Friday, August 15, 2014

Building the Bicycle (in Reverse!)

Last night, I audited a fabulous scene study class. 

A marvelous quote about the importance of research uttered from the whip-smart lips of our class leader: Preparation should FREE YOU to the unexpected. 

Yes, yes, YES!!!!  I am Meg Ryan in the diner at hearing these words. Dear God, Yes. I sat there fighting the urge to kick myself at this most obvious key to acting - because it may as well be an iron-like skeleton thing buried deep in the mountains of Mordor as far as most actors are concerned.  I don't spend much time in New York, but I know enough to understand the vast difference in acting culture between here and there. One that involves the letters A, Y, Z and L. 

How refreshing to sit in a classroom where someone is kneading and pounding on you like the acting dough that you are. Sure, their forming methods are carried out mainly with fists and rolling pins, but the pressure of those hands come from a love of the craft.  I can endure the stretching, pulling, tearing, repairing, shaping, baking, burning, icing, and sprinkling if it means I will be a damn fine cookie one day. You should too. 

As I walked to my car, I thought - these people are truly teaching us how to ride a bicycle. No, they are teaching us the mechanics of the bicycle, too.  NO - they are teaching us how to build the bicycle in reverse - very Halt and Catch Fire - by breaking down all of its mechanics and going over every groove of every part and every connection between every piece. But one must understand that the bicycle isn't acting itself, the bicycle is YOU - in a scene, in those circumstances, in that skin.  Then, once you have thoroughly explored that particular bike (because you never get to build the same one twice), you have to learn to ride it.  Upon learning to ride, suddenly the repetition and depth will allow room for grace, for panache, for freedom to explore the land through which you ride.  You can do tricks - and you can modify them to your talents alone. Wheelies, handstands on the pedestals, hopping...around....okay, my terminology of bike tricks is quite limited. 

Research, research, research - an endless task for an actor.  READ - a good general rule. Find the time. Pull that time out of your ass. It's 2am and you have work in the morning but there are 10 more pages to read. Grab that cold brew coffee concentrate from TJ's, pop that addy, and giddy up, my friend. Preparation - a word foreign to many in the La-La Mer. I think the lifestyle ideal of sitting poolside all day is a diseased dream, a cloud of red sickness particles floating around actors' heads like that flu epidemic on that one Simpsons episode. (Dating myself? Um, so...?) 

Jude Law. I remember when A.I. came out, I read this snippet on his preparation for his superb execution in the role of Gigolo Joe: "Law spent months studying the great movers of old-time Hollywood: Valentino, Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Cary Grant. He also borrowed from top-heavily graceful screen baddies like Robert Mitchum, rock'n'roll knee-tremblers like Presley and Gene Vincent, even from the Johnny Bravo cartoons he watches with his children."  All that to capture the smooth, flawless movement of his robot character - despite only actually dancing for a mere moment in the epic film.  He went for it like a honey badger.  This is WHY I became an actor - because I love to learn - but I see that despite being better, despite having a stronger muscles, I am still lazy.  And if I'm lazy? Then at least 90% of my peers in this town are in a coma. 

I look forward to taking this class (once I audition, that is).  I like to see a teacher spew questions faster than an arcade gun in a mega-space war game. It's thrilling.  Don't get me wrong, I have met some incredibly knowledgable teachers while here in Los Angeles - and grateful to have had experiences with each of them - but these peeps were the real deal. The Pushers. The Pokers. The Provokers. The Thinkers. 

I talk often on this blog about fear. Fear is not unlike the idea of Satan - a great enemy that we can defeat over and over again, but can never destroy entirely. (Note: Religious metaphors born from my upbringing, not meant for present day endorsement.)

All of us have our daily battles with fear. Even Greats, like the late Robin Williams - an alien of talent who is now moonwalking with MJ somewhere in the clouds while Bacall watches from an ornate chaise. He shot through our lives and our hearts like a blinding ball of pure energetic joy.  Truly an Empath was he - else he could not so brilliantly portray a body of work that delves from one extreme side of the human spectrum to the other. Let the preparation, let the work - the hours and hours and hours of work - free you to the unexpected. And don't forget to be kind and make people smile in the meantime.

In related news, I am getting my hair did this afternoon. Perhaps a journey into the unexpected? Hey, not every battle has to be so serious. Lighten up, will ya? ;) 

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