Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Trip Back Down Goes Up!

Let's talk progress. Let's talk breakthroughs. September 23rd is the Day of the Breakthrough. I was born on September 23rd. I'm dying to live up to an astrology book.

I've been given a scene in my acting class - a hugely emotional piece from "The Trip Back Down" by John Bishop. Let me paint the scene: A woman named JoAnn is in a seven year marriage to a once very successful racecar driver named Bobby. He is on the cusp of going out the door and out of town for one of his many trips to race.  She is really feeling the decline of his success for the last few years.  The strain on their marriage is so heavy it is about to collapse. If things went normally, she'd let him walk out the door, but not today. Today she decides to speak from her heart - and it does not go well between them.  Bobby's danger, magnetism, and charm have all transformed into defensive posturing, bitterness, and guilt.  Their daughter, Jan, knows little of her father's embrace. Come to think of it, that is true for JoAnn these days as well.

Something that has helped me tremendously as of late (in terms of scene study) was a tip from Jack Plotnick (with whom I'll be workshopping next Wed 10/24 yay!).  Ask yourself: What are the circumstances? The circumstances, if one is not used to defining them on a regular basis, can be fuzzy to sort out. But once some time is spent with a scene, they emerge clearly and give GREAT emotional dimension to the character's point of view - or in this case - JoAnn's. I know it sounds simple, but most all keys to education are this way.  As students, we forget our most basic needs and tools, thus we are consistently reminded - for YEARS - of the same fricking things.

Anyway, the circumstances - what are they? Then take the lines, which have never been spoken before (because each performance of a scene is the first time it is happening) and put them in the reality of that situation you've defined.  LIVE in the moment.  For this scene, I managed to use a monotone method of memorization which I normally don't use. Was it effective? Um, YES.  I was reading my scene with a friend, being monotone, until I began to RESPOND with the words. Suddenly, my words had life and authenticity. At an appropriate moment, I suddenly choked up and began to cry when admitting something terribly vulnerable to my husband, Bobby. Tears! (As the character!) Elation! (As the actress!)

I don't know about you, but I struggle with being open emotionally and am especially concerned when it comes to authenticity within a scene.  I seize up, stifle, hide, and sputter like a malfunctioning robot when dealing with my emotion (sometimes).  But the true goal is to be free, in all things, when acting. Open and fearless.

So all of this twalking and tweeking is to say that I did my scene yesterday in class, at a table, nothing fancy. My tears - which were so loyal to that one specific moment - did not come.  Instead, I came to a moment where Bobby admits to cheating on me in a very vulgar and angry way. He stops himself when he realizes what he is saying.  There is suddenly a moment so filled with heightened, horrific tension that I respond with my lines and suddenly I am completely overwhelmed by the moment. I sob, I thrash, I nearly scream and NONE of it feels forced. Thank the good LAWD!!! Man, I needed that. And what I really need, is to understand how to ALWAYS be there, no matter what I'm going through in my personal true life - how to give myself over completely. 

Breakthrough. I was truly delighted. My scene partner may have been truly frightened. Dunno. But let's keep working like this, shall we?

The scene goes up with bells and whistles next Monday, 10/22. I'll be sure to give you a less wordy report. ;)

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