Monday, June 18, 2012

Eating the Imaginary Apple

Two days, two Saturdays to be exact, with the same sense memory exercise.  Every Saturday morning, under the keen eye of Salome, classmates and I sit half-circled and allow the body to relax. Tension is Public Enemy Number One for the actor. Ease tension, release energy, access emotion, let all things inside flow comprehensively until that flood spills forth from the body at the time the actor needs it!

I remember doing local theatre when I was much younger - going onstage, solidifying the nerves and butterflies into tense positions and facial expressions. Thinking this was a useful approach when in reality - it limited me to the Nth degree. Even in graduate school, when I was there for one year, I developed chronic jaw issues while doing extreme character work - contorting my body in an elderly fashion, wearing a bodysuit with a hump under my costume, and being as colorful a hag as possible for a production of VINEGAR TOM. Needless to say, I overdid it - so my neck and jaw told me.

When we are truly relaxed, we are free. This is most difficult to practice and obtain. Stillness of the mind/body, rhythm and depth of breath.  We sit for minutes, minutes, minutes and let ourselves go.

I am the newest in class - and I am beginning with the simplest exercise while others more advanced go on to very interesting actions.  When I am ready, I open my eyes to find two things before me: a table and a glass of orange juice. My job is to look at both of these things with ultimate curiosity - as if I am seeing them for the first time - and I proceed to explore every aspect of both the table and orange juice.  How does it feel? Is it cold? Is it warm? Is the table made of wood? Where is the height of the table? Are there grooves along which I can run my finger? Is it dusty? Is there a ring where the glass of orange juice was once I pick it up? How heavy is the glass? What does the orange juice taste like? All of these questions I must answer and explore without going beyond to the questions where I "feel" certain things about them. Keep it light, keep it simple.

This past Saturday - the 17th - I graduated to a piece of fruit rather than a glass of orange juice.  My initial approach this change will be actually handling an apple.  Then I will re-create the apple and the table at which I sat the day before with the best possible detail. 

Hmmmm, perhaps I should choose grapes instead...

Sunday, June 10, 2012


My first taste of Nicholas Winding Refn - VALHALLA RISING. I then saved BRONSON on my netflix queue for far too long.  I saw DRIVE in the theater and left feeling refreshed and hopeful about filmmaking on a larger, commercial level - even though the marketing was poor and uninteresting. Let's just say I have a mad respect for Mr. Refn and his Danish brain.

I am happy to say that I finally watched BRONSON - and it is everything I didn't expect. Tom Hardy is fabulous. He is bold, engaging, and - as an actor - defines pure risk and committment. If you want to see something raw, something creative, something with acting - then watch BRONSON. Instant Queue. And then look up Mr. Refn.  Add him to the list of directors I must work with.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Almighty Salome

Last evening, I officially joined an acting class led by a well-known, sultry-voiced thespian, Salome Jens. Any veteran of LA or of the stage will recognize the name. 

Wednesday nights are a scene study class in which either two actors perform a scene or one actor performs a monologue.  Actors are encouraged to focus on being in the moment, connecting in a real and spontaneous way with text and other actors, and to essentially exercise their technique in front of an audience of peers. This may not sound unusual, but the flip side is that the scene is not to be "performed" but merely to be rehearsed - so that if an actor is suddenly outside of herself and the moment, she will not bull through under the pressure of expected performance, but will instead work publicly and vulnerably, showing the personal evolution, the push-pull, and the various levels of struggle.

I greatly look forward to applying this technique and becoming comfortable "working through" moments in front of an audience, peers or no. Whether on-stage or on-camera, there is always an audience or a crew. There are people watching, judging, engaging, scoffing, expecting and so on. We must, as actors, be so familiar with this dynamic that we can both welcome it and ignore it. Obviously, in theatre, actors must develop a necessary method of doublethink where we are truly living in the moment, but are also aware of the energy and response of the audience so that we might alter our performance accordingly. 

Saturdays - sense memory work.  Also, assigned reading includes Lee Strasberg's The Dream of Passion (an excellent method book and an easy read). Now, I must find some fresh scenes and monologues - off to Samuel French!


Just an FYI that I will not be reviewing films in the future, but instead reviewing a particular performance.  That would make more sense for the actress, would it not?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Movie Opinion Dos: SNOW WHITE & the HUNTSMAN

Okay, I watched The Runaways - mostly to see Michael Shannon - but also to give lil' Kristen Stewart (aka Twilight's Bella Swan) a chance to show me something REAL as Joan Jett. Unlike others, I like Stewart's look. She is unconventionally pretty with a soft angularity and I even like her front teeth. Though, I could never keep my mouth open as much as she does.  I tried this during the screening and I felt uncomfortable after 45 seconds. But I understand why she does this. Part of her technique includes many sharp intakes of breath which clues us, the audience, that she is about to say something - and then...and THEN!!!..... nothing. She never says anything! She hardly has any dialogue in this film at all - and when she does, we expect it to be magical, warm, breaktaking, pure - something that would indicate that this is Snow White, the legendary beauty with the fairest, purest heart - completely irresistable to all, save Charlize Theron.  Her awkwardness doesn't work in this role, despite being locked away for years in a tower. Instead, her curiosity should shine boldly and her interactions with people, with land and with animals should be heart-breakingly courageous. What's with all the Snow Whites being so wooden? Ahem...

Apart from Monster, I've never been the biggest Charlize Theron fan - she has some great Queen beats in the first 20 minutes of the film, but then we see those same rhythms and notes replayed over and over and over. She is stunning to look at, she does have a good emotional reserve in her acting locker, but I've never thought Charlize has truly risen to the occasion of Meryl Streep greatness (is that a fair comparison?).  Look at Young Adult - good, not great. But go see her yourself, you may disagree entirely. She does take risks and I highly admire that.

The seven dwarves, however, were EXCELLENTLY cast and slightly underused. I relished identifying each and every actor - all adding so much real depth to parts that could easily be caricatures. (Psssst: one of them is Nick Frost!)The writing - meaning the dialogue - was pretty mediocre.  I am peeved when a particular character is the appointed one to "tell the audience exactly what is happening".  It undermines the audience. Why do writers do this?!

The saving grace of this film is to see the absolute magnificence of visual effects, costume design, and production design. I have NEVER seen such stunning visuals - so incredibly creative, so beautifully executed and - I imagine - so expensive. You can't help but be in awe. You also can't help but notice there isn't one real animal - outside of a horse - used in this film. Amusing.

This movie suffers from a casting standpoint - and perhaps then....from a directing standpoint. It is difficult to tell whether the fault lies with the actor or the director. However, it IS a visual feast as well as a wonderfully dark, violent twist on the classic fairy tale.

Here is a different point of view from JAMES FRANCO AND HIS NANA.

Movie Opinion Uno: MiB3

I saw this flick at the Academy on Saturday night (aka the greatest theater in Los Angeles - cushy seats, fabulous sound and a lot of industry people that love MOVIES) and I have to say I had a buh-LAST. I don't recall 1 or 2 very well - some gags here and there, Tony Shalhoub, etc - but as the third in the MiB series, this movie stood VERY well on its own. I can't remember when I've been so highly entertained in the strictest movie sense. 3D? Eh, take it or leave it. But this particular storyline - penned by Etan Cohen (not Ethan Coen) - was incredibly refreshing.  In my opinion, Tommy Lee's straight laced performance bit is a little stale, so what a glorious excuse to bring in Josh Brolin as the young 1969 version of Agent K, making for a fresh, sparky, new interaction with Will Smith's Agent J.

The weakness of the dialogue / jokes was countered well by a full-fledged performance by Will Smith. I admire the guy - he worked his perfect butt off to fill EVERY scene in the way that a comedy should be filled. Some might say he overworked - and that may be true - but it was greatly appreciated in the light of a difficult revival of such a popular film. Will Smith being a bit over the top fits the bill perfectly for this kind of fun film and crazy premise. Besides, I've missed the guy, haven't you?

The visual effects and make-up are EXCELLENT.  Specifically for Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement for you Flight of the Conchord fans!!), a wonderful alien nemesis that you completely forgive for being a bit one-noted because he is completely fun to watch. The integration of his character was incredibly well-balanced from an audience perspective - as you never saw too much of him to become wary of his same growling delivery. Instead, you looked forward to those snippets all throughout.

Lastly, HUGE KUDOS to Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) - fabulous character work as Griffin - the man who sees multiple universes and possibilities at all times. Wow. What a wonderful contrast to his other work and what a pleasure. Ps. Emma Thompson and Bill Hader were great casting as well.

I was completely delighted to see this flick. It is too fun to miss on the big screen.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Foxy ShaZAM!

Whoa. This group is going to explode. I heard "Come Sail Away" by Styxx this morning and I thought "hm, why can't we just have another band LIKE this...?". And boom, here comes FOXY SHAZAM. 

They will be huge and they are from Ohio. Midwesterners!
And I will be there in concert...
I love bands with a. Talent and b. A sense of humor. Thank God. They are like Queen, Styxx, Billie Holiday, Muse and others rolled into one. 

Seek and ye shall find. Check out their new album: The Church of Rock and Roll.