MYRA WROTE ON AUGUST 1ST 2011…
The last two classes of term involved a lot of team effort and self belief. Covering the genre of comedy we were once again invited to laugh at ourselves before we laughed at the script. In fact what I find the most fascinating about learning the art of comedy is more often than not the scripts, as written, are not always obviously funny. It is more the delivery, timing, pacing and sheer talent of the actor involved that brings the whole thing to an infectious giggle or laugh out loud conclusion.
As each pair of actors took up the mantle and showed our acting coach what we could do with the said piece, a pattern began to form. What we thought was quite funny and caused a few guffaws was just the beginning of what David was teaching and encouraging us to do. Although we still had to be aware of camera technique, we could afford to take a bigger and bolder decision on characterisation and quirky traits that would deem to get us a laugh.
During the playbacks of our filmed performances the floor was open for comment and suggestion of how to turn a simple gesture or innocent remark into comical delivery. Taking all of this on board my co actor and I became the guinea pigs, as we positioned ourselves on set ready to be filmed once more, but with the rest of the class watching the live feed on screen. Scary stuff but invaluable to learning what works and what doesn’t. So the team effort began! With each part of the performance being broken down and analysed the group offered commentary and suggestion for improvement. The resulting performance was a very different and very funny one compared to the performances of previous weeks.
As a closing note I would like to say that the best team effort during ActUpNorth ‘comedy’ weeks was the rendition of Happy Birthday sung to me by the whole class at the end of the workshop. Thank you team mates, it was …. pitchy, out of tune and the timing sucked …but the main thing is… it was funny!
MYRA WROTE ON JULY 15TH 2011…
This weeks ActUpNorth workshop was a master-class in auditioning for television. The very lovely and talented actress Samantha Siddall was both encouraging and constructive as she led us through a scripted piece written for a well known TV Soap.
The script was originally written for 1 male and 1 female character, but as there were more women than men in the class this week I paired up with another actress. We had a real giggle, getting to grips with the ‘flirtatious’ lines in the middle of the piece, which was only noted by us once Samantha had pointed this fact out : inner dialoguewent something like this “eehm! didn’t spot it-what were ya doin’- where were ya lookin’- focus – stop gigglin’ – do it!”
Because the storyline followed a confrontation between two parents about one child bullying another, as two women my co-actress and I played the “arms folded, hands on hips, finger pointing” stereotypical cat fighting mothers : I think we were trying to give Gail Platt and Sally Webster a run for their money! ( I’m not going to say which one I thought I was but my co-actress was a brilliant Gail!)
Samantha offered invaluable advice and guidance on how to find the character ‘as written’. i.e. in this instance – between a mother from one family and a father from another who, although arguing about the kids have sexual chemistry between them and potentially could become lovers. Talking us through gear changes, pacing, timing and delivery I was so glad I’d paid attention during the potty training/geometry lessons etc. (keep up – clues in previous blogs) because everything Samantha said made complete sense.
The industry professionals ActUpNorth invite in to deliver workshops for us mere mortals are giants in their own field and I feel so privileged and empowered. Determined in my pursuit of an acting career I am going to slap my thigh and climb that beanstalk, knowing there are willing and helping hands, not so much behind me but up above reaching down and pulling with all their might.
MYRA WROTE ON JULY 8TH 2011…
I can empathise with my Grandson, who at the ripe old age of 2yrs 5mths and 3 days is going through a significant development in his life. Because so am I. My ‘acting for screen’ training is akin to his potty training!
We both know what we need to do and when we need to do it, but just when we’re ready to take aim and go for a shoot – you’ve guessed it – it becomes a bit of a hit or miss affair!
Take last weeks class for example, when I attempted to walk, shoulder to shoulder, with my co-actor towards the camera: this is a definite MISS (think three legged race and you’ll get an idea of how much synchronisation this takes! I kept falling over my own feet.)
The next task was easier, because said Grandson helps me on a regular basis to turn ordinary dialogue into a drama : so this is a HIT.
And then on the final task, we had to look like we were walking through a fairground..
Just when David; actor, mentor, director and camera man, said ‘action’ I heard a noise, got distracted and peered through the window. OK I know,technically speaking I was being ‘nosey’ rather than ‘acting’ but it looked convincing on screen so I’m awarding myself : a Hit!
Now, going back to my Grandson, who today decided that 8, 9 ,10 precedes 1, 2, 3, I was reminded of the ‘mathematical’ journey we embarked on in class this week, as David introduced us to comedy. A genre not to be laughed at! (Pun intended). There are so many facets, angles and cornerstones to this funny business that the potty has been upstaged by the set square! There are no Hit or Miss options. The timing has to be perfect, the pacing just right and the characterisation spot on. As a comedy actor there is also a necessity to be able to laugh at oneself, and one of the first things I was encouraged to do, when joining ActUpNorth was to get over myself, or “get out of my own way” as Peter J Hunt our brilliant principal would say.
I fear my Grandson will have graduated before I master the art of comedic acting, but I have never been faint hearted and I have no inhibitions, so I’m ready to cover all angles and give it a shot. Hit or Miss? Who knows? But I bet I’ll have a laugh finding out!
MYRA WROTE ON JUNE 24TH 2011…
The first line of the script we worked on this week started with “ we’re different people ……” and it could not have been a more appropriate opening to the workshop.
Yes we’re different people, but we all had the same script and therefore the same text to work with, so what was really interesting was how all of us in the class had different interpretations of the two ‘characters’ in the story. As each ‘pair’ of actors rehearsed and then delivered the same script it was proved time and again that there is no right or wrong way to bring the character to life – but there are lots of different ways! And that’s what I love about ActUpNorth sessions – we, as people and actors are allowed to be unique: I can remain true to myself, even when I’m being someone else.
There was another difference to this week’s class as well. Not one, but twoacting coaches : So I had David, in one ear reminding me about the artistry and creativity of a piece of drama : Peter, in the other ear re-iterating the skills and techniques required for acting on camera. And on top of that, my own running dialogue in between both ears “ I think that was the line – oops no, said it wrong, never mind , moment passed, on with next bit, now he said it wrong- how do I answer that? – ooh pausing too long – quick, phew made it!” “smile – leg it to seat and hide behind script.”
So having been informed, enlightened and encouraged to develop my own interpretation and individuality I can’t wait for next week, when we film the same script but using different camera angles. Apparently I’ll have to walk towards the camera whilst delivering dialogue, stop at a mark, cut, re position both (actors and camera), deliver more dialogue but this time the camera will be over my co- actors shoulder and right in my face. Agghh! I’m not sure I’m ready for a close up yet – wonder if I can request just a wide shot. “ Coward – me? No!”
Now, excuse me while I go to practise walking and talking at the same time – and don’t laugh until you’ve tried to do it on camera – but that’s a different story for next week – watch this space!