This past Tuesday, I attended the StageSource general auditions for the first time since 2008. The last time I had walked into the front theater of BPT in front of dozens of producers, I was terrified. I was nervous, repeating my monologues over and over, sweating, dry mouth...
And I suppose I did okay. I got a few offers for auditions and even a role in a reading offered in the month following. But two years later, I found myself so much more in the zone. I walked into the room at ease and confident. I wasn't perfect, I'm sure. But for one of the first times in my life I felt as if I truly owned my space and did the best I could've done. You can't ask much more than that!
What are the two major differences between now and then? Well, experience plays a part of course. But so does training. Before 2008 generals, I had just finished a good amount of training at Brandeis but hadn't had much experience. Since then, I've had time to put my training into practice.
Now, I'm not advocating you go out and start spending thousands of dollars on expensive acting classes promising to make you big Hollywood star. I feel pretty confident saying that alot of acting schools and teachers are really not that impressive and in the business of scamming off of people's dreams. But there do exists some truly wonderful teachers and training opportunities.
Training doesn't end after you get an MFA or a Master Class. It doesn't make the actor, but it certainly makes the actor better over time.
Before StageSource, I had a variety of coaching sessions. First, I met with Ben Evett of Actors' Shakespeare Project for a private coaching session he had offered via StageSource. I could go on writing about the usefulness of that session, but I'll focus on one specific gift he gave me. As I worked on Angelo from Measure for Measure, he offered me the image of small, tiny bug.
"Angelo doesn't have to show his power. He knows he's in control and he has total power over Isabella. She's like a little bug inside his fingers and he's getting pleasure out ripping her apart, limb by limb."
God. And suddenly it made so much more sense.
Next, I went to Scott Fielding of Michael Chekhov Actors Studio Boston. Same situation, I'll just focus on the gem the session.
For "Martin" from Cloud Nine by Caryl Churchill, Scott had me sit on the floor on my knees and asked me what I needed from my wife. I said "I want her to tell me how to make her happy. I need her to tell me what she wants me to do."
So in response, Scott asked me to ask her this one simple request.
"What do you want from me?"
He asked me again, with more force.
"What do you want from me?"
Not enough. He kept pressing me to keep at it.
"Please, just say what you want me to do! Tell me! What do you want?"
He wouldn't let me stop. He pushed me until I got into a frenzy, then told me to go into the monologue, and then would have me periodically go back into the question, back and forth. It was disorienting, but it completely knocked me out of my bullshit until he finallyhad me start and finish the speech. I was exhausted and really energized.
He asked me what I was doing physically. I was reaching forward. I had my hands reaching towards her, somewhat cuped and gestured in her direction.
"That's your pyschological gesture. When you do this monologue, that is the image. You should follow the gesture even when you're not making it, but everything should follow that need."
Boom. Images. You don't have to think about images. Thinking about your objectives and analyzing your scene is important, but that all goes out the door when you're onstage. It's your body and your subconcious that takes over. And that was what I have been and what I will continue to train myself for.
I don't train enough. That's part of the reason I started the CoLab, with the hope that we can all train together someday.
So I'm wondering... What kind of training have you not yet done? Or have you not done recently? Boston doesn't have enough of a culture of training. But hopefully, we can start to change that...