Monday, February 25, 2008

Acting workshop

I've been meaning to write about the excellent time we had in class last week with Rachel Anderson, a grad student in the Stanford Drama Department. She has directed several productions at Stanford including Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and Osofisan's Farewell to a Cannibal Rage. She's also an actor.

For the first part of class we talked about what it takes to put on a play; what was interesting is that we understood all the parts except the one between "getting money to finance" and "opening night." What goes in rehearsals? How do actors find their characters? How do they work together? I wondered why the "tech rehearsal" occurs so late in the game--that's perhaps the first time actors get to put on the full costumes and make sure dresses don't get hooked on furniture, etc. But if an actor needs to wear the costume to understand why, for instance, she can't bend over or wave her arms a certain way, why not wear the costume sooner? Answer: because the costume, more likely than not, hasn't been made yet. So it seems harder to work outside-in under these circumstances. For practical reasons, it seems, psychology often has to come first.

During the last half hour or so, we did a few acting exercises. One was to make a brief statement about something banal that had happened to us that day (mine was about buying a latte). Then we repeated the line while doing different things with our bodies, such as glancing around the room, or, in my case, lying back in the chair like a client on the therapists' couch. (I must have been radiating something for Rachel to suggest that.) Anyway what was amazing is that changing position and action really did change the line delivery. Not only was it harder to make my voice do certain things when I was lying back, that difficulty--or maybe the position itself--changed my emotions slightly. So by lying back I started speaking more slowly and dully. No other effort was required to make this rather striking change in how the line came out. I, for one, really am malleable from the outside in. Shiatsu massage, here I come.

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