8.17.2007

acting 101

Hang with me through this post - I promise I'm making a point here about my fitness (albeit perhaps obliquely).

As I progressed through my acting training in college, I was taught - and encouraged to employ - a wide variety of styles and methods. We started with basics in Fundamentals of Acting (the title of our majors' intro course): text & character. This was followed very closely by - practically simultaneously with - objectives (goals) & intention (how you achieve them). As I and my peers progressed, the scope was widened, and we learned other techniques to supplement and enhance the basics (breath patterns, emotional recall, alexander technique, lessac vs. linklater, bippity boppity boo). We would learn and practice these techniques in isolation, which is necessarily the way of teaching (although not the way of acting or of life, really), but the idea was that they were all building blocks for a well-rounded actor. (I now prefer to think of it as a road-map, but that's neither here nor there.) Even though we were focusing on kinesthetic response (for example), we were expected to use all the already learned tools at our disposal as well. Sometimes (often, even), whatever technique we were focusing on would start overshadow the acting, rather than serving it. And in those cases, the notes after the performed classroom scene would inevitably include the phrase, "Go back to Fundamentals."

Although it sometimes felt like it, this was not a slight meant to indicate that we weren't worthy to be in an advanced acting course. It meant that we skipped a few steps, and we needed to go back and build the foundation before we heaped our technique on top. As I've gotten to be older and a more and more experienced actor, Fundamentals are second nature. I don't have to think about them, I just do them automatically. Like reading or riding a bike or swimming. Once you learn it - really learn it - you can't even imagine what it felt like before you knew how.

Sometimes, though - not often, but sometimes - I can't seem crack the nut. I have a picture in my mind of what I want to achieve with playing a particular character, but ... I. CAN'T. SEEM. TO. DO. IT. It's crazy-making. Rehearsals are frustrating, I can't get off-book (which I normally excel at), and I can tell - or imagine - that the director and my castmates are anxious and annoyed. I'm letting everyone down, and I begin to resign myself to the fact that this will be one of my failures. You can't win them all, right? But who can accept that? So I make a last-ditch effort, and try to simply read the play as if for the first time. I try to get a clean copy of the script so that I'm not focused on my already highlighted lines, or blocking or notes to myself.

"Go back to Fundamentals."

Five'll getcha ten that by the end of that script-read, I cracked that nut wide-fucking-open, and am now eating all the walnut crumbs. Usually I find that I have been stupid and blind and running into the wall over & over insisting that a door should be there, when all I needed to do was take a step back and see that the door is actually a little bit down on the right. You can practically hear the tumblers all down the line of the play -- click*click*click*click*click!

My point is this --- when something like this that should be working isn't working- it's almost always operator error. When I'm not doing good acting work in a play, it's ME. And I can change it. If I want to.

Same with my diet. I've been gaining weight. I'm back to pre-detox weight, and I've been unhappy and grumbling about it. It seems to me that I'm eating pretty good, but the numbers don't bear it out.

And also the same with my cardio. I was up to 3 miles jogging, and now 2 kills me. I didn't seem to me that I slacked off that much, but let's check those stats again, shall we?

Nobody to blame but myself.

Back to Fundamentals.

1 comment:

Keenester said...

Boy do I hear ya on that one... I'm now practicing taking responsibility for almost everything that happens to me, including colds and injuries because when I do, I can usually go, "You know, if I had taken an Airborne right when I started to feel that tickle, I might be okay now"... and then next time I actually take the frickin' Airborne and lo and behold, I don't get sick.

But Christ, it's a lot of work.... :)