Schofie

Posts Tagged ‘actor’

ACTING: Imagination and Introspective Connectivity – Part I

In On Acting on September 10, 2014 at 7:55 pm

So, we have identified the actor’s tools. I now hope to dive into each tool, and explode it into something practical. However, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let it be known, no one tool will be enough to carry you as an actor. You need them all. You need to recognize the continuum that exists between them, and sharpen them in such a way that they work in tandem with each-other. Certainly, there will likely be certain tools you rely on more than the others, as each individual is uniquely skilled in certain skills as opposed to the others. You may not have to equally develop all of the tools. But you must not disregard the others, to be well rounded, you will want to actively engage each tool on some level or another. Once again, only so long as it is helpful to you and brings about observable results.

I love Root Beer Floats. They are perhaps the paragon of cultural achievement. Culinary excellence blended in utter simplicity. A euphoric blend of textures, flavors, temperatures, and sensuous palatability served up in simple confectionery genius. Apparently this guy named Robert McCay ran out of ice to serve with his soda way back in 1874, and partnered with an ice cream vendor, thus inventing the first floats. God bless him and his poor rationing-of-ice skills. That’s 140 years ago!

You know the thing about Root Beer Floats? There is a proportional relationship between the two ingredients. (That’s ice cream and Root Beer for you who are way behind) Two little ice cream, and you just have vanilla flavored Root Beer with frigid chunks of slop bobbing about. Too much ice cream, and you only get foamy mounds of ice cream without the refreshing liquidiness that is Root Beer. The trick is too create an iceburg of vanilla chilliness whose peak subtly emerges from a snug ocean of the brown waves of A&W, the summit only vaguely enveloped in the clouds of perfect, amber foam – and you need a crinkly straw – obviously.

root-beer-float-horiz-520

So I just got a brain freeze typing all of that. Are you lost in my metaphor? I am. What was I trying to say, anyway? Oh, yeah. Actors are Root Beer Floats. Our next few discussions will go very much hand in hand, as the mind and body are so intertwined. If you do something to the ice cream, it will effect the root beer. If you do something to the mind, it will effect the body.

That being said, some idiots go to make a Root Beer float, and forget to add the ice cream. I mean, Root Beer is delicious, but it’s not a float without it. Some of you introspective philosophers, analytical literature gurus, and psychological emotion-dissectors just love your root beer, but you have forgotten to add the ice cream. You spend hours in dark closets connecting your “inner you” to the given circumstances your character finds themselves in. You mechanically pick apart nuances in the literature of a play or screen-write. You bleed symbolism, and revel in the philosophical implications of the text. This is the root-beer. It’s the stuff audiences slurp up without actively thinking about it. It’s just there. Delicious to the connoisseur, but the average consumer is there to dig in with a spoon – they can actively engage with the physical. They see your body, they hear your voice. They can’t see or hear the hours you spent researching transgender-norms in Elizabethan London.

This is why I hesitate to start with the mind. Because a novice mistake is to over-think a role. I think I have spent enough time warning against this, so we will dive in – because despite my warnings, I do love my Root Beer.

10659203_10152449562634983_2792271583936868846_n ~j.d. schofield

Advertisements

ACTING: | The Basics

In On Acting, Uncategorized on August 27, 2014 at 5:36 pm

I am not here to insult your intelligence. We have a broad readership here at the Green Room, and I know some of you reading are veteran actors – the makeup and limelight are no stranger to you. But others of you are only just starting out. And as far as I’m concerned, I feel we all need to have a foundation of terminology from which we can understand each other. If we are to discuss acting, we must first define it.  As I addressed in the previous article, that definition has been evolving for everyone in different ways for thousands of years. I am not claiming to have unlocked the depths of the meaning of the term “acting.” Therefore, we shall be evolving our own working definition of acting throughout the course of this series.

I am a huge fan of simplifying things. Maybe to a fault. But I want this series to be insanely practical. To that end, we are going to boil away all the crap that we are not ready for yet, strip away the cliche’s and preconceptions that are misguiding us, and find the skeleton beneath all that fleshy acting theory.

 

So, Google is awesome. I’m not trying to be scholarly here. I just want to get you thinking. I want a discussion to evolve. And I know you know this stuff. But take a moment and read Google’s attempt to define our craft.

ACT| V. 1.) take action; do something. 2.) behave in the way specified.

N. 1.) a thing done; a deed. 2.) a pretense

 

ACTION| N. 1.) the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim. 2.) a thing done; an act.

 

ACTOR| N. 1.) a person whose profession is acting on the stage, in movies, or on television. 2.) a person who behaves in a way that is not genuine. 3.) a participant in an action or process.

 

ACTING| N. 1.) the art or occupation of performing in plays, movies, or television productions.

ADJ. 1.) temporarily doing the duties of another person.

Obviously these are all terms we would expect to be associated with the craft of acting. No one is surprised here, right? I didn’t think so. But I bet some of you are a little intimidated by acting. Some of you have found yourselves in a role and you just didn’t know what to do to make it “click.” If you have ever been frustrated on stage, set, or in rehearsal, then I always recommend taking a moment to step back from what you are doing, and ask yourself – “What am I doing?”

Did you ask yourself? Ask it again. What are you doing? Now look at those definitions again. What words do you see perforating each and every definition? What are you doing? – “DO,” “DONE,” “DOING.” Also, “TAKE,” and “BEHAVE.” These terms each imply action. They imply activity. They imply “acting.” Not helpful yet? Seem circular? It is a bit. Hang in there.

Stop acting. Start doing. Get this ideal image of what an actor is out of your head. Are you alive? Are you breathing? Can you move and speak? You are the ideal actor already. The ideal actor is capable of action. Anyone can act. I’m not the first person to say that, either. Get over it. Go do it.

Is this inspiring to you? Liberating, maybe? Not satisfying to you? Frustrating, even? Consider the celebrity whose performances you cherish the most. The only difference between them and you is the status “celebrity.” But “actor?” They share that status with you. You are equals.

Don’t believe me? Let’s examine the actor’s inventory, shall we? Every actor has 4 things. Really, every person possesses them too – well, at least 3 of the 4.

1.) MIND | You can think, right? You can reason, and you can understand. You can study. You can grasp ideas – take them apart and put them back together. You can do basic math. You can hear, and taste, and see, and smell, and touch, and your brain can process that stuff, right? You obviously can read, and even despite my slaughterings of the English language! Congratulations.

You might say, “Yeah, but I’m not very introspective.” Or “I don’t do logic so good.” Or “I hate working my brain, I’d rather go for a run!” If you say those things then SHUT UP. You’re missing the point. The point is you are an intelligent being – and probably more so than you give yourself credit for. Heck, compared to some of the air-heads in Hollywood you might be a freakin’ Einstein. Some of you know you’re rock solid in this category, if so – good for you. Go read another book – or the next category….

mind maze

2.) BODY | Limbs. All the physical senses. A voice. Eyes. A face. I’m not talking about body type’s distinguishing characteristics that determine whether or not you get a specific roll. I’m talking about your flesh and blood person that an audience can see and hear. Especially concerning you live-performance actors – your body is perhaps your greatest asset.

If that is the case, then sure, there are a lot of implications that go along with that. We will delve into them in greater detail later, but here are few things to consider. You got to be healthy. You got to be physically active. I’m not saying you have to be Michael Phelps, but your life should not be completely characterized by activities that require sitting. You got to care what you look like – at least a little. I’m not saying you have to be a Victoria Secret or Calvin Klein model, but you should know what you look good in. You should practice things like basic hygiene. You should learn how to breath and how to take care of your voice…… Okay, so we will spend a lot of time on that one in the future. If you remember nothing out of this paragraph remember this – and basic hygiene – seriously, wash your socks now and again.

Michael-Phelps-Sport-Persion-Wallpap-1024x1280

3.) SPIRIT | Okay, so this could get weird, new-agey, and super unhelpful really fast, so i’ll be brief. When we come back to this, we will go into much greater detail. This is sorta what I mean by Spirit. Spirit is characterized by some of the following key terms: Will, Drive, Commitment, Passion, Ingenuity, Creativity, Ethic, Imagination, Inspiration. We will have a pep talk later, but basically, to be good at acting, you have to want it. You have to pursue it relentlessly. These key aspects of your person go deeper than your brain. They are beyond logic and more powerful than reason. They are your Spirit.

determination2

4.) TEXT | This last one is broader than you think. And I don’t mean to be vague, cause we’ll discuss it more in the future. It’s not necessarily words on a page, though often it is. The text of performance is the rich matter that you develop into an artistic form. The potter’s text is his play. The painter’s text is his paint. The musician’s text are his notes. The writer’s text are his words. So what is the actor’s text? It’s life. Ever hear someone speak of an actor “Wow, they really brought that character to life for me!” or ” His performance was just real.” These are indications that an actor understands their text. Some people might say,”Hamlet is just words on a page.” But I would say, the character Hamlet, or any part you may play are words on page, but if he stays there, no acting has taken place. No life has been given. So, what does this mean? How is this remotely helpful? We’ll talk about that more in the future. But for now, just know that you are in the business of life.

download

So, have you done a self inventory yet? Every body has the first three. An actor with a job has the 4th. This is your acting skeleton. These are the muscles you need to exercise. You should be empowered to know that you have the same tools any award winning celebrity ever had to do what they do. And what do those actors “do”? They do things. You can to.

Everybody needs to sharpen these tools, and we all can be better. Actors, which tool do you think you need to develop more? Comment and let us know your thoughts.

1920475_10152073790794983_1207531938_n

by j.d.schofield

Acting and Theatrical Forms

In On Acting on August 18, 2014 at 2:27 pm

So much of art is influenced by culture, and so much of culture is influenced by art. This may seem obvious, maybe even redundant to say, but it is worth noting because the bicameral relationship between the two massively broad concepts is so sticky. Any artistic achievement that has stood the test of time serves as an icon in some fashion to the philosophical undercurrents of the era from which it was birthed – or a symbol rejecting those undercurrents. Often the most notable are the achievements that pioneer revolution, or are the banner from the flagship of a new idea – a cultural armada that seeks to cultivate, sculpt, or reform society in some way. Not all artists actively pursue some political, social, or cultural end, but the way they think and create is directly effected by those themes.

I hope our discussion can be practical. So I don’t want to get too bogged down in philosophy and the cultural influence on how you will approach a role as an actor. But I would be remiss not to recognize it. For so much of our current schools of thought on acting stem directly from specific philosophical perspectives iconic to the time from which they were conceived. You as an actor would be wise to consider it, because when one person says “Diderot’s thoughts on acting are spot on! That is always how I approach a role.” or another says “Strasbourg had it right, man. This is how you should really approach a role.” You need to understand that each individual had a perspective unique to their position in culture and the philosophical and cultural ideas of their time. All of them may be valuable within their own context, but only so long as it is beneficial to you, the artist today.

That brings me to my point for this little snippet of thought. Acting is a progressive art form. What the masses enjoy in performance is perpetually evolving as the culture morphs. What works best on stage or film is ever changing, and the influences on that change are nearly infinite. This is why I might caution against an over-reliance on any one system. It may soon become antiquated, and you will find yourself a dying breed of actor. It is completely acceptable to cherry pick those ideas, concepts, and approaches that work best for you, and abandon those techniques that leave you frustrated or box you in as an artist.

If you have been acting for a while, this is something you should spend some time studying. Really dive into themes like Marxism and Capitalism. Seek to grasp the ideas behind Feminism, and the GLBT movements. Research Naturalism, Realism, Expressionism, Modernism, and Post-Modernism. And not just as pertains to theatre and acting, but specifically how those schools of thought effect culture and art in it’s broad vastness. You will start to see parallels in Theoreticians and the things they believe. You will start to form your own understanding and beliefs, and from your own personal culture you may find yourself developing your own method of thinking, of art, of acting.

If you are just starting out as an actor, forget everything I have said. This stuff is way too heavy. Because at the end of the day, you don’t want to be bogged down by philosophy in the moment of performance, you should be liberated by your method, not inhibited. If you are a novice or amateur, stop thinking and start doing. Seriously, experiment with what works for you, but you need to have done a good deal of acting to understand it’s challenges and applications before you start bothering yourself with all this lofty philosophical crap. And the same goes for the experienced actor, we need to always be careful not to over-encumber ourselves with too much thinking. The point of studying philosophical and cultural influences is to better understand the nature and purpose of art, to perhaps give you a practical vehicle for performance. If it is tripping you up, throw it out, or put it back on the shelf until you are ready for it. Because it doesn’t matter how much thinking you do, it is your body and voice the audience sees and hears, and if they don’t like it, it doesn’t matter if you believe it or not.

I wanted this week’s post to be a precursor to lightly examining theoreticians of the past and present, and I wanted to illustrate how what they have to say may be valuable and may be dangerous. So now that this is out of the way, lets look at a few different approaches.

Life-Philosophy

 

____________________________________________

 

 

 

1920475_10152073790794983_1207531938_n ~j.d. schofield

Schofie on Acting?

In On Acting on August 13, 2014 at 3:17 pm

So…. Actors have been around since the beginning of time. Even if you credit them Greeks with the origins of what we might consider traditional acting – you’re talking 534 B.C. or earlier. Thousands of years. Millions upon millions of flesh-and-blood persons have taken up the mantel of performance between then and now. And now, in an age where performance related media and live performance is historically more  accessible than it has ever been, it seems everyone is an actor. If you don’t consider yourself an actor, you probably have at least done it once. If you never have, you may have considered it. If you never have considered it, you still can’t avoid how greatly your life is affected by actors. They’re in the shows you watch, the features you love, the plays you attend, and the commercials that drive you nuts. They’re on the side of the street waving signs to get your taxes done for free. They’re on the corner of 5th and Main in black-and-white mime attire. They’re in the museum bringing Hammurabi and Abe Lincoln to life.

So, if we have thousands of years of acting tradition, theory, and history – and so many of us are actors today, why are we all so confused about how to do it? If there is anything I have learned after academically studying theatre for the last 8 years, and actively performing in productions in a broad range of functions, it’s that no-body really knows what they are doing. Everybody has ideas, theories, and their own little comfortable method that works for them. Some are dogmatic, others pragmatic, some are systematic, while others are enthusiastic and spastic. And that is fun to say really fast, by the way.

It’s just that acting is such a hard thing to quantify. Traditionally, we can identify an actor. But that’s because we see him in his element. His venue. He’s in my Tv, he’s on the stage before me. He’s behind the glass at the museum exhibit. But what is it he does? How does he do it? You ask any two acting celebrities how it is they do what they do, it is likely they will have two completely different answers.

I am still working out my own thoughts on the matter. I have some strong opinions. I don’t know that I can claim that they are exclusively correct. But I do have my ideas – like anybody else.

This is hopefully the first in a series of thoughts on the craft – my thoughts, others thoughts, stolen and borrowed thoughts. Now that I am done with school, and I am actively performing in the real world, I am starting to actually read those dusty books I hastily skimmed during my Graduate work. So roll up your sleeves, actors, we’re about to get nerdy….

 

hamlet

 

richardburton3.jpg.pagespeed.ce.gxtlzfBfqa

 

hamlet34

 

hamlet-6

 

David Tennant in Hamlet in 2008.

 

_______________________________________

1920475_10152073790794983_1207531938_n ~by j.d. schofield