Friday, October 26, 2012

Vultures Beware...

Wednesday evening (Oct. 24th) I finally did a workshop with the oh-so-frank Jack Plotnick.  He's in an earlier post (The Plotnick Thickens) along with a link to his website.

Let me tell you something about Jack Plotnick - I'm fairly inclined to believe that he was sent down to earth by the Acting Gods to relieve us actors of our burden.  Jack is a working actor himself and one of those people who tenaciously strives for mental, emotional, and spiritual health while working in this death valley industry.  He has a great distaste for "acting teachers" mostly because there are so many bad ones who instill bad techniques, bad beliefs, and sometimes culture more insecurity by creating black and white boundaries to acting and - very often - dependent relationships.   On top of that, they take money from these struggling artists week after week after week all the while claiming to reveal the SECRETS of ACTING! They have the key! Just write a check and they'll tell you...

Now, Jack understands that there are plenty of good acting instructors, but he vehemently campaigns against anyone having the "right" answers that magically unlock our acting skills. In fact, Jack's approach is very simple: acting is SUPER easy, it is US / OURSELVES that get in the way of a free and realistic performance.  Our egos are constantly criticizing us, putting us down, telling us we aren't believable or saying the lines quickly enough - Jack calls an ego your "Vulture" whose only job is to sit on your shoulder and sqauwk a billion negative things into your head every day, all day long. Of course, this applies to your life, not just your acting - and Jack's teachings are about becoming healthier people who have FUN with their craft and stop considering it a labor or an unscalable wall. Many actors, especially after moving to LA (and maybe NY), let their first love of acting become more like a bitter marriage.  It's a TOUGH, tough lifestyle to master when you want to achieve success as an actor.

I LOVE Jack's approach. It taps me on the heart, head AND soul. It gives me hope, but more importantly it gives me permission to forgive myself when I don't live up to my own standards (basically I bop the Vulture on the head with an umbrella). I am terribly self-critical and that came out in the workshop on Wednseday.

The workshop was held at a cute little blackbox in The Village at Ed Gould Plaza - a place where Plotnick gives many lectures as well. As we arrived, a line formed for Jack to assign a scene of some kind. I was feeling not particular at ALL, so drama or comedy? Dramedy! From 'Brothers and Sisters' to be exact.  I don't know the show, but hey all the better so I don't have the character in mind and I can make it my own. Plus, the writing was good - funny, emotionally resonant, vulnerable mixed with some outrage. It was a wonderful piece with which to work. 

When I finally performed, I took a "joyful risk" by throwing my backpack across the stage (my character is a bit overdramatic and she begins packing to leave) but it didn't seem to work out that well. Ha - oh well! Jack stopped me 2/3 of the way into the scene and we spent some time discussing the voice of my Vulture; what it was saying to me while I performed, before I performed, and after I performed - and yes, he did speak that often. We delved into some root causes of the specific vulture-alizations and found a thing or two. Instead of throwing my backpack, I kept it rather steady the second time around - and I also found great emotion when I finally admitted to my boyfriend that it was HIM hurting me, not his family (in the scene, silly!). I found a very vulnerable and wonderful place within the material that allowed me some real, moving expression - so I was pretty happy with the work. Jack was also happy....I think...

His guidance is very simple, helpful and clearly for the greater good of the actor. Our minds are already complicated, our emotional lives warped by childhood experiences or people at school, our hearts a bit worn and faded through the years - so it is incredibly refreshing to be reminded that if we help ourselves as humans, we can help ourselves with our acting - or whatever craft we are pursuing.

I urge you to read Jack's online book, NEW THOUGHTS FOR ACTORS. It is a wonderful guide to being healthy and true to yourself and your love for acting.  Don't let the star-making machine drown out your passion.

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