I got to class on Saturday not quite sure what to expect. I knew my agreements, tenets, guideposts, techniques, variables and my lines. I had answered all the guideposts for my scene and was as ready as I could be. After I signed in, a guy came and introduced himself to me as Jonathan. It took me a moment to realize it was Johnny, someone I actually already knew. It was a relief to have a friend there, but it also put added pressure. While talking today we admitted that it was scary to have someone who could bring what happened in the safety of the workshop into the real world. I told him how I was afraid to tell people as well, but now that I do, people are generally extremely nice about it, and can sometimes help.
The workshop itself started with a vocal workout led by Julia Lenardon.I’ve always had trouble with those exercises and am never quite sure what most of it means, but I played along as best I could. After that, we started with some theater exercises, but had only made it through some walking, a name game and some kind of tag before we had to get ready because Tom had arrived. My scene was only on Sunday, so I got to sit back and relax (or so I thought).
The first scene was from Romeo and Juliet. I thought they were incredible, but after they finished, Tom dissected their scene, and was kind of mean to them, in a constructive way, but it kind of scared me a bit. When he stopped the two girls in the next scene and told them they didn’t prepare, that there was no point in finishing the scene because he had nothing to work with, I was terrified of what he would do to me. Now I know this sounds bad, but I soon realized that the girls I thought he was being mean to, they were thanking him at the end. I always bring a notebook with me to every class, all the time, but mostly write stories while listening to the teacher speak. This week, I have pages of notes with not a single story. I understood from watching more scenes and talking to people, that Tom pushes the actors because he believes in them and knows they can do better. If they have been coming to these workshops for years but still aren’t doing the work or applying what they’ve learnt, he will harp on them.
It was a weekend where I learnt more than in any other class I’ve had so far. People cried, we laughed, they made out in the closet…it was crazy and amazing and as terrified as I was about what he would do to me, I couldn’t wait. I have always wanted to know if I am good at acting. I will give it my 110% and spend the rest of my life trying, but not if I’m horrible at it and it is painful for people to watch. Tom is the first teacher, or even person related to the acting industry, that I believed would tell me the truth about whether or not I had a future in this.
I went out to a sushi restaurant for lunch, at 3 o’clock of all times, with 4 other people in the workshop. We talked about our experiences in acting, what we wanted to do…we were learning even on our lunch breaks!
After seeing what happened to everyone else on stage, Michele and I decided we would practice some more, so we got there an hour and a half early on Saturday to rehearse, attempting to apply everything we had learnt the day before. We agreed that as long as he let us finish our scene and didn’t stop us in the middle of it, we would be happy.
We rehearsed once on the actual stage before everyone else got there, and Marjo, one of the producers, gave us a few pointers before it was time for our vocal workout. After spending the day with Tom, and with Julia telling us about the importance of Voice, I tried really hard to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, to find where the breathing comes from…I still don’t entirely get it, but you can’t say I didn’t try.
For the theater exercises, we did a lot of activities we do in improv, such as passing around the clap (yes, a lot of people laughed at that one), one word stories, and this shooting game that I won. It was a lot of fun before we had to go get changed into our costumes.
Johnny was the first to go, and he and his scene partner were absolutely amazing, then there was a monologue, and then there was Michele and I. All of the nerves hit me as we waited to begin our scene. I was terrified, I was laughing and kept praying he would let us finish the scene.
Finally, Michele and I walked in, with me slinging a champagne bottle and throwing our shoes onto the floor. I hadn’t even finished the first line of the play when Tom stopped me.
“Why did I stop you?” he asked.
“My back was facing the audience, and my voice wasn’t loud enough.” I answered, fully aware that this was my biggest fear, getting stopped before I’d even finished a line.
“See, it’s your first time here and already you know that.” he said as if he was proud of me for knowing what I did wrong instead of upset that I had done it. “Do it again.”
We went back to the side of the bleachers, before I suggested we come in from the back of the stage, so we wouldn’t ever have our back to the audience, which he thought was a good idea. I started again, but he had me walk out at least 3 times, asking for a more emotional God! Finally, on the third time, I went out and completely changed the way we had rehearsed the scene. I said it loud, I was emotional and the audience was laughing.
When we did the scene again after his advice, he had me twirling and completely letting go of my inhibitions, which, as scary as it sounds, was amazing. I played drunk, I exaggerated, I became Georgeanne.
At the end, Tom told us our scene was a gift to the audience, and everyone had really positive feedback. Frances, Johnny’s scene partner, brought a camera and was nice enough to film my scene for me, and I’m pretty sure I will listen to those comments whenever I feel bad about myself. Our scene was the last before lunch, and I just left there feeling like this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I was so excited and happy and people kept telling me how great I did, that they wanted to see more of me, that they thought I had a future in this. Johnny, the only one who actually knows me out in the real world, was shocked at how not shy I was on stage, since he knows I normally just sit and listen, even with my friends and family. When I’m up there, I get out of my head and my fear goes away… I just loved it!
I loved the whole thing so much that I want to sign up for every future workshop he has. I do have my trip to LA this winter, so I will have to wait until next May! 🙁
All in all, it was an amazing weekend and I feel like I have learnt so much that will be useful in my acting and in life and I met some incredible people I hope to see again! One of my favorite moments about today, other than my scene and the incredible feedback, was when a guy asked if I would be his partner in the November workshop. I already have other plans that weekend that I can’t change, but I am so incredible flattered and proud that he asked me, because I hadn’t talked to him, at all, so his opinion of me was entirely based on my scene. Imagine, my acting made him want to have me as a scene partner! (My mom thinks it’s because I’m beautiful that he wants to work with me, but I like to believe it’s my mad skills on stage that won him over).
So this week, I have to practice the scene for my audition tomorrow night, watch “Girls” (I love acting homework!), learn my lines for the “Girls” scene, practice my jazz and ballet moves so I don’t embarrass myself on Thursday and make an effort to read aloud for at least a half an hour every day, as recommended by Tom. There are probably a million other things I will have to do once I go over my notes from this weekend, but those will come later. Also, I can’t forget a sendout to agents and managers with my updated CV.