Yesterday I finished B4 at the Black Box Acting Studio in Chicago. It’s the fourth and final level in what is a terrific program. It’s only been around for a few years, but the curriculum is solid and the teachers are passionate and smart. I feel like I’ve learned some new tools and sharpened some old ones, but most importantly I’ve now got a process for auditions and rehearsals. I also feel like I have a new home base, so that when I do get cast in a show and I’m running into roadblocks, I have a community of people I can call on to help.
What is the program?
Like a lot of programs in Chicago and elsewhere, they start with exercises used in Meisner classes. You learn to observe your partners behavior. You do repetition. Repetition is something that I’ve done for years. I thought this part of the curriculum would be old hat for me. But I certainly did learn new things.
I think that this whole thing about getting the who, what, where out in the first few lines is a scene killer. It may be this necessary building block for newbies, but when two moderately experienced improvisors are worrying about that stuff at the opening moments of a scene, it can be dreadful to watch and dreadful to do.
One solution that I’ve advocated for years is just do something, anything at the beginning of the scene. Don’t think about it, don’t talk about it, don’t make the scene about that activity. Just do that thing so that your scene partner can join you and you can blow past the who, what and where. Start talking about anything else. This tends to work reasonably well.
But when you can do that, there is a whole different set of muscles to work on. They are acting muscles. Continue reading →
So I have moved back to Chicago. I’m renting a nice one bedroom condo. It’s definitely the nicest apartment I’ve ever had. It has central air and a washer/dryer in the unit. I feel almost spoiled now. I think it would be hard to go back to most of the closets I rented in Chicago and New York.
You might ask, why am I here? I’m here to get better. I feel out of shape as a performer. As an actor, I never really nailed down any particular process. I’d get a script, memorize it, go to rehearsal, try to absorb the blocking and direction, and try to figure out the best way to say my lines. It’s not a great process and it doesn’t seem to take advantage of all that early training which encouraged me to work off my partner. So the first priority was to find a studio, go back to class and figure out a process–a real process that starts with a script and ends with a full, dynamic, grounded and improvisational performance.
Yesterday, I uploaded episode #10 of my improv podcast. This week my guest is Kurt Braunohler. I really enjoyed this conversation. We began by talking about how one goes about teaching Harold, but we quickly moved on to other topics like solo improv, image streaming and viewpoints. Finally we talked briefly about Caligula, an exercise that we talked about in the Susan Messing podcast.