Thoughts about teaching acting class

August 31 - Energy and impulse

Never tried teaching this to more than 2 people before
REMEMBER:  You already know everything because you do it
  I'm not giving instructions to follow but new ways to observe yourself
  IMPLICATION:  If you don't get it, I need your help

What is energy?  (demonstrate)  low energy is like music turned down to 2

Multipart movement with sentence

Tag story from last semester

Where does energy come from?


Play with the impulse ("That's what I tried to tell you yesterday"/"Yes I know you did")

Hit it
Miss it
Give it
Take it
Hold it
big -> small
Throw it back
Throw it on the floor

Listening:  show what happens  catch it/ignore it/defy it

Different reactions (character)

Spontaneity (empty/hollow)

"more emotion"  (energy)

Break into pairs - use your scripts - and remember-- you do ALL of these things in real life!!

September 5 - Learning lines

Lines are “learned” only when you can say them
precisely and neutrally.

You should memorize your lines as they are written, down to the last syllable. If you don’t:

It can kill your performance. Paraphrasing forces you to think about your words. When you’re thinking about words, you are not acting.

Your castmates will not trust you. They rely on you to speak the cue lines they expect.

If you can’t say your lines neutrally, you can’t perform them with complexity.

Neutral reading is honest conversation. Running your lines “neutrally” should be like making small talk with a new acquaintance. Neutral speech is meaningful and sincere, but has no deliberate characterization or pre-planned emotion. Neutral is necessary outside of rehearsal, where your character and its dramatic situation do not exist! Don’t try to speak your lines as though you were in rehearsal. You’re not. Instead, allow yourself to respond to your current circumstances as your real self. “Neutral” actually means “let anything happen.”

You know you’re successfully “being neutral” when you can
fool someone into thinking you’re actually talking to them!

The recording of your show is an additional way to help you learn lines. Do not rely on it alone! In fact, if you’re not an “aural learner”, you might find that the recording doesn’t help you at all.

Here are some ways that I learn lines.

I always make a recording. I start by speaking everyone’s lines, talking neutrally and very slowly, and then I cut out all the pauses with the editing software.  From the raw file, I create the following four versions:

1. all lines, slow
2. my lines silenced, slow
3. all lines, fast (sped up 35-50%, to faster than normal conversation)
4. my lines silenced, fast

Then I chop them up into segments of 1-3 minutes, which is as much as I can handle at one time.

When listening, I speak along with each one; once I feel I’ve got the slow version down, I move on to the slow version with my lines silenced, where I hear my cues and speak into the gaps. By the time I get to version 4, I’ve got it pretty well memorized.

I like to record because I don’t have to set aside extra time to learn lines; I can learn lines on the bus, walking between buildings, or waiting for classes to start.

If I have a partner, I’ll ask them to say the other lines while I say my own. I make sure they know that they should correct me if I make even the slightest mistake; their being polite does not help me!

Sometimes I’ll look at the page, then look away and try to repeat what I’ve just read. After doing this a few times, I’ll know the scene well enough to place a piece of paper over the script, pulling the paper down to see my cues without seeing my lines.

Other times— usually with monologues— I’ll see how far I can get without making a mistake. Once I flub it, I look at the page and start over from the very beginning. Although this may seem tedious, each repetition helps reinforce the words you’ve learned so far.

When I’m learning lines with my actual scene partner(s) I always start neutral and then explore by playing around with the impulses. One time my classmate and I went through our entire Shakespearean scene as though a big pumpkin in my kitchen were a corpse; naturally, that made us laugh on the most serious lines.

Some people prefer to wait until they know how they’ll be moving around on the set. “I learn my lines in rehearsal,” they say, “because they make more sense when I know the blocking.” Never let yourself be crippled by this mindset. Aside from the fact that actors who try to do this professionally will immediately be fired, as a performer you want total freedom of movement. If you train yourself to think that this line will only ever occur with that movement, you are forcing yourself to be stagnant and stale.

However, movement can help to learn lines. Dancers and people with strong “body knowledge” may detect the impulses in their lines and associate those impulses with certain types of movement, so that each sentence is mentally choreographed. I don’t do this myself, but I can imagine how it could be effective.