Quotations: Volume 18

Here are some of the educational, inspirational, and humorous quotations from my classes this week (NOTE: I was sick and in workshops, which is why there are so few):

"Who's Tom? I'm Tom." - Stage Combat Instructor, talking about facing the audience/camera as much as possible in fights, just like Tom Cruise would

(On Camera Instructor is fiddling with a camera that's hooked up to a television)
On Camera Instructor: [Cameraman], I can't make it play back.
Cameraman: (Walks over to camera) Just press the red button. (Cameraman begins fiddling with camera)
On Camera Instructor: Would that have worked?
Cameraman: Nah. There's no red button.

"Don't be me in my badness. Be me in my greatness." - Stage Combat Instructor, after admitting one of his own bad habits in stage combat work

"Don't worry, I'll have you off your knees in a second. Then you'll be flat on your back." - Stage Combat Instructor

Stage Combat Instructor: When you're punching, you have to keep your hand vertical, as if you were going to give the person you're punching a thumbs up.
2nd-year AG: Or like you're holding a beer in your hand.
Stage Combat Instructor: YES! Oh my God. I'm using that. And you do NOT want to spill your beer!

"Are any of the gentlemen wearing boxers today? Guys, I'm sorry, but you cannot wear those for combat. For today, you might have to hold yourself in place, for safety's sake." - Stage Combat Instructor, when we were working with groin kicks

"You've got to react. You've just been kicked in the yum-yums." - Stage Combat Instructor

"Oh no. Not this again. You're always choking me at this part of the fight." - Stage Combat Instructor


Friday, January 30

I finally went to the doctor today and got some medication. I am hopeful that I'll have my voice back (and no coughing) for all the filming this weekend. *crosses fingers* When I went in, they said I had a fever. And I must admit, I feel pretty lousy as I'm writing this.

Stage Combat Workshop
We finished our bit of choreography that the 2nd-years are using for their Actor-Combatant Recognition exams. It's pretty fun, actually.

I worked with Thrill, and we created a little scenario, and adapted some of the choreography to better fit our story. Unfortunately, I totally screwed up a punching sequence when we were showing it to everyone (1st and 2nd years). I felt like a moron.

On Camera Workshop
We continued filming monologues and reaction shots yesterday. I did my monologue too fast for camera (which was weird, as I'd already slowed it down from what it would be on stage).

We got the scenes and scene-partners that we'll be working with this weekend. I'm paired with 2nd-year BW on a scene from the movie Hannah and Her Sisters, which I'm completely unfamiliar with.

We met the directors tonight, briefly, to kind of discuss their ideas for the scenes. Each scene will be shot twice, with different directors. It all begins tomorrow. I hope it goes well.

I met with my Acting Professor yesterday to discuss my observation exam. He rather liked my Floral Designer and my Air Mattress. He said that my Flamingo had improved (he said something about having "nasty bird eyes" which I didn't fully understand), but he seemed less keen on it than my others. He encouraged me to keep working on my Person observation and to bring it into class again next week.


Wednesday, January 28

Technically, I am still on Vocal Rest, but my status has been upgraded. My Voice Professor says that I may now use "Limited Voice". What she means by that is that I'm allowed to talk if I deem it necessary during the workshops this week (noise production during Stage Combat moves, and lines during On Camera). But I'm sort of using my own definition (because being silent sucks, and is really hard to do with people all around). What I'm doing is: no whispering, no speaking loudly, no trying to talk over other sounds, and no leading conversations. I'm still hydrating heavily, taking some cold meds (the kinds my Voice Professor approves of, that is), and generally taking it easy.

I also got an e-mail from my Voice Professor with some notes on things to work on. She says that during the David Brunetti Musical Theatre workshop (you may have seen the video I posted of myself singing) that my "s" sounds again became overly sibilant (they're much better now when I'm speaking, but apparently singing makes me do them the wrong way again). She wants me to drill my "s" sounds when singing, concentrating on forward placement.

She also wrote that I did an excellent job on my Sending & Landing exam, but that I need to keep paying attention to my "L" sounds. I need to make sure that I'm bringing the tip of my tongue up to my alveolar ridge. (This was a problem I already knew about... I know HOW to fix it, but I've been doing it the wrong way for so long that I often do it incorrectly without thinking about it.)

Stage Combat Workshop
I actually have some experience with stage combat, but pretty much all of my history with it involved weaponry. Here, we are being instructed only in hand-to-hand combat (which is probably the most useful thing to learn anyway... particularly for women). In your 2nd-year, you go through the "recognition exam" with someone from the SAFD in order to get certified (which just means that you can do hand-to-hand combat without hurting anyone; it does NOT qualify you to be a fight director). It sounds like the certification is one of those things that probably won't actually get you work, but is a good thing to have under your belt (and it won't hurt your résumé).

The goal of stage combat is to create the illusion of a fight without anyone ever actually being in any danger of getting hurt. We want the audience to fear for the characters without ever being worried about the actors.

Our instructor is a pretty funny guy, and he's good at instructing things from multiple angles (showing us a couple of ways to achieve the same goal, explaining what this would do to the body if it were an ACTUAL kick/punch/slap/etc., saying the common mistakes people make that result in injuries).

Our first day (Tuesday) was falls, pushes, shoves, slaps, and punches. Our second day (today) was kicks (including groin kicks), choking, a grab, and some floor work. We have one small bit of choreography that we do in pairs.

It's amazing how stage combat moves are sold through acting. By establishing a relationship between the characters and telling a story through the movement, it becomes something more than just the choreography. It's really very neat.

On Camera Workshop
Yesterday we got into groups of three and wrote 1-minute screenplays. One person in the group was the director, and the other two were actors. The director had to work into the script ways to get the actors to "hit marks" into close-ups (i.e. no zoom), and to have the camera pan (move side to side) and tilt (move up and down). My director was Thrill, and the other actor was 2nd-year AG. Our scene was about two roommates who were arguing over which one could have the dorm room with her boyfriend that night.

It was interesting to see just how different all the scenes ended up being. One involved a funeral, one involved a divorce, one ended in murder. They were seriously all over the map.

Today we screened the scenes from yesterday (each scene filmed two takes) and discussed them from an acting perspective. Some things work on film that do not work on stage, and vice versa. For example, it seems like we can put down a lot of what we learn in Voice class when it comes to screen (microphones pick up volume without us using our powers of projection, and crisp enunciation occasionally sounds out of place). Also, close-ups pick up everything on your face, whereas shots from far away really only get body language (not that we should wear bags over our heads, but there's not a lot you can get from faces).

We started getting in pairs to do monologues. The scene was filmed with the two people sitting in chairs, and the camera showing the back on one person's shoulder with the other's face. The actors were filmed one at a time (the one delivering the monologue and the one reacting to the monologue). I'm paired with 2nd-year KFH, but we'll be going tomorrow.


Monday, January 26

We got the following e-mail today regarding our On Camera Workshop:

Hi All

We're all really excited about the week we have with you. [Name] (the man coming with me to help teach and shoot, edit and screen your work) and I will start on Tuesday with all first and second years together. We may divide you for part of the next two days. The Film School directing students (first year MFA students) will be coming down on Friday with [Name] - the Associate Dean and Director of the Film School- and we'll shoot each of you in a scene over the course of the weekend. We'll assign scenes and partners. This is a pilot workshop; the first time we've tried something like this and it promises to be really fun with a lot of intense learning happening in a very short time. We've been working for a long time to find ways to get you guys together with the Film School students and we've finally created something that accomplishes that. It will, however, require some flexibility because we're not familiar with the spaces available and how our equipment will fit, etc. So be prepared for some logistical and technical difficulties.

For Tuesday, can you all watch Michael Caine's Acting for Film on youtube? I know some of you have seen it but it might be good to refresh yourselves on it. And for those of you who have not seen it, it will orient you to some of the technical aspects of camera acting we'll be working with. Please watch for the following: hitting marks, rising and sitting with the camera, working within the frame, adjusting to the frame size and the danger neutralizing when in closeup, (ie: the Educating Rita scene they perform on camera) and his discussion on the actor's relationship with the camera. We'll discuss this in class and do some exercises related to it. Here's the website (not sure if the entire video is covered in this playlist but please try to watch all of them.)

Let me know if you have any questions.

See you Tuesday afternoon.



So it looks like I have a bit more homework. Luckily, this is something that I can easily complete silently.

For your viewing pleasure, here is the sequence of YouTube videos that we have been asked to watch.

Michael Caine Acting in Film: Part 1

Michael Caine Acting in Film: Part 2

Michael Caine Acting in Film: Part 3

Michael Caine Acting in Film: Part 4

Michael Caine Acting in Film: Part 5

Michael Caine Acting in Film: Part 6

Quotations: Volume 17

Here are some of the educational, inspirational, and humorous quotations from my classes this week:

(during an Analysis class group presentation on the Elizabethan monarchy)
Iceman: I made a poster. (proudly holds up colorful homemade poster)
Analysis Professor: Ooh! I love visual aides.
Iceman: I went out and bought Crayola markers for this.
Director A: Oh, yeah. You're in grad school now!

Thrill: (referring to Iceman's poster) You gotta work on your letters, man.
Iceman: My letters? (examines own handwriting on poster) But I wanted it to be organic and not too uniform... Oh, whatever. I'm still an actor.

"Being able to apply a note immediately is like gold for an actor." - Movement Professor

"The difference between performing and not performing is allowing in an audience." - Movement Professor

"[O.D.], did you go through a coma a second ago, because I just went through this." - Voice Professor

(skimming through words in the pronouncing dictionary) "'Eurodisney'?! SHUT UP!" - Me

"The essence of a gingersnap is the molasses." - Iceman, explaining what "finding the essence" in observation work means to him

"You are much wiser on the subconscious level than on the conscious one." - Acting Professor

"The only mistake is to check yourself into the police station instead of going to the zoo." - Acting Professor, when discussing freedom in our Person Observations

"That's where you need to get. To where you are not playing the character, but where the things around you are playing the character." - Acting Professor

"Do not underestimate what is already happening between you and your character." - Acting Professor, saying that character development begins with what your subconscious absorbs in the first reading of the script

"The most difficult thing is when everything is known and nothing is left unknown. Then your intuition will have no place to work, and the creative process is all intuition." - Acting Professor, on why it's bad to know too much about the character you're playing

"The answers to all these questions are already in you, without you having to be able to answer. Maybe your brain doesn't know it, but maybe your liver does." - Acting Professor, on not consciously knowing everything about the character

"With this homework, we have to be very, very clear. What is essential, and how to do it. What is bulls***, and how not to do it." - Acting Professor

"Some people prefer to e-mail, but they're... what's the word? Misanthropes?" - Tech Instructor, explaining why he wanted to meet with us in person instead of writing to us (paraphrased)

"[All-the-Way], you take up way too much paper. I need you to write smaller." - Voice Professor, teasing All-the-Way for her tiny writing

"It has a plummy quality. More of a roundy-round." - Voice Professor, explaining the vowel in "law"

(coming up with examples of words with the vowel of "law/caught/all/etc.")
Voice Professor: Or McGraw. Like that dog that takes care of us.
Two-Shots-Up: That's McGruff.
Iceman: He takes a bite out of crime.

"By the end of the year, when you read a text, you'll hear me yelling at you. And that's important." - Analysis Professor

(commenting after movement monologues, which utilize improvised movement)
Movement Professor: And [D-Train], you got so high off the ground in that tour jéte!
D-Train: I did a dance move?
Movement Professor: Actually, it was a stag leg leap into a tour jeté. It was a man move. A very manly move.

(D-Train and Newbie start giggling as D-Train records a line)
Acting Professor: Why do you have the giggles?
D-Train: I just get the giggles with [Newbie].
Acting Professor: This is serious business. Isn't it?
D-Train: [Acting Professor], you're being so Russian right now. I have no idea what you're trying to say.

"Is an actor about independent creative process, or is being an actor about being a trained monkey? Only a crazy director will say that, above all else, an actor needs to be obedient." - Acting Professor

(During an etude, Two-Shots-Up whacked Thrill's arm with her thick wooden bracelets)
"You have to kiss it now... (sees Two-Shots-Up kiss Thrill's arm) Good..." - Acting Professor

"I wanna hear that again. It was somethin' about... somethin'?" - Iceman, after completely missing what Voice Professor said

(as Acting Professor was entering the classroom)
Iceman: Ladies and gentleman, I present to you, [Acting Professor]!
(the class cheers as though he's a celebrity)
O.D.: Oh my God, oh my God... Will you sign my notebook?
(Acting Professor laughs as he signs the notebook)
O.D.: Ah! I got his autograph!
(Acting Professor bows head)
Two-Shots-Up: Woo! Take it off!


Sunday, January 25

I have officially been put back on vocal rest by my Voice Professor as of about 15 minutes ago. After having a sore throat all week, I started really losing my voice last night. So now, no talking and lots of hydrating until further notice.

Anyway. Being under the weather made me spend a lot of the week resting when I could, so I'm a little behind on this... Back to Friday...

We finally did our movement monologues individually as performed pieces. I went first, which was nerve-wracking and uncomfortable. I was so worried that I was doing it wrong. But no, this is the kind of thing that you CAN'T do wrong.

After performing, we gave each other positive feedback, talking about our physical vocabularies and individual strengths. My professor said I had excellent "port de bras" (which is a dance term referring to the "carriage of the arms"... I looked it up). I'd write the other comments, but it feels to braggadocious to type out my compliments.

It was a very cool assignment, in retrospect. I learned a lot about the ways in which I habitually move, as well as the physical patterns of my classmates.

It turns out, I have a weird vowel shift that most people do not, and I cannot for the life of me figure out how I got it.

We started discussing the vowel in the phrase "God's hotdog". All three of those "o"s, in Standard American Dialect, should be pronounced as the same vowel -- the "o" sound in "honest".

In contemporary American speech, many people have started shifting their "honest" vowels so that they sound more like the "a" in "father". (If you're reading this and can't tell the difference between those vowels, you're not alone. They're similar vowels, and the shift is very common. We just can't learn it because it makes our speech sound too modern, which is limiting.)

I, however, somehow got the opposite shift. Instead of turning my "honest" vowels into "father" vowels, I sometimes round them too much and turn them into "law" vowels. So when I say "God's hotdog", I get "God" and "hot" correctly, but for "dog", I might as well be saying "dawg".

The three vowels in question appear in the phrase "tall coffee latte". "Tall" = "law", "coffee" = "honest", "latte" = "father". But I say it wrong, because I say "coffee" as "cawfee".

You know what other word I apparently say wrong? "Wrong". I put the "aw" vowel in, instead of the "honest" vowel.

My professor thinks it may have something to do with the fact that I grew up in the Midwest. The "honest" => "father" vowel shift is heavily present there, so I over-compensated by going in the opposite direction.

I think this is going to take a long (another word I can't say yet) time for me to correct.

Movement Tutorial
I met with my Movement Professor over my lunch hour. She filmed me walking, on the same tape that we've been using all year. Then we watched what my posture and walk used to look like versus what they look like now.


I look like I have a completely different body than I had before. I cannot tell you HOW MUCH closer to neutral I am. And it was so weird to see, because I didn't notice the change happening. More than that, I didn't realize exactly how messed up I looked when I got here. And it's so great to see that the alignment work I've been doing on my own has really been making a difference.

I've apparently evened out the weight I put on my legs now, my feet are in parallel, and they're no longer too close together (rather, they're perhaps a bit too far apart, because I have a habit of taking a note and running with it... it results in a lot of overcompensation, but it's not going to be hard for me to pull back on this one).

My new list of things to focus on:
- opening through the sternum
- letting my face "float"
- bringing my feet underneath me
- stop thinking so much about my lower back (yay! I've improved enough that I can focus on other things!)
- breath into my sides and my back lower ribs (right now the front of my rib cage is expanding far more than the rest of it)

O.D. and I went first with our Vonnegut scene, and I just wasn't in it. When the conversation begins in the short story, Hildy (my character) is crying. Then during the conversation, she starts crying again and Andy (O.D.'s character) has a line referencing it. But I just can't do it.

My professor says that I don't have to put pressure on myself to cry at the beginning of the scene. He also says that if I "record" that I have to cry, the only reason that it won't happen is if I'm ignoring other impulses that my subconscious is sending to me. If I ignore it sometimes, it will stop working consistently. He (and Killer) said that I had denied an impulse to stand up at an earlier point in the scene, which is why I couldn't reach a state of "I am."

The second time we ran the scene, it was much better. I still didn't cry, but I didn't care to. O.D's line became about the reaction that I had, rather than the reaction that I was "supposed" to have, and there was a lot of life and truth in it.

I am hopeful that it will continue to bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever.

I went to see The Imaginary Invalid again last weekend, which was the first time that I had seen it since the opening. I think it's gotten funnier since I saw it last (or maybe it just seemed that way because I hadn't heard the jokes in a while).

The opening of The Winter's Tale was on Friday, and it was the first time that I had seen the show entirely tech-ed. I have to say, it's pretty spectacular. And intimidating.

I went and saw Blur again last night, and I'm so glad I did. I thought it was even better than the last time I saw it (which was opening night). It's great to be able to observe actors continuing to develop their characters throughout a run.

I'm pretty sure that I'm ready to go on as Béline in Imaginary Invalid if -- God forbid it should ever happen -- the actress gets sick. But Paulina in Winter's Tale is another story. If I have to go on for her any time soon, I'm seriously worried that I would ruin that show.

As an opening night present, I gave both of the women I'm understudying (the woman who plays Béline in Invalid also plays Hermione in W.T.) Airborne, cough drops, tissues, and hand sanitizer. I included notes telling them "Break a leg (but not literally)", and telling them to "Stay healthy!" (I also gave those things to my 3rd-year roommate, who is playing Perdita, and is also Hallie/Marguerite in Inventing Van Gogh.)

I've been working on my Paulina lines diligently, but man, they're rough. A challenge that I've had with both of these understudy roles is that they're commanding women who lead the scenes they're in. Therefore, most of my lines are not reactionary, making it more difficult to remember the cues for them (especially considering that I'm learning them alone, with no scene partner to feed me the aforementioned lines). An additional difficulty with Paulina is that many of her lines are similar to each other (for example, "...think anon it moves." & "...think anon it lives."), and if I confuse them, everything else gets thrown off.

Today (Sunday), we had our first understudy run for The Winter's Tale (which I did with the hoarse and meager voice I had, before being put on vocal rest). So much of the blocking changed during tech. Paulina is suddenly sitting on a different chair, entering on the opposite side of the stage, crossing on a different line, etc. The lighting is specific, so our blocking has become so as well (standing a foot away from your mark in any direction could leave you in shadow). I feel as though all the rehearsals I attended in December did me little good by practical measure. Still, I'm glad that I went to them. I think it helped me to get more in tune with this production's interpretation of the character.

Anyway. As long as Paulina doesn't get sick next week, I'm sure it'll all turn out just fine.

I've been doing box office, which I've rather come to like, actually. It's like a cross between two of my previous employment experiences: a customer service desk at a mall, and filing medical records. As long as I smile and alphabetize correctly, everything is a piece of cake.

Tonight is the Blur strike, so I'm called for that. I attached a sticky note reading "I'm on Vocal Rest" to my shirt with a bobby-pin. I hope it all goes quickly, because after that, I'm going to come home, hydrate, and sleep.

This is recruitment season for the conservatory, which means some of the professors are off at auditions in New York, Chicago, and Las Vegas for the next couple of weeks trying to get a new class together (which is SO WEIRD... I feel like I just got here). In their absence, we are not having regular classes, but are instead in workshops.

We're having an "On Camera" workshop and a "Stage Combat" workshop. The 2nd-years are also having their certifications for hand-to-hand combat this week. And apparently, some directors are coming from our school's main campus (which is about a 4.5 hour drive away from our MFA Acting campus) to work with us in some capacity (although I'm still vague on that).

My upcoming schedule is:

Tuesday, Jan 27 - Thursday, Jan 29:
9am-12pm - Stage Combat
1pm-5pm - On Camera
(and on Wednesday, 7pm-8pm - Box Office)

Friday, Jan 30
9am-12pm - Stage Combat
2pm-5pm - Stage Combat
7pm-11pm - Meeting with Main Campus film directors

Saturday, Jan 31
1pm-5pm - On Camera
7pm-11pm - On Camera

Sunday, Feb 1
1pm-5pm - On Camera
7pm-11pm - On Camera

Phew! I think that's everything.

Silently yours,



Thursday, January 22

You know, for the most part, I'm pretty good at keeping my life organized and everything under control. But every now and then I have a week when I just feel generally out of whack. This is one of those weeks. I blame the fact that I still don't have my Winter's Tale understudy lines down, and the show opens tomorrow (which means if the actress breaks her leg tomorrow, I'm on). A legitimate reason to freak out, I think.

More movement monologue work. We did them with two people moving simultaneously while everyone else watched and tried to identify patterns that were developing (as it's a lot harder to notice them when you're doing it). The pairs would do the monologues a couple of times, and then the class responded with things we noticed. Then the pair would go one last time, keeping those elements in mind.

I went with Big Show. We were told that we had good kinesthetic response (meaning that we were reacting to what the other was doing), but to be honest, I hadn't paid much attention to that (as it wasn't really the goal of the exercise). I was told that my physical vocabulary is pretty "acrobatic". One of the patterns that has come out is "lunging", and another is being in the same position on the floor at a specific piece of text.

More vowel work.

The type of speech that we're learning is called "Standard American Dialect", which, frankly, doesn't seem very standard at all. We're learning to say words like "Glorious", "Warrior", "Florida", and "orange" so that the first vowels are the same as the "aw" sound in "law" or "caught". We're also going to learn the "ask list", which are words where the "a" vowel needs to switch from sounding like "apple" to a "middle a", which sounds somewhat British ("ask", "last", "dance", and "ghastly" are some of the words on the ask list).

My professor says that the hardest vowels to identify the differences between are the ones in "law", "honest", and "father" (yes, those are three different vowels), so we're going to have to be careful when learning them and look things up a lot in our pronouncing dictionaries.

Our homework for tonight is to come up with 10 words each for the vowels in the words "who", "would", and "law", and to IPA them.

We continued doing etudes with our Vonnegut texts. I think O.D. and I were doing a pretty good job, until the point where the text ended but the scene didn't. We ran out of recorded (i.e. memorized) things to say, but had to stay in the scene (we only end things when our professor says "thank you"... or sometimes when one of the characters exits the room/stage). It's not always easy to stay with the scene in these situations, because you (as an actor) KNOW what happens later in the story, and you become reticent to break from it.

O.D. and I added some more lines of improvised dialogue to the end of the scene (pretty well, I thought), but the energy had definitely changed. I guess that's something to work on for tomorrow.

Our professor started leading some of our classmates through the same sorts of lines of questioning with their characters as he has been doing for our Person Observations. These aren't necessarily questions that you can answer from the text (just as with the observation ones they're usually false memories that you're developing on the spot).

We started discussing King Lear today, and my inner-geek rejoiced!

We began by addressing things that make this Shakespearean text different from the other plays we've analyzed thus far (language, structure, imagery, rhythm, etc.). Our professor also brought up the convention of compressed action in Shakespeare (i.e. when a character witnesses something, and then says she's written a letter about it... even though she never left the stage and there was no time for her to have written it).

It looks like King Lear is going to lead us through the pathways of Religion and Nature. Interesting stuff.


Wednesday, January 21

We jumped rope today for the first time since... wow... probably the last week of November. And it was not as easy as it used to be. It was really good proof that if you're not diligent in practicing things, your skills fade. I mentally applied that note to my acting technique. There's really just no replacement for consistent work over time.

We played "God/Creature" with our movement monologues, which I always enjoy. Our Movement professor observed us working, and stopped us to give individual notes. Mine were about paying attention to my alignment (as usual).

We also explored the monologues with movement two at a time, while the rest of the class observed. And, as my professor pointed out, it showed how different everyone's movement vocabularies are. When we're moving freely, we show a great deal about ourselves. It's interesting.

Our homework was to go through the monologue on our own ten times tonight, and to begin to pay attention to patterns in our bodies. Your body starts developing patterns around certain bits of text, and it's now our goal to notice them and create phrases out of them.

Today was our first day of working with vowels in IPA. We discussed forward versus backward placement of different vowels, how much the lips are engaged, and diphthongs (which are when two separate vowel sounds blend together to make new sounds).

Our professor recommended looking at IDEA - The International Dialects of English Archive. It's a website that has samples of real people from all over the world speaking in their regional dialects (reading passages -- like "The Rainbow Passage" or "Comma Gets a Cure" -- and then talking about themselves). How cool is that?

Our homework for tonight is to find ten words with the vowels from the words "green", "sit", "met", and "apple", and then write them all in IPA.

Our professor spoke at length about transformation and characterization. He said that the first semester was all about "The Creative Process" and learning "how to leave myself alone". This semester, we're adding in some of "The Calculative Process", while trying to maintain the Creative Process that we've been discovering.

We spoke about our character observation work. In order to allow the essence of the person you've observed to live, you have to focus on receiving. You also cannot try to explain who the person is, because, as our professor says frequently, "If you name it, you will kill it." You cannot know everything about the character, because you ARE the character. People do not know everything about themselves. As soon as you start analyzing, you are putting yourself at a distance from the character, and will not be able to become them.

A good example of this is in villains. Let's say that there are two brothers who are opposites; one is innately good, and the other inherently evil. Let's say that a friend writes a play based off of them, and the "evil" brother goes to see it. He will automatically assume that the "good" character is the one based off of him, because in his mind, he is good. The vast majority of the time, villains do not know that they are villains.

Our professor says that often, your best reading of a play is the first read-through, because you haven't really judged the character yet. If you start to judge it, you end up spending the entire rehearsal process trying to get back to what you had in that first readthrough.

He says that your first introduction to a character "forms an embryo". If you work in an organic way and nurture what you started with, then the embryo will grow into a human. If you grab a scalpel and try to dissect it and see what it's made out of, you will kill it.

When you are directed to do something, you have to figure out the given circumstances that make you do it. You have to determine what it is that you're receiving.

Do not become a puppet of the director, the playwright, or your own preconceived notions. Do not BUILD a character; let it GROW.

We, as actors, are not the authors of the story; the audience members are. It's when they come up to you after the show and tell you what they saw that the story is being determined... and you have to tune them out. Because you might not realize that what you were doing read as "envy" or "love", but you cannot play what they tell you that you are playing. You will end up hitting notes falsely.

Halfway through class, we got our assignments for the Novel Project. We've all been assigned characters in some Vonnegut short stories, and will be adapting them into scenes.

"Find Me a Dream" - Me & O.D.

"A Night for Love" - Wifey & Big Show

"The Lie" - Newbie, Killer, D-Train, & Thrill

"The Foster Portfolio" - D-Train & Killer

"Miss Temptation" - Two-Shots-Up & Thrill

"Long Walk to Forever" - All-the-Way & Iceman

We started experimenting with small portions of the scenes in the same fashion that we worked on our text etudes at the end of last semester.


Tuesday, January 20

Audition Workshop with Carl Forsman
It occurs to me that I never wrote about this. Whoops. Basically, it was set up vaguely like an audition would be, with someone pretending to be the Reader and the other person being an auditioning actor (a reader is someone who sits in a chair and reads the lines of the other character in the scene for you while you audition). Then Carl would give us some notes, and we'd try it again.

I was the reader twice. The second time, it was for a scene in The Hollow... and since it's an Agatha Christie play, Carl wanted us to use British accents. The problem? We haven't actually been trained in dialect work yet. I did the best accent I could muster, but I was incredibly self-conscious about it.

My scene from Merton of the Movies went pretty well, I thought. I was the last person to go, so I had the benefit of watching the adjustments that Carl had given to my compatriots first. He only gave me one note, and after my second time through the scene said, "Wow, that was a major change. That was way more improved than I thought it would be." (Which then immediately made me wonder how bad it must've been the first time through...) Anyway. I think it went pretty well.

I have to say, though, hearing Carl talk about the industry was a little discouraging. He was talking about how many headshots he gets, and how he weeds through them to call people into audition for things. It made me feel like even getting auditions is hopeless. And then I promptly had one of those moments of, "Why couldn't I just have a normal job?" But after about 24 hours I remembered how much I love doing this, and that I wouldn't be happy doing anything else. Yes, it's going to be hard, but my need to do it is too great to ignore.

We finally had a real movement class again today! My Movement Professor commented how much better my alignment is. I guess all the "Daily Dozen" work and the Anatomy Coloring Book assignments I've had have been paying off. :)

We worked with our movement monologues, and it was so much more fun than any of us remembered. We were following our movement impulses and allowing the text to follow. We were specifically instructed to explore high areas (with your feet off the ground... like jumping and leaping) and low areas (with your head at least as low as your knees would be if you were standing). It was very freeing. I'm excited to continue developing it this week.

We had our Sending-And-Landing exam today, and I felt pretty good about it. But man, every time I have to say a line like, "...and a black baby lamb with a bell in its tail," or, "F*** Nerval! I wanna dishwasher," or, "I don't have any housewife s***. I want some stuff ladies have," I sort of want to laugh.

Another exam. (Why does it always seem like we have two in one day?) It was on observations of animals, inanimate objects, professional skills, and people. Each of us had to do 3 of the 4. Here was our order:

Big Show - Person (Ernie)
Thrill - Object (Chair)
D-Train - Person (Mourice)
Iceman - Animal (Cow)
All-the-Way - Professional Skill (Pastry Chef)
Two-Shots-Up - Person (Lenore)
Me - Professional Skill (Floral Designer)
Killer - Animal (Squirrel)
O.D. - Person (The Reverend)
Newbie - Professional Skill (Cake Decorator)
Wifey - Animal (Cockatiel)
Big Show - Animal (Lizard)
Thrill - Person (Sally)
Iceman - Person (Tyler)
D-Train - Object (Vacuum Cleaner)
All-the-Way - Person (Ally)
D-Train - Professional Skill (Barrista)
Two-Shots-Up - Professional Skill (Massage Therapist)
Me - Animal (Flamingo)
Killer - Person (Twitch)
O.D. - Object (Pencil Sharpener)
Newbie - Person (Matthew)
Wifey - Professional Skill (Hair Colorist)
Big Show - Professional Skill (Wine Maker)
Thrill - Animal (Dog)
Iceman - Professional Skill (Painter)
All-the-Way - Animal (Sea Lion)
Two-Shots-Up - Object (Grab & Go/Claw Machine)
Me - Object (Inflatable Mattress)
Killer - Professional Skill (Butcher)
O.D. - Animal (Tortoise)
Wifey - Person (Kim)
Newbie - Object (Stapler)

Actually, that last one is a lie... We didn't get to Newbie's stapler (but 32 observations in 110 minutes is pretty darn good, I think).

They went really well! I didn't think to take a picture of my floral design thing, but maybe I will tomorrow.

But here are some pictures of Adrian, the baby flamingo I've been observing:

He's grey because he's a baby. He'll turn all pink when he gets older.

I took this video with my camera, and Adrian walked right up to me at the end of it (he snuck up on me, which is why I stopped filming... that's my voice, calling him baby). He's pretty shy around people (and around other flamingos, actually) because he's a baby. But because I've been observing him, he's getting pretty comfortable with me.

Cute, right? (By the way, the fact that there's a place down the street from my grad school where flamingos will eat out of your hand? Freaking awesome.)

There were two group presentations today regarding Elizabethan society. The first was on the monarchy (and hoo, boy, was it crazy) and the second was on madness (or "melancholy", which they thought may have been caused by an excess of black bile). Interesting stuff. We're going to discuss King Lear (which I haven't started... whoops) on Thursday.

I spent some time this weekend working on my Paulina lines for Winter's Tale, but I still feel like a disaster. The show opens Friday, which means I should be ready to theoretically perform on Friday in case of emergency. Let's just say that as an opening night gift I will be giving the actress I'm understudying a big box of Airbourne, along with a card telling her to break a leg and begging her not to get sick.

Tonight, I'll be starting King Lear and probably coloring in my Anatomy book a little (I swear each one of those pages takes me at least 20 minutes because of how complex it is). And I'll probably glance at the text of my Movement Monologue, because I was paraphrasing all over the place today.

Much love,



Meet a Conservatory Student

I recently did an e-mail interview with a local arts newsletter regarding the program I'm in. I thought they were just going to use some quotes for an article, but they ended up publishing everything I sent them (I actually feel a little awkward about the ways in which I phrased things now... Had I known they were using my response in its entirety, I might've composed it more carefully). I thought I'd post it here for posterity's sake.



Angela [Last Name] is a first-year student in [the conservatory]. She originally hails from Okemos, Michigan. She graduated from Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana, and then lived in Chicago for two years between undergraduate and graduate school. This season, she’s understudying Béline in The Imaginary Invalid, and Paulina in The Winter's Tale for the [regional repertory theatre]. She was on stage crew for Wilder! Wilder! Wilder!. She will also be the assistant stage manager for Three Postcards.

What inspired you to come to [this town] to attend [the conservatory]?
I knew that pursuing an MFA in acting was the right decision for me. Acting is my vocation, and I wanted to be as well-trained as possible. I decided to come to [this town] for grad school because I was impressed with the quality of training I could get here. When I visited the program last February, I was struck not only by the skill of the acting students here, but also by their level of professionalism with their craft. Additionally, this program encourages students to expand as artists individually, instead of attempting to crush them into molds. I knew immediately that this was a good fit for me and would allow me to develop into the actor I wanted to be. After being in classes here for a semester, I know that I was correct in this assertion.

One valuable lesson you've learned so far at the Conservatory?
I've learned a multitude of valuable lessons since beginning classes here in August, about acting and about life. I'm learning to stop performing and to go on to stage living instead. I'm learning how to connect with scene partners and respond truthfully to them instead of just reciting lines the same way regardless of what's happening around me. And perhaps most importantly, I'm learning to give full freedom to my creative subconscious and to allow things to happen without censoring myself.

Three major roles as an actor you want to tackle?
It's difficult to name only three roles that I'd like to play. I think Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream would be a great deal of fun, and would fit well with my psycho-physical rhythm. She's frequently exasperated and vaguely insane, yet it's not difficult to relate to her longing and her frustrations. Many years down the line, I would love the opportunity to play Dr. Vivian M. Bearing in W;t. She is a professor of 17th-century poetry who is dying from ovarian cancer. She tries to use her scholarship to make sense of her physical battle. I feel a deep connection to that character, and hope that one day I am lucky enough to be cast in that role. Third, I think I'd have to say Cathy Hyatt-Wellerstein in the musical The Last 5 Years. The musical is written so that her scenes are in the opposite of chronological order, and I imagine it would be a challenge as an actor to try to take on her journey in reverse. She's a passionate woman who is struggling as an actor and is in a complicated relationship. I've played this role many, many times in my bedroom, singing along with the cast recording. I would love to be able to tackle it in a performance for more than just my stuffed animals.

Goals? Dreams?
My highest goal is just to do great work as an actor. I don't know where that's going to lead me, or what I'll be doing as a result. I suppose that solid plans, security, and stability are things that I'm willing to risk in order to pursue this career. I don't mind that uncertainty at the moment, as I have two and a half years left here to better understand what it is that I need to do in order to put my skills to good use.

Final words?
I am an actor because I feel that this is the way that I'm going to change the world. Theater is my civil service. If people can come to the theater and learn from the stories we tell, then we can change their perspectives. If they can put their troubles out of their minds for a little while, we can help heal their souls. If a busy family can come see a play and have something to talk about at dinner the next night, we can unite them. We can change people's lives in astonishing ways, and I believe that we can change the world. And when the world is in a depressed state, people need the arts more than ever. I'm incredibly proud to be doing what I'm doing.

[The conservatory] is a celebrated 3-year program culminating in a Master of Fine Arts degree. For more than 30 years, tens of thousands of actors from across the continent have auditioned for admission. A maximum of 12 students are admitted each year. In their second year, the students perform in the [Name] Theatre, a 161-seat space designed to create an intimate experience for the audience and actors. Third-year students are seen on the [Name] Stage working with the [Name] Repretory Theatre's professional actors in exciting and significant roles.


Quotations: Volume 16

Here are some of the educational, inspirational, and humorous quotations from my classes and rehearsals (including a few I missed from last semester...):

"I guess I think Shakespeare was a hippie. He allowed himself to be a hippie... sometimes." - Artistic Director

(Assistant Costumer explains design concept for The Winter's Tale.)
Assistant Costumer: It's not that we're wearing our parents' funny clothes...
Artistic Director: (warning him) Now you be careful with that.
Assistant Costumer: ...it's that we look hot in these awesome leather pants.

(Iceman, who is quite tall, was standing behind Director C, who is not very tall)
Movement Professor: [Iceman], don't hide.
Iceman: She can't hide me!

(around 9:30am)
The Pro: I need a drink.
Movement Professor: You need a drink?
The Pro: Don't be silly! Not until ten.

"In a time of crisis, it is more important than ever that we do this." - Artistic Director, on the importance of theatre in society

(Artistic Director speaks English with an Australian accent)
"With [Voice Professor], I try to tell her a joke, and I feel like maybe I'm not speaking English properly. But then she looks me straight in the face and says, 'It's not you. I have no sense of humor.'" - Artistic Director

"Don't need a director, because you will not get what you need from them." - David Brunetti

"Oh. You can watch if you want. I have to go somewhere and do something." - David Brunetti, on how you should be thinking about the audience before performing

"I was f***ing going crazy." - 2nd-Year SG, commenting on her own performance of "Dawn's Song"

David Brunetti: Have you been in any musicals?
O.D.: I was Milky White in Into the Woods. I was the front half. The guy in the back was a Jew, too. And Milky White is resurrected in the play. So we were like a Jesus cow.

"All I see is demanding. What if there were some pleading? Some reasoning? Some kidding?" - David Brunetti

"American acting is always spontaneous. British acting is always specific. But you need both." - David Brunetti

David Brunetti: What did you do over the summer?
2nd-Year KFH: I went Colorado, Minnesota, France, Latvia...
David Brunetti: You're kidding. Were you being chased?

"It's kind of like that Zoo Story thing, isn't it. The hamburger in front of the dog." - Leontes Actor, after Paulina put the baby Perdita on the ground in front of him (referring to a scene from The Zoo Story by Edward Albee)

Paulina Actor: This will change if the baby's going to cry.
Artistic Director: Actually, we COULD have the baby cry... [3rd-year DP]?
Paulina Actor: (to 3rd-year DP) Can you do a baby cry?
3rd-year DP: (produces an uncannily believable baby cry)
Paulina Actor: Oh my God! That should be on your résumé.
3rd-year DP: Oh, it is.
Paulina Actor: What else is? Other voice things?
3rd-year DP: Yeah, I do a lot of animal sounds.
Artistic Director: He's a gymnast, too. And a break dancer. That's what it takes to make it in this business these days. You've got to play the ukulele.
Paulina Actor: I can only do one thing, and I'm still working on it.
Actor-formerly-playing-Antigonus: Well... (lecherous voice) Practice makes perfect.
Paulina Actor: I was talking about acting! Not something dirty!
(Side note: 3rd-year DP plays the ukulele in The Imaginary Invalid)

"I love this scene. I get to tell men off... They all back off when I say so... Love it." - Paulina Actor

Paulina Actor: Sorry. I keep pronouncing that as it would be in Spanish.
Leontes Actor: Ignorance will serve you far better than knowing things. That's why I spent years not studying other languages.

Leontes Actor: Just a moment. Allow me to strip naked. (takes off top t-shirt, but has another shirt underneath)
Artistic Director: Now the play's getting interesting.
Leontes Actor: 'And then he came out with nothing but a tumbler in his hand, and sock garters.'

"Yeah, you're right. Sorry. I was thinking about a doughnut." - Director C

Artistic Director: (to Hermione Actor) This will be sort of a shocking image when you show up in court You'll basically be wearing a hospital gown, since you've just given birth. And no make-up...
Paulina Actor: That's so brave, no make-up. You'll get an Oscar.

"Let's bring out the Sword of Justice. Ooh! Did you hear the intake of breath? 'He's bringing out the Sword of Justice. Mum and Dad are fighting again.'" - Artistic Director

"I'm the George W. Bush of directors. Nothing is ever my fault." - Artistic Director

"Line! F***! Sorry. I hate myself. No, I'm fine. What time is it? I like myself again. Wait, what was the line?" - Leontes Actor

Artistic Director: Whoever has information has the hot spot, and we all keep surrendering the hot spot.
Leontes Actor: We all have a hot spot.
Artistic Director: The g-spot... Sorry.

Leontes Actor: Did you say seersucker pants?
Artistic Director: This is me, totally sober and well-rested. And I suddenly have no credibility in the room.
Leontes Actor: I just can't stop thinking about your pants!

Leontes Actor: You know what? No... What the f*** do I know? You should direct. You're the director.
Artistic Director: Oh really? Is that how it works?
Leontes Actor: It's true. I looked it up.
Artistic Director: Well it's a little late in the day for that.

"I don't feel like sticking hot spikes in my eyes." - Artistic Director

(Looking for a prop, discovers some of Autolycus' kinky wares)
Leontes Actor: There are all sorts of dildos back here.
Artistic Director: Dildos?
Paulina Actor: Are you suggesting we bring the dildos to the chapel?
Leontes Actor: It is traditional.

"O thus she stood? Thus she sat. Thus she laid there. O thus she stood there on one leg." - Leontes Actor, trying to remember a line.

(Two-Shots-Up trying to convince our grandfather-aged Dance Instructor to come to our New Year's Eve party)
Two-Shots-Up: [Dance Instructor], do I have to tell you what I'm wearing? Six words: Blonde wig. Pink tights. Glitter. Everywhere.
Dance Instructor: But that's what I'm wearing.

(At the understudy readthrough of The Winter's Tale)
Antigonus Understudy (3rd-year SO): 'Weep I cannot, But my heart bleeds; and most accursed am I to be by oath enjoin'd to this.'
Leontes Understudy (3rd-year JP): That's so unprofessional.

(At the understudy readthrough of The Winter's Tale)
Me (Paulina Understudy): 'That shall be when your first queen's again in breath. Never till then.'
D-Train (Autolycus Understudy): B****!

(at a rehearsal for The Imaginary Invalid.)
3rd-year DY (Claude Actor): "Madmoiselle, that sympathy has thrust its head out of the rich soil of this first meeting, and is growing too fast to wait."
Analysis Professor (I.I. Director): There's no double-entendre in that at all, [3rd-year DY]. He's not smart enough for double-entendre. 'It's growing! It's hard! We have to get married because I've got an erection!'

"Welcome to runway." - Dance Instructor, when we were doing a combination across the floor

"If you stop, move." - Thrill, giving advice on waltzing -- if you're still, you're doing something wrong

"We have a new syllabus. It says 2009. Yeah, I double-checked that one." - Voice Professor

"I know I'm going to get the time, date, and month wrong, so I go for the year." - Voice Professor

"I put the word 'intimate' in quotes. I don't know what I was thinking. I think I was winking when I wrote it, too." - Voice Professor, explaining "'intimate' scenes" on our syllabus

All-The-Way: (to Acting Professor) Ooh, I like your ensemble. (Acting Professor looks mildly confused) I mean your outfit.
Acting Professor: No, you are the ensemble.

"What I've noticed is for some reason all the other theatre people I've worked with in my life are richer than me." - Acting Professor

"You must ask yourselves, 'am I imitating an object, or am I growing the soul of an object?'" - Acting Professor

(after doing a physical/vocal warm-up called "Rock Like Roy Hart")
Voice Professor: Those are some beautiful drugs.
Big Show: You have beautiful drugs, and you're not sharing?
Voice Professor: It's called Rock Like Roy Hart.
Big Show: Oh, well, yes.
Iceman: Side effects include dry mouth.

(going into various physical positions that help you find your vocal support)
Big Show: This one is a little moon-like.
Voice Professor: A little moon-like, although it makes me feel like Jesus. And I'm not very comfortable with that.

(During Two-Shots-Up's professional skill demonstration of a massage therapist, her client, D-Train, begins to moan)
"If you close your eyes, it's like an erotic movie." - Russian Friend of Acting Professor (he was observing that day, and he thought he was whispering this)

(D-Train holds out his hand to Newbie for some of the food that she's eating)
Newbie: And what do we say?
D-Train: Please?
Newbie: That's better.
D-Train: I just figured that the 'please' was implied in my eyes.

(After Newbie demonstrated her Stapler observation)
Newbie: You should have seen me practicing this last night for my boyfriend. 'Honey, do I look like a stapler?'
Acting Professor: And do you still have a boyfriend?

(After D-Train demonstrated his Cigarette observation)
Acting Professor: Why a cigarette? Why not a cigar?
Thrill: Cigars are for champions.

"I was working on this at home and thought, 'how dumb could this be?' But after seeing some of the ones today, I thought, 'okay.'" - Thrill, as a precursor to showing his Chair observation

"I want to see the mess that this is going to be. The cluster-f***. Let's have the cluster-f***." - Artistic Director (in his Australian accent, he puts the emphasis on "f***", not "cluster", making it particularly amusing)

"I there an O'Callaghan effect going on up there?" - Artistic Director, during a long scene change, referring to one of the actors

"All I need is a paper bag and some gasoline." - Iceman

(After Iceman demonstrated his Cow observation)
"I could not stop laughing when I was doing it by myself. It's the weirdest thing... Being a cow... Grad school!" - Iceman

(Big Show had left the room before the Cow observation, and came in during it. He watched from upstage.)
Iceman: [Big Show], did you get to see the cow?
Big Show: Just the tail end of it.

"Things go from black-and-white to purple. Or whatever color sex is for you." - Analysis Professor, on Sonnet 54

"Have the guts to stop when it's over." - Acting Professor, on not allowing our observations to go on for indulgently long periods of time

"He never comes out and says, 'Let's shtup, you and me.' But he does imply the potential for shtupping." - Analysis Professor, on Sonnet 54

Analysis Professor: This semester, I expect you to have a good understanding of each play, and to argue with me when you can show examples in the text.
D-Train: But we argued with you tons last semester.
Analysis Professor: But not well. Folding your arms and saying, "Is SO!" does not count as a valid argument.

"I'm talking to [D-Train]. [D-Train] is going to be my object of affection all class long." - Analysis Professor, when explaining Sonnet 54

"In Shakespeare, there is no subtext. There is none. There was no such thing as the subconscious in that society. It didn't exist. Shakespeare didn't use it. You can't use it." - Analysis Professor

"I warmed up twenty years ago, and I'm still ready." - Dance Instructor

(In sending-and-landing, when Voice Professor's hands were on All-The-Way's rib cage and stomach)
All-The-Way: Sorry. I get messed up when you're here. I'm going to pretend you're not here.
Voice Professor: Or pretend it's okay that I'm here.

(getting clarification on an exercise)
Iceman: What are you expecting?
Voice Professor: Perfection.

"Free your hands. You can move your hands wherever you want them to be. Don't strike me, though." - Voice Professor

(Voice Professor makes disapproving sound regarding D-Train's rib swing)
"I know. I didn't even breathe." - D-Train

(Voice Professor has been making hand gestures to convey things to D-Train all through class. She then puts on pink gloves)
Iceman: It looks so much more menacing with the pink glove on.
Voice Professor: I've never done it with the pink glove. (Turns to D-Train) Do you want to be my first?

Voice Professor: Did that offend you?
D-Train: Yes. A bit.
Voice Professor: Good. I was hoping.

(In a discussion of things to put on résumés that might help us get noticed)
"Not only willing, but prefer to do nude scenes." - Voice Professor

(In a discussion of what not to say to directors that you're keeping in touch with)
"I'm here to catch you up on me." - Voice Professor

Voice Professor: Use your rib swing.
O.D.: And by 'rib swing', do you mean...
Voice Professor: (interrupting) [O.D.], you know exactly what I mean.

O.D.: Oh look. There's [D-Train] eating something! How unusual.
D-Train: Are you calling me fat?
O.D.: Oh, no. And I know I shouldn't say anything about eating. I mean, I'm one to talk.
D-Train: Yeah, you fatty.
(Note: Neither of them is fat, but they both eat frequently.)

"One of an actor's professional skills is knowing how to wear a costume." - Acting Professor

"That work was absolutely beautiful, [Big Show]. I feel like you just had sex with that glass of wine." - D-Train, after Big Show's professional skill of winemaker

"For me, it was like '(head turn) Food?... (head turn) Is that another lizard?... (head turn) Food?... (head turn) I'm a really great lizard." - Big Show, on his lizard observation

(Directly after O.D.'s "Plant Propagation" demonstration, in which he took a bunch of the roots out of a plant.)
Acting Professor: Alright... What did you just do?
D-Train: I think you just killed Desdemona. That plant was innocent.

(On the way O.D. was examining the base of the plant)
Two-Shots-Up: Maybe, you know, if you did a better job of showing us what you were looking at?
Acting Professor: At one point, I thought that you were looking for treasure.

"I've learned so much from previous oracles." - O.D.

"...we've got that small domestic parrot that I can't pronounce." - Acting Professor, referring to a cockatiel


Friday, January 16

Ballroom Workshop
Today was our last day. Big Show and I were partners for nearly the whole day, and I have to say, I thought we were really nailing the waltz stuff.

We dabbled in a couple of other dances (like polka!), just to see what the basic step is like in case we need it in the future.

My Voice professor called my sending-and-landing "awesome" today, so I think I'm ready for our test on Tuesday. She said that the thing I have to watch out for is raising my chin when I say lines. (I don't know if this is a problem I've always had and no one told me, or if it's a new thing as a result of the new breathing that I'm doing...?)

I showed my "person" observation today. The goal of it was to find the "essence" of the person, and allow it in. So it's not about mimicry. I think it's more about creating a character. It went alright, but I think I really need to spend more time with this character before it's going to yield much.

It felt like a lot happened... Let's see...

All-the-Way - sea lion
Big Show - lizard
Killer - squirrel
Newbie - starfish
Wifey - cockatiel

Inanimate Object:
Wifey - ceiling fan

Me - "Donna"
Wifey - "Kim"

Professional Skill:
Big Show - Winemaker
O.D. - Plant Propagator

We decided what everyone is going to do for our exam on Tuesday. We're each going to present three out of our four observations. I'm doing Flamingo, Air Mattress, and Floral Designer ("Donna" needs to marinate a bit longer before she'll be ready for anything).

Carl Forsman Auditioning Workshop
This weekend, Carl Forsman is doing a workshop with each class on auditioning. The 1st-years' workshop is on Sunday, and we were just given our sides today ("sides" are pieces of dialogue from a play that actors are asked to use at auditions). Some of the sides are from The Hollow by Agatha Christie, and some are from Merton of the Movies by George S. Kaufman.

I'm doing a side with O.D. from Merton of the Movies, and I'm pretty excited for it. The only concern I have is that I think we're going to have to go last in the workshop... I hope we'll get plenty of feedback before time is up. Now I just have to memorize three pages of dialogue before Sunday morning.


Thursday, January 15

Ballroom Workshop
I have to say, I think we've come a long way with the waltzing. It still isn't perfect, but we've improved a great deal. If any of us gets famous enough to be on Dancing with the Stars, I don't think we'll be kicked out in the first week. :)

We started choreographing a routine a bit, but I don't know how much we'll get done. Tomorrow is our last day of this workshop. Apparently we're going to learn a little snippet of polka, so that should be fun.

I tried to send-and-land the text today as my Voice Professor had one hand on my stomach and the other on my ribs. It doesn't sound like a huge deal (and is actually minimally invasive), but it makes you hyper-aware of every movement in your body. It's a bit jarring. I'm actually doing pretty well with my rib swing, as it turns out. I don't seem to have a problem with landing final words, which is a common issue. Rather, I occasionally invert my rib swing or take too many rib swings, breaking up the text more than I should.

As a side note, while I'm learning how to breathe, send, and land, all my acting goes completely out the window. One thing at a time, I guess.

Just showed observations, as usual. :)

Inanimate Object:
D-Train - Vacuum Cleaner
Iceman - Emo Hoodie
Two-Shots-Up - Claw Machine


Professional Skills:
Iceman - Painter
Newbie - Cake Decorator
O.D. - Gardener
Thrill - Fisherman
Wifey - Hair Colorist

So if my notes are correct, we have a lot to get to tomorrow before we decide what our exam is going to consist of (each of us will show two of our things at an exam on Tuesday). Five animals (All-The-Way, Big Show, Killer, Newbie, and Wifey) and two people (Wifey and me). Hopefully it'll all go swimmingly.

My group presented the book The Elizabethan World Picture by E.M.W. Tillyard. If you (or someone you know) is interested in Shakespeare, tell them to read it. I'll be honest, it's not a "fun" read; it's dense and complex. But it's pretty short and once you read it, you really end up with a better handle on Shakespeare's world (and the audience for which he wrote). More than that, you'll understand more references he makes in his plays (e.g. when Lady Macbeth says, "Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?", the audience would've understood that Duncan was sanguine).

O.D. did our introduction. I specifically focused on "Order" and "Sin", as well as the Elements and the Humours. All-the-Way & Killer focused on "The Chain" and "The Links of the Chain". D-Train spoke about "The Correspondences". Miraculously, we presented on the entire thing in about 50 minutes (we were originally supposed to have 90). I'm pretty pleased.

We spent a long period of time talking about the sonnet paraphrasing that we had done. It's important when reading poetic text that you don't ignore anything in it, and also that you don't add things into it that aren't there.

As this is probably the first homework assignment I've had that can actually go onto a blog with relative ease, I'll share mine with you. The assignment was to research every possible meaning of the words in the sonnet, and also to look at past interpretations. Then, we had to paraphrase it in a way that kept the original meaning in tact as much as possible (with a sense of flowery language), but made it easier to understand.

Sonnet 54
O, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odour which doth in it live.
The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye
As the perfumed tincture of the roses,
Hang on such thorns, and play as wantonly
When summer's breath their masked buds discloses.
But, for their virtue only is their show,
They live unwoo'd, and unrespected fade;
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made;
And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
When that shall vade, my verse distils your truth.

And this is how I paraphrased it (broken down into the three quatrains and the couplet):

O! How much more attractive beautiful things appear when they are enhanced by the decoration of a delightful spirit! Roses are beautiful, but we believe them to be even more gorgeous because of the lovely fragrance that they exude.

Wild poppies are just as red as sweet-smelling roses. They have similar thorns, and they are just as seductive when breezes unfold their disguised petals.

But they are only as effective as roses in appearance. They are undesired, and they are ignored when they lose their beauty (just like what happens to handsome shallow people as they age). They die alone. Sweet roses do not die alone. When they leave for heaven, beautiful perfumes are made out of them. They live on, even more beautiful than they were before.

You are like the sweet roses, my handsome and lovable young friend. Your beauty will fade, but this sonnet I wrote for you will preserve the essence of your spirit, which is even more lovely than your physical beauty.

I actually thought that assignment was a lot of fun. We're going to be reading a couple of Shakespeare plays this semester, and I'm stoked. It's like playtime for my brain! (Yes, I'm a huge geek.)



Wednesday, January 14

The coolest thing to happen to me today? I read this list of the 100 Best Blogs for Film and Theater Students, and this blog was on it! I'm #48, baby!

Ballroom Workshop
Man, it's hard not to lead. And I never notice that I'm doing it until someone (usually D-Train) points it out to me. Have GOT to work on that.

We waltzed to "Dancing" from Hello, Dolly! for most of the day, which meant you really had to listen to the music, as the tempo changes frequently. We also worked on spins, which were great fun (if occasionally dizzying).

More of our sending-and-landing work with text. I didn't go today, but I'm already concerned that I might be breathing incorrectly... I guess I'll find out tomorrow.

We didn't get to very much today, because our professor lectured a great deal.

I did my floral design professional skill observation, and it didn't go terrifically well. I think I was concentrating too much on precision with my movements and not enough about artistry. *sigh*

Professional Skills:
D-Train - Barrista
Killer - Butcher
Me - Floral Designer

Newbie (nickname still not yet established)

I think that was it. Which means we have a TON to get through tomorrow.

Now that I'm back from working the box office, I have to get to work on my part of a group presentation for Analysis class tomorrow on The Elizabethan World Picture. I'm taking the subjects of "Order" and "Sin". Should be interesting.

I also really have to work on my "person" observation before tomorrow. I feel like I still don't really understand how to use the essence of the person I observed. I pray that it'll go alright tomorrow, but I'm pretty nervous for it.

And I feel like I am SO FAR BEHIND on memorizing my lines for The Winter's Tale. It opens a week from Friday! I'm going to eat, sleep, and BREATHE that text this weekend.



Tuesday, January 13

Ballroom Workshop
We learned a dance step called "The French Cross" that seemed to trip everyone up (probably didn't help that the piece of music we were trying it to was pretty much at warp speed). We did turns across the floor. We did turns in circles. Frankly, it looks more like a comedy than a dance at this point, but I think we're making progress.

We worked with sending and landing our text a bit. Turns out, a lot of us have trouble landing words with final "l" consonants.

Observations galore.

Big Show - pizza chef

D-Train - sloth
Iceman - cow
O.D. - tortoise
Two-Shots-Up - rabbit

Inanimate Objects:
All-The-Way - scissors
Me - inflatable mattress
Killer - Swiss Army knife

Thrill - "Sam"

We came to class and discussed our thoughts on Sonnet 54. I had a decidedly more sexual interpretation of it than my compatriots (but I think they found it amusing). I really love breaking down poetic texts. It's like a puzzle waiting to be solved. So much fun.


Monday, January 12

I know we just got back from break, but I feel like I need some time off.

I observed another floral designer for several hours this morning. I'm really not sure how it's going to go when I try to show the skill. I'm showing my inanimate object tomorrow, my professional skill Wednesday, and my person on Thursday.

I went to what was supposed to be a run-through of Winter's Tale yesterday, but left when it was clear they weren't going to make it to Act V. I swear the blocking changes every time I watch it. I don't know how much I actually benefit from attending those rehearsals at this point. I think it might be better to just stay home and drill lines.

I did my assignment for Analysis class analyzing Shakespeare's Sonnet 54. I hope I did it correctly. *crosses fingers*

I haven't had time to read Elizabethan World View, and I'm in a group that's presenting it in Analysis on Thursday. I hope to read it tomorrow night.


Here's my class, as it looks now.

Back row: D-Train, Iceman, Big Show, Newbie (to be named later)
Middle row: Wifey, Two-Shots-Up, Thrill, Acting Professor, All-The-Way, Killer
Front Row: O.D., Me

And the standard "goofy" shot.
Back row: D-Train, Iceman, Big Show, Newbie (to be named later)
Middle row: Wifey, Two-Shots-Up, Thrill, Acting Professor, All-The-Way, Killer
Front Row: O.D., Me


Saturday, January 10

This morning was the first understudy rehearsal for The Imaginary Invalid. We made it through Act I, and I think we did pretty well in general.

This show has been open for over a week, and today was the first time I've stepped onto the set. Understudying is weird.

We had ballroom this afternoon. My feet are not used to my 2.5-inch heels yet. I'm glad to have a couple of days off from that workshop.

Two shows have opened this week. Blur, which is part of the 2nd-year season, and Inventing Van Gogh, which is part of the Rep season. I love having so much access to (free-for-me!) good theatre. It's definitely one of the perks of being in school here. And the opening night parties are fun, if occasionally intimidating.


Friday, January 9

Ballroom Workshop
We started with our Jazz and Rag warm-ups. And then we went into the waltz, using music of various tempos.

Our instructor told us that we should have what amounts to an inner-monologue while dancing. You're playing a character, and in having that present, you're less likely to be hyper-focused on your body, and more natural with things. When I was dancing with D-Train, he suggested that we should be a couple who have been married for 40 years. Just the idea of adding character to it made it more fun and less stressful.

A couple of the new things we learned today were tricky for me to process. The way we did some turns across the floor seemed entirely counter-intuitive, so it took me a few tries going at snail pace to pick it up. But once I got it, I was fine.

One of the trickiest things for me with partner dancing is not to lead. And then, while not leading, to still keep my weight forward. But I'm getting the hang of it.

Our professor gave us some text that we'll be working on for our "sending and landing" work. The text is a snippet from Cowboy Mouth by Sam Shepard. We practiced with the first few lines, and are supposed to have the first page of dialogue memorized by Tuesday.

Today was all observation projects (people, objects, animals, and professional skills).

- Two-Shots-Up was a masseuse and a bluetooth.
- Big Show was an 87-year-old man, a street crossing light, and a bowling pin.
- Thrill was a puppy and an arm chair.
- I was a flamingo.
- Newbie (she will get new nickname later) was a stapler.
- Wifey was a lightbulb.
- D-Train was a cigarette and a lamp (he also guest-starred as a client of the masseuse).
- Killer was a pumpkin spice latte.
- O.D. was an electric pencil sharpener.

(I think that's all of them... I just wrote that from memory)

These observations are really fun to watch. I was trying to control my laughter through most of them (because when people nail these things, it really makes me want to laugh for some reason).


Thursday, January 8

Today was the first day of my Spring semester. Thank goodness. I was going a little nuts not having class on a regular basis.

We also got a new classmate today (nick-nameless as of now). She finished her 1st semester here two years ago, but then took a leave of absence. Most of us met her back in August, and we've known that she was joining us. I'm thrilled that she's finally here. :)

Ballroom Workshop
We've started our Ballroom Workshop, which will take place over 8 days. I have shiny new character shoes that I'm having a blast using. It's been so long since I've danced in a structured way (before my current understudying role, the last choreography I learned with in 2005). And dancing with a partner? Not since I attended meetings of the "swing dance club as a freshman in college, which was back in 2002.

We did a jazz warm-up, and then learned a bit of rag (which will be part of our warm-up for the next 7 classes). We finished with the beginnings of waltz (learning "school-figures", which are the basic outlines of the step before you manipulate it in any way).

Ah, it's good to be back in Voice class. I think I tremored in every position today. Seriously. Destructuring (tremoring) is so much easier to do in a group (for me, at least). We also worked on our sending/landing and breathing.

It sounds like the coming days of Acting class are going to be spent showing all of our observation work without much of an order. The observations we've been working on are:

- People
- Animals
- Inanimate Objects
- Professional Skills

D-Train, O.D., and Iceman all showed people today. They "lived" as the character for a bit, and then answered our questions using the inner-life of the character.

All-The-Way showed her professional skill. She had observed a French pastry chef. She had pre-made her dough, but went about constructing something she called "apple gilletts" (no idea on the spelling).

Thrill showed his observation of the front door to his apartment. People exited the apartment. Someone couldn't find the right key, and then knocked to be let in. Dogs scratched at it. It was pretty funny, actually.

Textual Analysis
We're getting into what will most likely be my favorite thing that we do in this class: Shakespeare. (SQUEAK!)

We started looking at a couple of sonnets today, and just discussing how one needs to read poetic text. I'm totally geeked over it. We have an assignment to analyze one of the sonnets, break down everything completely, and then paraphrase it. Our professor wants us to "show our work". This means that we'll be copying pages of the Variorum and our Shakespeare glossaries and circling the things that we found helpful.


Wednesday, January 7

I went to a flower shop today to watch some floral designers in action. It was actually fascinating. I was observing two women simultaneously, and they were super nice to me, and explaining every part of their processes step by step. And then when we got into discussing event-related flowers, one of them made me a boutonnière on the spot to demonstrate how complicated the process is if you're doing it well.

I also went to some local jungle gardens (man, I love Florida) to observe some animals for class. I should say "hang out with" more than observe. I petted a white male peacock, and a newly-hatched flamingo (which was shockingly huge) tried to eat my map. I think I'm going to focus on the flamingos, as they were all really friendly and active. I tried to look in their eyes and understand their psychology, but it's just REALLY not the same as it is with people.

I've been having email conversations with our Tech instructor. Apparently he no longer needs me on costumes for Miss Julie, so I'll be on box office for a bit longer. I'm a little disappointed, as I was looking forward to costumes, but oh well. I might be planning a Late Night this semester (I emailed people asking if they'd want to do the musical The Last 5 Years with multiple actors playing each of the characters, and I've gotten a healthy number of responses), so this should give me more time to figure out if that's going to work.

He also asked me to let my class know that we're going to have weekly meetings with him this semester.

I've been reciting my Imaginary Invalid lines while driving, with the hope that I'll get them stuck in my head better that way. Our understudy rehearsal is on Saturday (yes, we only get the one rehearsal), and the understudy run of the show (in front of whatever schoolmates and professors feel like coming) is on Sunday. Which is insane.


Monday, January 5

I am so anxious to get back to classwork, you have no idea.

I went to the school today and did etudes with D-Train, Iceman, and All-The-Way for about an hour, which was pretty great. I've been doing work on my own, but it really isn't the same thing. My creative subconscious needs more room to stretch than my living room allows.

After that I met with Two-Shots-Up (she's understudying Angelique) and the 3rd-year who is understudying Argan to work on Imaginary Invalid scenes. We made it through Act I, and I think we're doing pretty well. I'm still paraphrasing, but it's not nearly as bad as it was even a few days ago. I'm really quite pleased.

The weird thing is trying to recreate someone else's performance in a way that is truthful for me, but also close enough to the original that it wouldn't throw off anything in the play. The actor I'm understudying is really well-trained (she actually graduated from my program a few years ago), and I'm just not up to her skill level yet. I'm just going to do the best I can, and hope that it's sufficient.

I went out with Two-Shots-Up to try to buy shoes for our Ballroom Workshop (which starts on Thursday, I believe), but the store was closed. Just one more thing to do tomorrow, I guess.

For our Acting class, we have a "Character Development" assignment that we'll be working on this semester. It sounds like we'll be adapting characters from literature and creating scenes based on that text. The texts we've been assigned are collections of stories by Kurt Vonnegut called Welcome to the Monkey House and Bagombo Snuff Box. We're supposed to focus on four stories from each one. I've read the ones from Monkey House in a Word document that Killer somehow tracked down. I just got Snuff Box in the mail today, so hopefully I can read those tomorrow. We're supposed to let our professor know which characters we're drawn to.

I had a Movement Tutorial with my professor last week to work on what she calls "The Daily Dozen" alignment exercises. There are some that she has decided I don't need to do because my upper body is already open and released. But some of the ones focusing on my spine and lower body she wants me to do twice a day. They're not strenuous by any means, but it's difficult for me to feel when I'm doing things properly with my spine or psoas muscles right now. It's a challenge.

I just got my Anatomy Coloring Book in the mail that my professor recommended I get. She wants me to start with the spine, followed by the pelvis, and then the femurs. Hopefully it will help me to understand my body better.

I've been watching floral designers on YouTube and reading about it online, as I haven't been able to watch any yet. I'm hoping to see some in person in the next couple of days. I already see a potential problem with my props... I don't want to use real flowers, as that would be very expensive. But fake flowers just don't move the way real ones do (especially since I think I'm going to focus on exotic design, which involves things like puncturing and folding leaves). And I'm not sure of a good way to cut the stems of fake flowers... This could be tricky.

I think I'm also supposed to read The Emperor Jones by Eugene O'Neill for Textual Analysis class before Thursday, but I haven't started it... Whoops. Hopefully I'll be able to do that Wednesday. Wish me luck.

I'm off to do some Chekov exercises, try to move my spine, and read some Vonnegut!



Sunday, January 4

The Imaginary Invalid has officially opened, and I am officially able to be called in to play the role of Beline on any given day. I've been keeping my cell phone by my side, and running the lines on my own on a daily basis. I know I'm still doing a little paraphrasing (saying "Poopsie" when I should be saying "Sweetums", and that sort of thing), and the blocking I'm doing in my kitchen isn't quite what it would be on stage, but I think I'm doing alright. If I HAD to go on, the show wouldn't be a complete and utter disaster. This is despite the fact that we haven't had a rehearsal yet. Weird.

The opening went really splendidly. I sat up in the nosebleed seats with D-Train and a friend from town. We were in the next to last row in the Balcony (seriously, I had no idea the theater was as scary huge as it is until I sat there). The show is hilarious, and the audience really seemed to love it. I'm geeked that I'm connected with it (even though I had absolutely nothing to do with the performance... still, I feel involved).

The next show of the 2nd-year's season opens in a couple of days, and I'm really geeked to see it. They're doing Blur by Melanie Marnich. This is the only show in the 2nd-years' season that I'm not working tech on in some way (I'm working box office this quarter instead), so the anticipation has been building up in me for weeks. So exciting!