This month I worked on the drama. In class, all of my scenes had hurt and sadness, and there were lots of them.

I got to be in class for the first two Mondays, and my scene was from This Is Us, a show I love to watch. My scene partner wasn’t there the first week, so I did a cold read with someone else. I loved the scene, but had to concentrate on not imitating Mandy Moore. We do share a first name, but we are not the same person.

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On Tuesdays, my scene is from a new show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, that I have never seen. This would mean I had no preconceived notions of how the scene should go. However, another pair had just done it in class on Monday, and they had seriously knocked it out of the park. Even without seeing the actual show, I had some huge shoes to fill and the pressure was on. Luckily, she had killed the comedy, while my version was less funny and more hurt? Either way, I knew I had to let go of trying to be like her, and just do it my own way.

The second week of classes, I got my real scene partner for the This Is Us scene, where I had to balance watching the Superbowl game, and paying attention to my husband, who was talking about something I really didn’t want to talk about. The first take I was a little too sweet and not defensive enough. We needed to have a bit more of a fight so the scene could have somewhere to go. Basically, we needed more stakes.

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I thought I would sit back and watch my Tuesday scene play out with other actors as a line refresher, but instead I got to play the scene with a new partner, since the woman doing it didn’t make it to class. After the first take, my notes were, once more, that I was too sweet and I needed to up the stakes. In the next one, he sort of yelled at me, I sort of yelled back, and we both got emotional. Suzanna said that although it’s a comedy and the audience might still laugh, there’s none of that from us after a certain line. Removing the idea that it had to be funny let me really go to the hurt, especially with what he was giving me, so I welled up. Lots. Not necessarily the crying, but I loved it!

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On Tuesday, one of the girls was on set, so I was given her scene from In Treatment. When I had watched it the week before, I had thought it was a great scene I would love to try some day. I had meant another month, on another day, but I wasn’t going to argue. Although I absolutely loved the first take when I watched it, my note was that I didn’t have enough stakes. Which is true, because although the relationship I am telling my shrink about was really clear for me, I hadn’t done the work for the cancer that I had. I was in denial, yes, but it would still be eating me up inside. A major note was to know what I was going to say in the line where he is supposed to cut me off. I was trying to just cut myself off, but it was coming off like I was waiting to be interrupted. The last take, I took a breath and tried to imagine if this was really me. I repeated “I don’t want to die” to myself before starting the scene, and I got the stakes. Or at least more than the other takes.

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Then we did Mrs. Maisel. My scene partners were completely different. One was faster and louder…angrier. The other was more quiet, more vulnerable. Still, both broke my heart. With my second partner, I got there faster and we were connected, probably because I already knew the scene and my business, I just had to play off him. There is this one line where my husband, who is leaving me, explains that he doesn’t want this life he has, and lists a bunch of reasons why. On Tuesday, every time he said “a wife, two kids” he paused before, letting each word sink in, and it really felt like a knife in my heart. The second take I felt like I was maybe pushing it a little, but all 3 takes had tears by the end.

One thing I noticed after these 4 classes is that I keep getting the same notes, especially about stakes, and I don’t want to. I want to work harder and put in more effort, not just on learning my lines, but to connect, on my motivation, on not saying ‘okay’ whenever I’m uncertain of my line or an emotion, to remember who the person is to me or why I want what I want. My goal from now on is to get new notes every time, so I can keep improving and not just keep working on the same things.

 

“I’m still fighting really hard to get any role I get. If it’s comedy, I go for the laughs. And if it’s drama, I try to tell the truth, and try to play the real stakes of whatever scenario the character’s in.”

-Chris Pratt

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