portray anyone in Dracula, and the character of Barbara had a Southern accent and I like that sort of thing. Three women wanted to do that one and I was the only one who wanted to do Barbara, so he said I could do the scene twice. As a hammy sort of person, I was down with that.
We were supposed to do only ten lines from the play. Here they are. For the record, Gloria is moving out of the apartment she shares with Vince, Barbara is supposedly over there to help.
Gloria: Barbara, Barbara, Barbara, before you get all snug and cuddly there--I’ve got a lot to do and I don’t want to be rude, but I just don’t feel like a chat. To be perfectly frank I’ve never liked you and I can’t pretend to--
The book has a loooooooooong number of questions you’re supposed to answer about your character--the homework for this scene is to answer the first half of them, 1 sentence apiece. I ended up asking Melinda for help on doing these, she was great about it.
For the record, these were the first half of the questions:
2a. What has my past contact with this place been?
3a. Who is here or expected?
4a. What do I believe the others think or expect of me?
5a. Am I aware of my impact on others?
6. What just preceded this event and how did it affect me both physically and mentally?
7a. What do I want?
8a. Do my objectives or obstacles change (“beat” changes) as the scene or play progresses?
9a. What actions do I attempt in pursuing my objective?
10a. What do I feel toward, and what do I need from, the other person(s)?
11a. Do I consciously know what I want?
* (heck, I think a fourth version is playing in another town now, but I ain’t schlepping)
* Beats = any time you have a new objective/obstacle
This is all the stuff you’re supposed to do when scoring a script:
After that, I rehearsed with my scene partners, which felt pretty short. I wish we had more time to actually work on these things.