“First say to yourself what you would be;
and then do what you have to do.”
There are a lot of reasons people take acting classes.
For instance. . .
In my Intro class there are people who participate because someone suggested that learning lines could help them flex their memory muscles. There are some who are there because they want to work on their bravery. There are others who have no desire to do this work professionally but feel something glorious or cathartic when they perform in class. There are curious people, looking for their ‘thing’, and they come to dip their toes into this world. And lastly, there are a few who really do want—both clearheadedly and passionately—to start a career as an actor. They have an agenda. They are looking for help.
I have helped a lot of people begin. In some cases, that meant helping them prepare to slay their very first audition. (Which they did). In others, it meant helping them get into the conservatory or university they’d locked eyes on. (Which they did).
But along with helping people start, I’ve also been sought out by actors at the top of their powers, who have already experienced what it’s like to perform their guts out and do great work on world stages, or already had plenty of films or television shows on their resume. They invited me because they recognized a moment when they could benefit from help with something and began to look for the kind of person who could help them.
Something I’ve learned about learning.
Some things can be taught and learnt once. If you think about it, spelling is an example.
Once you’ve realized that putting C and A and T together in that order spells ‘cat’, then you know it.
More excitingly, once you’re spelling the word correctly, you cannot improve upon it. Words are spelled correctly, or incorrectly. Once you’ve got it, you don’t need to learn about spelling that word anymore. You move on and carry the knowledge with you.
However, not everything is like spelling. Acting, most assuredly, is not like spelling. It’s much weirder.
For one thing, there is little about acting that can be bound by ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’. A useful orientation for actors is not, am I getting this right? but rather, what can I try?
Secondly, so many ideas, tools, and concepts that can absolutely help actors to do magical work that buzzes with life can be surprisingly difficult to speak about articulately. Actors are acrobats of imagination, emotion, and energy. Trying to talk about this work can get weird.
Most importantly, though, there is education, and there is training, and there is a difference between how the two can be helpful for actors.
Let us imagine that you have watched a lot of movies with swords, and you decide you want to learn sword fighting.
The education piece comes in the form of learning how to recognize a sword when you see one, learning what a sword is, what a sword does, what different types of swords there are, and which are good or bad for doing what.
The thing is, knowing what a sword is and does is not the same thing as lifting one up and using it well. That takes practice.
Practicing with guidance and feedback is training.
It is necessary
There is no progress without practice. Magicians recognize this. Athletes recognize this. Public speakers recognize it. Maybe everyone does on some level.
But lack of access to practice is a key reason why momentum as an actor can be less accessible than progress in other artforms.
Writers, musicians, sculptors, and many other artists can all practice and develop their craft in sweet solitude. Acting is different. Sooner or later, actors need to be at play with others.
So, how to be at play with other actors?
THE BEST WAY
Being cast and working on projects is the best way to be at play with others and grow. You connect with other artists. You refine your craft through experience.
It is wonderful to build momentum that way… by being cast and working on projects.
If only it happened more often.
It is a sadness, but it is true, that auditioning can come with a degree of consternation mixed in. So much so that too many actors have trouble seeing their way beyond auditioning, and into the creative spaces they deserve to be playing in.
TRAINING BRINGS BIG MAGIC
Practice and preparation are not merely about sharpening and strengthening for auditions, but for improving your power in all the invisible work that flows into what the audience finally sees.
Including the most crucial, core elements that are so obvious they’re the easiest to ignore, and leave us going, “Yeah, but… obviously.”
They’re the things that matter, and they’re the easiest to ignore.
- When we train, we build our bravery to do the thing.
- When we train, we expand our ability for communication about the thing.
- When we train, we refine our ability to collaborate. We become more powerful, more generous, and more reliable.
- With training, we uncover more about the shape of our nerves and how to conquer or cope with them productively.
- With training we strengthen our stamina and resilience to do the thing.
- With training, we learn about our limitations. The authentic limitations we should respect to keep ourselves happy and healthy, but just as importantly, the perceived or imposed limitations you can overcome if you dare.
Let it be easy
Actors need connection, dialogue, and exchange with fellow actors to advance as quickly as they might. Humans blossom in community. That’s the key, and also the obstacle.
Actors are storytellers for their community. To be an actor is a privilege. Actors are powerful. They shine light on what it can mean to be human. They help audiences see their own beauty and mess. They help people feel less alone. The right actor can change a person’s life for the better.
Not everyone gets to do that. It takes practice to do that.
The Monday Night Acting Lab is a space for training to do the invisible work that flows into what an audience sees, and to cope with the invisible challenges actors face along the way.
The purpose of The Monday Night Acting Lab is not to dogmatically prescribe new or old ideas about what to do, but to facilitate and hold space for your discoveries about how.
Everyone’s how is different.
How can you do this work with greater self-insight, bravery, ease, and generosity toward yourself and your collaborators?
Partly a process class and mostly a laboratory geared toward the ‘intermediate’ and ‘advanced’ actor, through games, exercises, discussion, and assigned challenges, The Monday Night Acting Lab offers a safe space to train, experiment, and play.
Ages 18 and older, please.
Through solo, partnered, and group work, participate for support with:
-Relaxation and energy
-Focus and attention
-Cold reading skills development
-Safeguards, tricks and practices for dealing with emotion
-Working with the other: reciprocity, flexibility, spontaneity
-Exploring playable opportunities through nuanced scene study