I was dreading class. Was the first class a fluke? Was this the week I would sink or stink? Could I approach the exercises with an open mind? What new challenges would be thrown at me and would I be able to deal with them? Forget that I could only remember the name of the teacher. The other six students – not a clue what their names are.
The ironic thing is that I, the non-actor, am “acting” full time as I pretend to be an acting student. As I step into the building, I’m leaving behind the me that knows I’m there, not to eventually land a great part, but to improve my presentation skills.
Two more students joined the group so we’re now eight. We’re also evenly divided between male and female actors. We began with a refresher lecture on character development. We went from that to character cards. There were four pairs in a single room – my partner and I were the only ones doing just characters. The remaining three pairs were doing character and emotion and actions. As much as I was focused on my partner it was hard to ignore chairs being tossed & voices raised as the other teams went from being infatuated hot dog sellers to constipated divas. The exercise was over too quickly – I was surprised by how much I enjoyed diving into these characters.
Then we were once again off for the dreaded talk to a stranger exercise. Four interviews later it was already time for the mid class break.
When we came back, rather than resuming the character cards, we went into a new lecture that included an eye-opening look at some stellar performances from the past. I recognized some of the actors but quite a few were new to me.
Following the lecture we did two new exercises designed to give us the skills to come up with a character – based only on dialog. Normally an actor isn’t given a character bio, they’re given a scene to learn. You can’t just do a scene – you first have to know who you are in that scene. So how do you come up with the who? You find clues in the dialog – that’s what we were learning to do. I realized that I can use these same skills to make sure my dialog provides clues to my character.
I went from pretending to be there to learn about acting to realizing that my writing will be served by learning the actor’s trade. Now I’m excited to see what I’ll learn next week!