Thursday, November 24, 2011

A week that felt a week long. At least.

So, only a couple days since my last post, but I am trying to make sure I do this more often.  Anyway, after working with all 3 of the possible playwrights, I am happy to announce that I will not be upset no matter who my playwright is.  I believe that I am still quite enthusiastic about Lewis, but today Rona and I made a connection on the grounds that it would truly be a travesty if Oberon and Titania were to cease existing.  In fact, in a way that is what her play is about that we are reading.  The question asks what happened to the Indian boy taken into the fairy realm during A Midsummer Night's Dream.  In the play (titled The Indian Boy) the fairies have ceased existing and the forest is being destroyed.  Puck has left the fairy realm and become a human living about us.  The Indian boy is left in the forest but retains his "magic".  He doesn't age and doesn't advance.  Now a psychiatrist is trying to help him become "normal".  It is a bittersweet comedy that has a ton of parallels with A Midsummer Night's Dream and I have come to quite enjoy the play.  It is a contemporary play that speaks to my theatre roots if you will.

So anyway, that's nice.  I will be happy with whatever.  On the other hand... this week has seem extraordinarily long.  Classes have been productive, and fun.  With a lot of acting with the other students.  In fact it might have been the most acting we've done all term.  Yet, for some reason, all of us have fallen into a sort of malaise today.  Even the director, who is incredibly gung ho and excited, was feeling a little lackluster.  So anyway, we were all looking forward to an end of the day.  Thankfully we also have a short day tomorrow, so the weekend will start nice and fresh, and then we have MACCT Thanksgiving on Saturday, then a nice restful Sunday, and my Birthday!!! HUZZAH!!! I love my birthday.

I am so happy to be here though.  This program has been so incredibly helpful to my acting.  It has also, more importantly, enforced who I already was as an actor.  I was terrified that I would end up in a program that said if I didn't act the way they want us to then I fail.  Honestly, I'm a mite rebellious.  If I had ended up in a program that wouldn't let me be myself I probably would have fought against it tooth and nail.  But this program encourages differences and individual approaches to acting.  Also, in lieu of a discussion had last night I would also like to mention the amazing support of my cohort.  It has been a little shocking how well we all get on, and how trusting I feel towards them.  They have supported me in a way that I only figured my family and longest, closest friends would.  So I thank them again for that.  Anyway, I miss you all in the states and hope you have an amazing Thanksgiving.  Know that I miss you all.  I hope the Grawrock family Thanksgiving is amazing.  I hope the rest of the Americans in the cohort also find some sort of Thanksgiving joy today and this weekend.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chekhov, Playwrights and Alan Cumming

So, here's the deal.  The last time I wrote it was kind of a rough depressing look into Anton Chekhov and the Stanislavsky acting style.  Now that the project is over I can safely say that I am only slightly emotionally scarred from the ordeal.  Now, don't get me wrong, I think it was brilliant.  Amazing.  I deeply tapped into things that I had not thought I would.  Another one of my cohorts mentioned in his blog about the event, that performing was a layer on top of this kind of acting.  I took that description to heart.  Not only is it a layer on top of it, but it's a cop out.  It's a safety net.  It's not raw and meaty... I don't know... I might have lost the analogy on the meaty part... oh well.  My favorite part was my final scene.  In it I kind of get a "humorous" moment followed by sadness.  I was surprised at what I felt I was able to bring forward in that moment.  I had some people admit to crying because of my performance (whether because I'm good or bad is up for debate). Anyway, it was a great experience, but I am super happy it's over.

In other news, we are now working with the 3 professional playwrights.  It has been very fun.  Monday we started working with Oliver Emmanuel.  He is a super nice guy and I like his writing style.  It's very open for an actor to interpret.  On the flip side, sometimes I wish there was a bit more to actually have concretely there.  Today we have been working with Lewis Hetherington.  Now, having not worked with the final playwright yet in mind and knowing things could change, I am still really wishing that I will end up working with Lewis for our final project.  I feel like that guy is very very interested in what we as actors will be bringing over what he wants to bring, and that is very comforting in a playwright.

As a final note, I will be seeing Alan Cumming this Saturday in a lecture/performance on Scottish theatre.  He's giving a special talk on what it is to be Scottish and in theatre.  It's a ticketed performance, so kind of open to the public... but still.  I'll be seeing him live, and maybe he'll throw some love to his alma mater after the show or something.  Here's hoping.

Oh, I also had a fun assignment to write a play.  We were given specific instructions on it.  2 characters, no stage direction, and character A is trying to convince B to break a law.  I have decided to be a little selfish and share my play.

        A: There's no room for mistake.  We have one shot at this.  Let's go.  And stay quiet.

        B: I'm not sure.  This could get us in serious trouble.

        A: Calm down.  We won't get caught.  We've gone over the plan one hundred times.  Get moving.

        B: I heard something.

        A: It's your imagination.  Think of everything we'll have after this.  Let's just do it.  Alright, coast is clear.  Let's move. We're here, this is gonna be so goo.

        B: Stop.  You can't.  Mom and Dad say we can't open presents til Christmas morning.

        A: The clock says 4:13.  That's morning.  I'm doing this.

        B: But Mom and Dad will be upset.

        A: If we are quick and quiet we can rewrap the presents afterward.

        B: That's not the only reason I don't want to.

        A: What now? Santa isn't real.  You won't get in trouble with him.  Oh and while I'm telling you the truth, Scruffy died.  He's not at doggie boarding school.

        B: Wait, Scruffy's dead?

        A: Sorry chief. Now, lets see the loot.

        B: NO! No, we can't.

        A: Why?!?

        B: Because Mom and Dad are expecting surprise.  And joy.  We're robbing them of that by doing this.  Can't you see their happy faces? Smiling? Reveling in their kids receiving store bought love? Oh shoot... I hear Dad! He's coming!      You opened one of my presents too? Why?

         A:  I'm not going down alone, I'm taking you with me.

That is the end of my play.  It was played by 2 amazing actors, one of whom was a guy who's over 6 foot.  It was quite funny.  Also, this is an older play, the assignment was like a month ago, but I just decided to put it up.  Anyway, this blog is far too long.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bad graduate student, bad!!!

Okay... so here I am... I'm hanging my head in shame... it has been an embarrassingly long time since I have posted one of these guys.  I don't know if it's better or worse that I had a post mostly finished that never seemed to get complete and thus never posted.  Take what you will.  I have, a TON, to talk about.  It has been crazy crazy awesome here.  I have loved (almost) every moment, and if I haven't been loving it, it's because it's challenging and therefore a little frustrating at times.  However, incredibly positive thus far.

Our first real project was to work on a "classic" choral piece.  There were two groups, one group worked on an actual classic Greek piece, the other group worked on a play written in 2005 or 2006 that was written to be designed for a very open interpretation, including a choral piece.  I was in the contemporary group.  It had a lot of challenge involved.  No stage direction, no clear parts, no precise way of determining who was talking and when.  So it provided a ton of freedom, which, I feel sometimes offers a ton of problems.  Our group was amazing though.  We trusted each other, we fed off of each others ideas and continued to build a wonderful piece in the end.

After the choral piece, we began work on realism and the Stanislavsky technique.  This is still where we are... It has been... intense/stressful/revealing/enjoyable/scary/sad.  Take anyone of those, and I'm sure it's happened to me once in the last like 6 hours.  We have been delving deep into characters and attempting to make them us... us them? Who knows, but the exercises have all been designed to make sure our "blobbies" our showing... Wait... our "blobbies"?  Is that a technical term?  In these classes? Yes.  Our "blobby" is basically a term for our vulnerable self.  We have been encouraged to break down all walls, and be incredibly vulnerable with our acting partners, attempting to bring out raw feelings which will hopefully inspire our performances later on.  This is where things get... a little... raw.

Each one of us has had to endure exercises while showing our blobby and being subjected to what someone else may do to your blobby.  For instance, one popular activity starts with us walking around the room in random directions and speeds.  Our professor introduces a tennis ball or two and encourages us to give it to someone walking by.  As the activity progresses, you become your character walking around the room.  The ball then takes on a different meaning.  Giving or receiving the ball from someone may have really huge consequences.  The ball could be money, love, or even hate.  It quickly becomes an exercise where people are using their character wants/desires/needs in order to get the ball from other people.  Add another layer that some characters would just not give it to another means some people are fighting for that ball with 3 other people, praying they will receive it from a certain character.  This is a moment where it's really hard for me in particular.  My character is pretty much at the bottom of the totem pole.  I have no real way to persuade people to give me the ball.  My character also owes most people in the show money.  So whenever I get the ball, I can't hold on to it, I need to give it away almost  before I get it.  This has rough consequences in that as soon as I give the ball away, no one is around afterwards, and my character is lonely again.

Now, I know what you are saying.  It's a ball.  How much can it mean?  Honestly, too much.  When we really invest in what the ball is to us, it means SOOOOOOOO much when it's given to you, or witheld from you.  It has been incredibly tiring.  In an amazing, educational, "I wish it were over" kind of way.  It is emotionally taxing.  Another exercise we did today was to invent improv scenes that were similarly linked to events in the play.  The scene our group decided to improv was an imaginary scene where one of the characters' nephews died.  (Spelling and grammar on that sentence up for debate).  Anyway, so we start improv-ing it.  It started after the funeral.  6 of us in the group.  Silence.  For what seemed like... 10 minutes... I'm sure it was 2, but it seemed like a long time.  Then one of the girls asked for us to say something.  One person said "Nice service" and was shot down.  The only thing I could come up with to say was to recommend we all get tickets to the christmas pantomime (a show that usually tells a fun fairy tale story).  It was as honest a suggestion that I could have made.  Everyone burst out laughing.  Like... tons of it.  Normally, I would love to make people laugh like that.  This was not normal though.  I had really wanted to make anyone feel better in any sense of the word.  It was my best attempt. I really put my blobby out there... and I was laughed at.  A lot.  I broke down.  I was almost bawling.  On top of that, I kept thinking of Jack, the baby of some incredibly close friends.  What it would be like if he were to have an accident.  It. Was. Rough.

Things like this have happened regularly over the last week and a half.

On a more positive note, we had an amazing Shakespeare meeting on Saturday.  It was sooooooo cool.  A lot of it was things I knew, but it was such a wonderful break from some of the other things we had been working on.

I could keep this going for so long it's not even funny, so I'll end on one final note.  I have submitted my research ideas and they have been approved.  Well, one was approved right off the bat.  Commedia Del'Arte.  What has become of it, and where it could go, specifically if it could work in a contemporary theatre scene.  Glasgow is really a modern and happening theatre scene.  I am even able to set up a practical research about it and cast a commedia piece and do it on the streets of Glasgow.  I was quite thrilled to have it approved.  Anyway, I'll make sure I'm better than... once a month...