Monday, November 07, 2011

Actors, Be Not Timid

On Thursday night, I drove up to the northern end of Albuquerque in preparation for a few days of filming in Santa Fe county.

Before finding the house where cast and crew were being put up, I made a stop at the Clarion Hotel to attend an acting class that is taught by a casting director based in Albuquerque. In addition to casting New Mexico actors, she also teaches classes on auditioning and acting for camera.

The class began rather late, so I had an opportunity to meet several of her regular students, some of whom have been attending her weekly class for years. Many of them have flourished and are working fairly regularly in New Mexico's film and television industry.

The class sat in a circle of chairs in a conference room at the hotel, and after some business and routine procedures, the instructor moved on to the homework assignment. She had assigned the actors to come to tonight's class prepared to do five minutes of standup comedy. That's all she gave them: it was up to them to work something out, as if it were for an audition.

She went directly around the circle, asking each student to present their work. Several actors gamely stood up and gave it a whirl, bearing in mind this was a not a class in the art of standup comedy so much as a class on preparing and presenting an audition. More surprising, however, were the number of actors who shrank in their seats when it came their turn, saying, "I'm not prepared" or "I can't do this."

You can imagine what the teacher had to say about that.

I was the last one in the circle, had never been there before, and obviously knew nothing of any assignment to do standup. The teacher said, "Algernon, would you like to try?"

"Of course," said Algernon, "I'm ready." And he commenced to do five minutes of standup about first names, which is what came to mind at that moment. Nothing groundbreaking in the art of standup, mind you, but the spirit of the actor is to leap like a hungry cat at a prompt.

One of my teachers at conservatory sometimes suggested, "Start before you are ready." Jump into the water, move your arms, don't check yourself. It's great advice for actors. Don't stop and consult your personality -- your personality functions as a censor. So start before you are ready, before your personality has a chance to interfere.

Why not? This is the work. And gosh, it feels good.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Start before you are ready seems like good advice for many of us, in some situations. Thanks for sharing the story.