12.10.2009

Character Study

Typically I take classes as a way to maintain and improve my skills, and I look to the professor or instructor as the primary guiding influence. However, recently, a studio acting class I'm in regularly took an interesting turn.

This time around I was truly challenged to identify with my character in the scene I had been assigned, which is a good thing. If I'm not challenged in studio, then work in the real world is out of the question. It's not that I didn't understand the scene, but finding the inner crux of my character proved to be a larger hill to climb than I had anticipated. My primary hurdle was age-related. The character I played is at least 15 years my senior and identifying life experiences to utilize as affective memory tools proved difficult for me. Substitution is an instrument I could have used more effectively.

The acting dilemma I faced was nothing in comparison to the drama and turmoil prompted by another actor in class, though. The rather uncivil attitude, cavalier nature and churlish ilk brought by this person was nothing less than galling. It distracted all from the focus of class and elicited a stream of tedium that made me sincerely hope things would end presently. However, I soon learned to watch closely. Watch this, I said to myself. This is good stuff. Analyze and internalize this. You will be able to use it in the future. And that's just what I did. It made class much more interesting and I look forward to being able to pull out for my own use the flaws, quirks and sensibilities that made this actor tick.

Here are some of the lessons I took away:

  • Work to further ratchet up the stakes. It increases tension and drama.
  • Search more deeply to find a way to connect to something that may be foreign to personal experience.
  • Establish a deeper internal comprehension of the character. Spend more time "in" the scene.
  • Don't allow the drama of one's life to overshadow the instructional functionality of class for others.
  • Argumentative behavior can be ineffective and damaging.
  • Listen. Don't talk (unless acting).
  • Watching others can be an excellent ordered exercise.

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