BUILT FOR LIFE
This workshop is designed specifically to allow actors to focus entirely on building their given characters and the world they inhabit for the purposes of production. And to gain true independence in their work.
Everyone is assigned a one person play and over the course of the four weeks works to create that one person. Works to create a life so secure that on opening night they can step out onto the stage genuinely prepared to live and breathe as that person. Knowing who, where, what and why they are as those specific human beings. Secure in their character’s skin.
From the initial breaking down and analyzing of the script, through the myriad exercises necessary to create sense and logic, form connections (i.e. relationships) to every person, place and thing mentioned by and/or dealt with by the character, through the mandatory receiving and incorporating of specific direction to the seemingly endless repetition of dialogue and actions to achieve the illusion of spontaneity.
To make an audience believe that you’re the person you must first create the belief yourself. “That’s probably the biggest secret of acting: If the actor believes it themselves, they can make you believe it.” – Melissa Leo First step: Observe the character like you would anyone who isn’t you to gather the information you need to know who you’re creating. Listen to them, watch how the react to their situations and circumstances. How they deal with the people in their lives. How they’re affected by everyone and everything. Imagine what it says about who they are. Then stop observing from your perspective and start observing from theirs. Speak their language, think their thoughts, feel their feelings, have their hopes, fears, loves, hates… Choose to remember a history of people, places, things and specific events that have left indelible impressions on you. Not the “you” you are in your personal life, but the “you” you are meant to be in the piece
“Don’t think for a moment that I’m really like any of the characters I’ve played. I’m not. That’s why it’s called ‘acting’.”
– Leonardo DiCaprio
One person plays demand that actors create everything they need for themselves. There are no partners to feed you. You must feed yourself. Take care of yourself. Take full responsibility. Knowing that you’re able to do that is invaluable. It increases your confidence level immeasurably.
I believe that acting is best when enjoyed. I believe in the pleasure principal. Not in a hedonistic way. I’m a practical person. Laughter helps people relax. I spent years observing instructors terrorize actors and then wonder aloud as to why the actor was unable to relax. Well it was simple mathematics to me. If you make an actor terrified to perform in front of you it’s more than likely that that actor will find himself filled with tension and less likely to perform well. When actors are tense they aren’t open and available to themselves. Mentally, physically or emotionally.
I believe in hard work, but I believe in having fun while doing it. Lots of fun. Acting is supposed to be fun. Serious fun, but fun nonetheless. Also, it creates security when you take pleasure in what you’re creating. Whether it be high comedy or excruciatingly painful tragedy. Actors have often asked how it’s possible to enjoy suffering, because when actors create a character who is in fact experiencing great suffering, unimaginable pain, the actor hurts, badly…but the suffering, the pain being experienced is in no way related to anything personal to the actor…unless the actor chooses to make it personal, which I work my ass off to keep the actor from doing. Actors really can create everything they need with their genuinely fertile imaginations
My belief is that actors must make use of their personal observations and experiences to help them relate to their characters, to help place themselves more securely as their characters, to help them better understand what their characters think, feel, etc. about the specific things that are affecting their characters, but then to associate those thoughts and feelings to what’s personal to their characters, not to themselves. Understand? Any suffering, or pain, or even joy or exaltation, experienced by the actor as the character should be a reaction to what’s personal to the character.
Example; I was working with a young man who was having difficulty creating the feeling of ecstasy his character was experiencing in relation to the birth of a calf. I had him remember the ecstasy he felt when he assisted in the birth of his child and instantly he was where he needed to be. Mentally, physically and emotionally. And when he did his monologue again it was clear that he was being affected deeply by what he was saying, remembering, sharing. Afterward the actor said that he was afraid to confuse his own life with the character’s, and I told him that his memory was only to help him connect with the necessary state of being, once he had done that he needed to associate it to the character’s reaction to the birth of the calf. That way he didn’t have to keep remembering the birth of his child to be affected that way.
One day a casting director was sitting in on the workshop and asked about the danger of actors investing themselves to that degree physically, emotionally and mentally. It’s an understandable question. People think actors are crazy to choose to experience all of the things human beings work their tails off every day NOT to. I work hard to remind actors that acting is what they love to do. Their passion. That yes, they may be suffering as the character but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy themselves while they do it. Enjoy doing what they love; creating, experiencing and expressing the gamut of humanity. And that keeps them safe. To go anywhere, anytime.
I encourage actors to aspire to health, to joy. If relaxation is key I can think of no better way to achieve it then through joy! I believe it’s possible to go safely, securely, joyfully, into the danger zone.