I have to admit that last weekend was pretty awesome. Work on Friday consisted of a really fun scenario at McGill (fun to play, because it involves acting on your toes and Improv and an awesome scene partner, but not-so-fun subject matter). Then I got to sing my heart out at a family karaoke night. Traditionally, one person would choose a song and sing it while everyone else listened and applauded at the end, sometimes singing along under their breath. Lately, it has turned into a much less formal, much more free-for-all setting, where people choose a song, which gets them one of the microphones, then everyone else who knows the song or just wants to sing crowds around and goes for it. By the end of the night, our voices were getting raspy, but I’m pretty sure every single person had an amazing time.

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On Saturday, I headed out to a Meisner class, for the first time in my life. I had heard of it before (something about boring repetition, right?), but wasn’t necessarily planning on studying it until my awesome acting teacher, Suzanna LeNir, told me about some drop-in classes she was organizing. I knew almost all the other students in the class, but not the teacher, who turned out to be really nice (both before and during class) and pretty interesting. He gave us a bit of a back story on Meisner, before getting right into it. Full disclosure, I have no clue what I am doing. It’s like I think I get the concept, but I have no idea how to make it happen. When I thought I did it wrong, I didn’t get a note, but when I felt like I nailed it, I apparently hadn’t. Sometimes I had a reason for it, which either redeemed me or was an excuse, but I am determined to figure this out. I have borrowed a copy of Sanford Meisner on Acting and am getting to work!

Also, this being something totally new and me being a really shy, timid person at first leads to me being incredibly nervous, which sometimes brings even more nerve-wracking, blushing moments.  It took me until just now when I was sitting here and writing the blog post to understand that one factor holding me back might be my desire to be a good student, do what I’m told and do it right. Like Debbie told me back in London, I should be less concerned with getting it right, and more attuned to what is going on and how it affects me. For one, just BEING instead of trying to achieve something will make it a lot easier to be in the moment rather than in my head.

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After the Meisner class, I went to a production meeting for a project that I was recently asked to be a part of. There is no script yet, but over the course of the afternoon, I went from being interested in to being really excited about the project. I know it’s terrible, but the last time I was at one of these meetings, I felt like it wasn’t really my place to hijack someone’s idea, so I kind of just sat back and listened, never speaking up when I had a suggestion or when something wasn’t working. I mostly just answered if they asked me something, and I was very much a ‘yes man’. This time, I actually wanted to be a part of it, so I spoke up, asked questions and it became such a collaborative experience. I left, not only anticipating this project, but with a really great location for future projects, some new friends, and a role in a really cool short the writer was working on.

On Sunday, the Oscars were…well, interesting to say the least. Even though I saw all of the best picture nominees, as well as the majority of the nominated performances, I was still terrible at predicting who would win. I was torn between who I thought should win, who I thought would win, and who I simply wanted to win. As always, there were some great speeches and incredible brandprov opportunities; especially when you ask yourself what you would have done if you were Warren Beatty faced with the wrong envelope. I think it is such a shame that Moonlight’s moment went to the mixup rather than the fact that a movie with such a small budget, that so few people have seen, about such an emotionally and politically charged subject matter won Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

On Monday, I spent the afternoon editing Shards of Glass, before going to Suzanna’s. The last class is always spent on auditions, and we had some newcomers this month, so Suzanna went over some auditioning tips and had me go up first to demonstrate how to slate. I chose the Maggie’s Plan scene for my audition, since I wanted to work on personalizing the need to be a mother by any means necessary. Suzanna kept mentioning how my face lit up when I saw her son over the weekend, so she knew I could relate. The first take I imagined Jake’s responses to replace my reader’s, who wasn’t familiar with the scene and was mostly reading it. Suzanna suggested I use what she gives me instead, so I can be frustrated when I don’t get the reaction I am looking for, or try harder to get her to see my side. It definitely brought a lot more layers to the scene, and it always more fun to be playing off someone rather than my imagination.

For my commercial, I gave a testimonial about a hair product, which I find I am so terrible at. It involves being you and not playing a character, while also playing a character, because most people aren’t naturally that excited about their hair products. After my last take (and there were many to get the speed but not the rush, the proper emphasizing and so on) I said I wasn’t sure about commercials, but everyone argued and told me I was great because I look happy and very natural on camera. So I guess I should increase my commercial submissions!

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“Tarell and I are Chiron. We are that boy. And when you watch Moonlight, you don’t assume a boy who grew up how and where we did would grow up and make a piece of art that wins an Academy Award. I’ve said that a lot, and what I’ve had to admit is that I placed those limitations on myself, I denied myself that dream. Not you, not anyone else – me. And so, to anyone watching this who sees themselves in us, let this be a symbol, a reflection that leads you to love yourself. Because doing so may be the difference between dreaming at all and, somehow through the academy’s grace, realizing dreams you never allowed yourself to have. Much love.”

-Barry Jenkins

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One thought on “Meisner, Meetings and Maggie

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