Class Lessons

It has been over a month since I shared what I have been learning in my acting class, so today I will go through the scenes I have worked on recently, as well as what I learnt from each one.

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First is the Break Up, a scene I did with Nick. I hadn’t worked on it as much as I should have, and he had a cold when we did it, so I was slightly worried, but through running the lines a bit before class, I was reassured. He even went all out and got a doorbell sound effect on his phone for the end of the scene. If you remember, last time I wrote about my classes, I said that I didn’t want to keep getting the same notes; I wanted to get different ones and constantly be improving. This was my first class since then and it was a success; my note was to make it personal by remembering the history between us. I was reacting as if this was the first time he hadn’t brought what I wanted, but I had to imagine all the previous times I had asked him to do something and he had forgotten, or done the wrong thing, because he didn’t care enough to listen in the first place. So, from now on, I won’t only look at the current conflict, I will ask myself whether we have been here before, if it’s the little things that keep adding up, or the big things that we can’t ignore anymore.

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The next class was the last of the month, where we choose one of our scenes to audition. Forgetting that it wasn’t actually my scene, I had decided to do In Treatment. When I got there and remembered I had just been a replacement, Suzanna suggested I do Mrs. Maizel. I knew the lines and had done all of the preparation, but I was definitely not dressed to play her. If I had no other choice, I obviously could have, but there is something about the dress and the shoes that make it so much easier to slip into her skin. Not to mention, there were layers I wanted to explore for the In Treatment scene. The other girl hadn’t shown up yet, so Suzanna let me do her scene, figuring at worse we would see it twice (as it turns out, the other girl was on set and not able to make it). For this, my note was that I wasn’t taking some of the beats. In the sense that at one point, he makes a diagnosis and I ask him what he thinks I’m afraid of. I was asking it like I didn’t know, whereas in reality, I do, I just want him to tell me. So the note here is to not just take what is written on the page or said as truth, but to look deeper and know what I am hiding.

That class, I was also a reader for a scene from Donnie Brasco with Elysia. To help her get somewhere emotionally, Suzanna had us do the entire scene yelling at each other, knowing that sometimes it wouldn’t make sense, but as an exercise. We were probably the last people who would just yell at each other like that, but it was interesting to see how it changed and felt different.

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For the actor role/commercial auditions, I got to do two. Suzanna is continuing with her conviction that I am good for commercials, and the more I do them, the more I agree. It still feels a bit weird, but it is quickly becoming more fun than weird.

In May, I got a scene from Girls to do with Nir. I haven’t started the final season yet, so there were some spoilers I wasn’t ready to hear, but I really enjoyed the scene. The first class was hard because we had to figure out the movements. In the scene, I am trying to leave, and he is trying to get me to stay, which was really difficult, until a genius pointed out that the exit could be behind him, so I would have to go through him rather than just walk away. After that, it was much easier. Every time we did it, there were different emotions that I tried, from hurt to anger…I was really looking forward to discovering all the levels.

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The next week we ran our lines a few times, then put it on its feet. After the first take, Suzanna asked what our goals were. We both had excellent answers, but they weren’t clear enough for her to see them. We looked like friends in acting class. She said we had to fall in love with each other. The next take was better, because our goals were clear, but I was completely exposed, not covering anything. It was raw heartbreak and I am told it was beautiful to watch, but there is a reason it is called ‘core and masking’. If I don’t want him to know how much he hurt me, I have to cover it with anger or by trying to hurt him or by pretending I don’t care…something. We did it a few times, but I found it hard to be pissed and confrontational when he is so vulnerable. Sometimes it felt like I was forcing it, but the last take, where we could do what we wanted, I played all the levels. I was pissed at him, then I was heartbroken, then I said things with the goal of hurting him. It was all in service of my goal, which was to protect myself from letting him hurt me. Again.

The last class I had was a bonus class, where I was asked to do a scene from Single White Female. It was a scene I had actually done over a year ago, but the footage had been lost, so I never got to see it. I still haven’t seen this time either, because it is on a DVD at Suzanna’s, but I can say that my notes were that I needed more stakes and more crazy. The most interesting thing that I learnt about myself was that when I go crazy, I start a hair-ography. Running my hands through my hair, flipping it over…I was aware that I was doing it, and once or twice is okay, but not as often as I was doing. I used to always tuck my hair behind my ears during scenes, sort of like a nervous tick, so I am confident I will be able to remove that. The first take I tried it sitting down and waiting for her, but it was way better when I was just standing creepily in a corner. I felt like a crazy person every single take, but that was the point. The hard part is grounding the crazy with the love and the hurt that makes her act that way. I am looking forward to watching the scenes to find out if I managed it.

« Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your ‘mistakes’ for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it’s a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from. »

-Al Franken

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