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Let's End the Specious Argument of Beloved Dead Masters

In particular, let's end the "argument" between Adler and Strasberg.  There is no substance to their false reasoning upon whi...

Monday, January 23, 2017

When a Director Asks for a Result

Here's a quote from Meryl Streep in her interview regarding her performance of Florence Foster Jenkins:  “The last thing a really good director says to you is, ‘Be more lovely,’ to ask for the result,” she says. “So the result here is, ‘Sing badly.’ But I never thought about that. I thought about singing it as best as I could."  

Singing as best she could is an action.  I think the skill actors must achieve in order to prevent "indicated" acting is to be able to immediately transfer a director's request for a result into an action.  The ability to do that requires practice/rehearsal, and not after one has been cast in a production, but practice on a daily basis. 

Directors will frequently say, "be angrier," "be more flirtatious," "go slower, faster."  These adjectives are results, and an actor can't perform adjectives.  Only verbs will produce an action which will then give the director their desired result. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Lola Cohen - The Method Acting Exercises Handbook

"I have encountered talented actors who have worked with the ideas and techniques of Lee Strasberg, Michael Chekhov, Sanford Meisner, Stella Adler, Elia Kazan, Uta Hagen, Robert Lewis, and Kim Stanley, all highly regarded, who have made indelible contributions to both The Method and the craft of acting.  I believe there are more similarities between these artists than differences in their search for authenticity and truth.  You will find threads connecting their words and methods to the work of Konstantine Stanislavski, Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko and their trailblazing creation of the MAT.  Explore the different approaches and take from each those things that resonate most with you to illuminate the precarious human condition by making conscious artistic choices in your work."
                                                                                          Lola Cohen
                                                                                          from the Introduction to
                                                                                          The Method Acting Exercises Handbook

We were in a Starbucks somewhere north of the Strasberg Institute on 15th Street.  I had just observed Lola's four-hour Method Acting class.  I remember an exchange of fragments of questions, ideas, observations -- I love walking on the streets of Manhattan; I hardly noticed where we were -- I shared my own experiences teaching differently, but somehow felt an affinity with Lola's class comments, and what she said at that little table as she reached into her bag and said, "I want to read something to you -- something I've written in my introduction to my new book..."  She read the above-quoted paragraph.

I've only had time to skim through the contents of this new book.  I encourage you to read it as thoroughly as I plan to.  I think I will read familiar points of view with which I agree, those with which I won't agree, and definitely those I'd want to explore in depth one day with Lola.

Many books on acting technique have been published since those that were published by some of the masters Lola Cohen listed above, I have read inaccuracies and misunderstandings of their points of view in many of these books, or poor attempts at re-inventing the wheel.  That's why another book that thoroughly explains the criterion of the American acting technique is definitely not one too many, especially when the criteria seem to be more and more misunderstood as time goes by.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Elly Stone - About Voice, Breath

I had the privilege, at the end of 2016, to spend time with Elly Stone in New York. We often sat at her kitchen table over breakfast or an evening snack, and we talked about acting and singing, and acting technique and she shared with me some memories of acting classes, in particular, with Stella Adler.

We commiserated over the lack of good voices, good diction, in young actors.  One morning she showed me how to position my torso so that there would be an available endless breath, without tension, that would support my voice indefinitely.  She acknowledged that the Alexander technique was useful, but that Feldenkreis was far more useful because of its attention to the pelvis, and that it's from the pelvic area of our bodies that the breath must come.  She said, "Voice, in its natural state, is fueled by your breath and if your posture is correctly aligned, your breath will be drawn from a repository that never becomes empty."

She suggested I listen to Burt Lahr in the recording of Waiting for Godot (on YouTube).  I suggest you do the same, and listen to her singing Marieke from Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.