Barbara Kite’s Acting Blog

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Their Actor’s Craft – what you need to know

In an Actors’ Studio interview, Ralph Fiennes said that in his audition for RADA he was told not to make it happen but to let it happen. And that that advice changed his work.

It is my one constant mantra in my Acting Classes.

And here are many ways of saying it, so it might sink in. Because when I first heard “get out of your own way”, “leave yourself alone” at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, I didn’t get it.

What does it really mean? How do you go about learning to do this?

 

LET IT HAPPEN. Don’t make it happen.

  • All your attention has to be on the person/audience you are speaking to.
  • You have to completely give yourself over to failing and making a fool of yourself and revealing yourself (it clearly and deeply communicates your humanity and makes you an interesting actor).

GIVE UP ON PERFECTION – It is the enemy of great.

  • You really have to STOP directing yourself, anticipating your next move, judging how fully emotional, present and authentic you are, comparing this performance to the last one etc.

YOU NEED TO BE VERY PRESENT

  • TRUST, trust, trust yourself and your instincts, no matter how “wrong” they seem in your mind. Your judgmental mind doesn’t belong in the scene.
    Marlon Brando in “Last Tango in Paris” laughs when his father dies. It makes complete sense when you see it. TRUST.
  • AND MOST IMPORTANT – Remember it’s not about you – it’s about the story, the gift you are giving, the audience you are giving it to.

 

Frank Langella, Theatre and Film Star

“I do what works. I believe that acting is a wilderness and that just as you reach a clearing, feeling safe and secure, it’s time to march back into the wilderness. I subscribe to no method, no school, no approach. Providing an actor can speak, move, read English, and memorize, the rest is up for grabs.

There are, of course, certain basics. You must own your lines as you own your own toes. You must know what they mean and you must mean them when you say them. But, that done, the mystery of acting will remain your lifetime companion.

I have learned most from audiences, too often ignored by actors, as if somehow doing it for them is contrary to the truth of their art. Audiences have to hear you, they have to understand you, and they must be moved to laughter or tears by what you do. It is their comfort actors must consider – their pleasure. Actors send life across the footlights and audiences send back the reward.

It is, of course, not as simple as all that. If it were, anyone could do it, and anyone can’t. You need breath, stamina, skill and talent. The first three you can acquire, the latter you can’t. If you are blessed with talent, respect it and cherish it.

Young actors should, early on, rid themselves of the notion that there is a “right” way to act. There is only what works and, in order to come close to what works each night, an actor cannot burden himself with anything that does not result in the truth of the moment, and in the communication of that truth to his audience.

There is much to learn from the investigation of all theories, all styles of acting, and all approaches. But after he absorbs all he needs, the actor must be ready to forget it. He must take a deep breath, call upon his stamina and skill, trust in his talent and go out there and be.

All else is a wilderness in which the actor must happily wander.”
 

TWO ACTORS AND THE MOON

From The Invisible Actor by Yoshi Oida

In the Kabuki theatre, there is a gesture which indicates ‘looking at the moon’, where the actor points into the sky with his index finger. One actor, who was very talented, performed this gesture with grace and elegance. The audience thought: “Oh, his movement is so beautiful!” They enjoyed the beauty of his performance, and the technical mastery he displayed.

Another actor made the same gesture, pointing at the moon. The audience didn’t notice whether or not he moved elegantly; they simple saw the moon.”

Your audience wants to see the moon, the message, the experience, not you.

* * *

Barbara Kite is an executive speaking and professional acting coach, director and actress in Portland Oregon. www.barbarakite.com
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February 19, 2012 Posted by | acting, acting skills, speech | Leave a comment

Where To Start?

You want to make major advances in your Speaking or Acting or in your Life.

Where do you start?

With ACTING SKILLS.  Seriously.  I want to share something special I do with all my clients.

The Comfortable Exercise below is the first major step towards Great Speaking and Acting Skills and Great Living that I give to everyone of my speaking clients and actors.

You must experience this process for yourself to truly understand what it takes to be even better in what you do and who you are.  It is the minimum required for interacting, connecting, reaching and empathizing with others.

I’ve had people say “Oh, I do that every day in my job any way.”  And then they make a lame attempt at it.

It truly is important to commit to this process completely.

So I say to you, – you have NEVER done THIS before!   Not the way you need to in order to soak it into your body, your soul and your emotions.

Because it requires full and total concentration and focus – the kind you’ve never used before and you’ll only be able to cover a fraction of it on this first attempt. You see, it requires a life time of practice to really understand.

For example, the “PRESENT” you have to BE is not the casual kind where you give only part of your attention to something. It has to be ALL OF YOU in THIS MOMENT, in your physical surroundings, in your body, in your senses, in your breath.

So I give you this assignment hoping you understand that it requires a depth of commitment and being you’ve never entered before. Because if you have, you would already be well on your way to being an amazing actor or speaker or artist. Because if you have, you’ll be grateful for this opportunity to do this again and again and again.


The Comfortable Exercise

For 24 HOURS make EVERYONE you come in contact with, feel Julie Davis _(Kate)comfortable” – not happy – but comfortable. Be clear about what that means.

You must be clear what “comfortable” means to you and to them.

Therefore, keep close watch to see that what you are saying and doing is making people comfortable. If it is not making them “comfortable”, try something different.

You must be PRESENT, FOCUSED, LISTENING ON ALL LEVELS OF YOUR BEING, ADJUSTING TO WHAT YOU RECEIVE FROM THE PERSON, TAKING YOUR TIME AND PUTTING YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES.

This is your objective for 24 hours. You may not tell them what you are doing.

AND WHEN YOU FINISH THIS ASSIGNMENT, I HAVE ONLY ONE QUESTION. WHAT DID YOU LEARN?

February 7, 2012 Posted by | acting, acting skills | , , | Leave a comment

MASTERING ENERGY & ACTING

MASTERING ENERGY AND ACTING

The very first impression an audience receives, and judges, from an actor or a speaker comes from the body.Artwork 057

  • Is the body tense?
  • Is the movement flowing or rigid?
  • Are the hands hidden?
  • Are the eyes down?
  • Is the circle of energy this body produces small or filling the whole room?

An audience immediately responds on a subliminal level, – liking the person or not, trusting the person or not, fearing the person or not – depending on what energy the body is transmitting.

I often ask my actors to do their monologues without words.  It is surprising to see the amount of energy that is suppressed when we rely just on words.

What should we know about the body and the energy emitted?

Are you rooted in the ground like a confident tree? (See EXERCISE below.)

Is your energy filling the space and moving from you to each person you speak to?  Are you willingly receiving the energy flowing back to you?

Do you know how to soothe – (float energy out over the audience), command attention (radiate energy out), and embrace (radiate energy by surrounding the audience with it)?  Energy is something every actor and speaker must learn to master effectively in order to fully realize the extraordinary communicator within.


Patsy Rodenberg speaking of energy in

JulieDavis Artwork

Three Circles of Energy

First Circle is the Circle of Self and Withdrawal and although useful at times for moments of introspection and reflection, if you live mainly in this circle you will be limited, your passion for life will be dulled and you are shy.  You will also tend to absorb other people’s energy to try and compensate and therefore you will be rather a draining person to deal with – I can think of several of my students who are like this and if I am not careful they can wipe me out by the end of the lesson!  First Circle energy will also not be enough for a performer to be effective.

Third Circle is the Circle of Bluff and Force where energy is outward moving and non-specific – people who operate mainly in this circle are self-centered but in a different way.  They want to be the centre of attention – we have all come across people like this at parties and all that energy which they push out has the effect of making us switch off.  Third Circle operators are in fact using this way of behavior as a shield to protect themselves.  They do not receive any energy from the world as they are alone, fighting to control life and perceived by people around them as arrogant and over-bearing.  In singing these performers tend to push the voice out there using too much energy and the audience hit by this barrage of sound does not listen with rapt attention.  In teaching, these are the students who march into the room with an over-inflated sense of self-confidence and do not listen.  Again these people are exhausting to deal with.

Second Circle is The Energy of Connecting.  People who operate in this circle have real presence.  People who operate in this circle give out energy but also receive it back.  These are the performers who literally change our lives when we listen to them.  You feel they are connecting directly with you personally even although you may be one of a very large audience.  They connect.  These students are the ones who give back energy to you and we emerge from our studio feeling as if we have not been working at all.  If only all our students could be like that, we say.

EXERCISE:

Grounding yourself in your breath, in your body.

Place one or two hands against a wall, and then exert a little pressure on the wall.  Keep your shoulders and upper chest free and unlocked, with your weight on the balls of your feet and your heels on the ground.

Maintain this pushing pressure and breathe in and out calmly.  The breath should be low and you will feel a synchronized breath and support as your push.

In this way you will feel when you are losing support and need to inhale.  This inhalation will come easily if the breath is silent and low in the body.

When you come away from the wall, you will feel more connected to your breath, yourself, and the world.

This free and flexible breath places you in the moment and can then serve your physical, emotional, and intellectual needs.  The more you breathe naturally, the more present you will be.

Barbara Kite is a professional Acting Coach and Executive Speaking Coach as well as Keynot Speaker in Portland Oregon.

www.barbarakite.com

June 16, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

From the Desk of …

In this posting I’m giving it over to a top voice talent and vocal coach in Portland, Oregon.

Of course there is so much more to proper speaking but this is a BIG ONE. Mostly I want actors and speakers to know that “speaking on the breath” is an important technique to master in order to be heard and understood. Two attributes necessary for your story/message/intent to get across to the audience.


From the Desk of MaryMac, Dialect Coach

Hello All,

Recently a discussion about “vocal fry” (also called “glottal fry”) came up on the international dialect coach listserve I hang out on. This is a sound I often hear in actors, especially younger ones. I thought the comments on the list were worth repeating, so I’m passing them to you here unedited. I find this stuff fascinating… hope you find it interesting, too!

Happy Sunday,

Mary McDonald-Lewis
Dialect Coach
mary@marymac.com

PS For an hilarious example of vocal fry, among other modern communication failures, go here at the 1:00 mark if you don’t want to watch the first bit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJ51BNYXbV4 (Caveat: It’s the work of the fabulous Louis CK so be forewarned that it is fecund humor at the front end).

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COMMENTS ON VOCAL FRY FROM THE COUNTRIES’ LEADING DIALECT COACHES.

quick fixes – fry

(1) refill breath more often
(2) use slightly higher average pitch, [ teacher’s cue: “stay above the gravel zone”]

My quickest demo is to start at normal conversational level, explaining:

glottal fry occurs when one runs out of energy but then keeps talking and talking on empty and then it kinda makes sense to drop energy further in order to keep going and pretty soon I’m out of breath completely but as you see I haven’t refilled yet and I’m into glottal fry by now but I could really keep going for quite a while….

Improvise your own text you get the idea and you’ll get a laugh or two but I’m gonna go breathe now

+++++

Just add some more words to the sentence.

I’m going to the stor…rrrrrgghhhhhhhhhhhh

becomes:

I’m going to the store to get some apples and cheese

and then they hear themselves fully saying the final word and can then delete the extra words.

+++++

I’m not keen on asking people to listen to themselves, but I think that many chronic fryers have no idea how much they are doing it. By recording and listening back they might notice. Also, with a partner, have the partner merely lift a finger every time their partner drops into the fry-zone. This also works with uptalk? So people can notice that they’re doing it?

I think that a little knowledge about the need for breath in order for there to be “flow phonation” can be helpful ”that there is value in letting breath in because it gives “breath energy”, “gas in your tank” that you can speak on.

I suspect that many young women (typically with “soprano” speaking voices) use vocal fry because they don’t want to sound “strident” (or some other negative judgment of their higher than average voice), but don’t have many low notes in their range to access for the end of their thoughts. So the combination of uptalk (which allows them to stay in modal vibration) and fry (which allows them to go lower than they are currently capable of doing) “works” for them. To bastardize Maya Angelou: They do what they do when they know what they know. Our job is to help them know better, so they can do better.

+++++

Interesting hypotheses!

My speculation on the phenomenon has been that young women know they’re supposed to sound powerful/authoritative, but absent any real connection with body/resonance/expressive-range/belly-power, and with severe self-perceived pressure to keep tummy empty/small, best they can find is very low pitch skating @ edge of fry.

For young men with similar sound, I wonder if low-energy voice signals cool/unaggressive/ version of modern masculinity—a vocal “slouch” showing membership in the we-don’t-take-ourselves-too-seriously-even-when-depressed fellowship.

Or, those might have been the sociolinguistic processes 10-20 years ago; by now the low pitch + inner emptiness (rib-squeeze, in Catherine Fitzmaurice’s parlance) is simply the normal accent of a generation. As others have said, there is zero awareness of fry as abnormal or unhealthy, even when they’ve come to see me because of muscle fatigue!

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What they need is more breath support to avoid vocal fry. The fry happens because their is not enough airflow, so the vocal folds meet at irregular intervals, making the sound more “choppy” as they descend below their phonation threshold – below the amount of energy needed to vocalize at that pitch. We need more breath support at lower pitches, which is why we go into fry at the end of a phrase (especially true for American speakers with the line-ending drop that is so very American!)

Adding words at the end of their current phrasing tends to extend their support, as someone already mentioned. (I tend to use “, okay?” as my old standby.)

You can also add more support at the end of the phrase itself. If they know what support is, maybe you can just give that note, but if they don’t get the concept yet, try adding a physical action that causes more support: bend the knees towards a squat, press down on something, lift something heavy, press against the wall, etc.Be careful about having them start at a slightly higher pitch because they may not hear the “slightly” part and start pitching up overall. What they really need to do is to fill out the low end of their range with support!


Barbara Kite is a professional acting coach and an executive speaking coach based in Portland Oregon. www.barbarakite.com

May 4, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

GREAT ACTORS KNOW THE CHILD WITHIN

 

GREAT ACTORS  KNOW THE CHILD WITHIN

Great Actors have an abundance of imagination, passion, authenticity, focus, commitment, joy and heart. And that it is directly connected to their ability to tap into the child within.

 The other night, I conducted another amazing Acting Class .

Be A Five Year Old.

Everyone found a spot on the floor and began imagining their five year old space and whatever popped up was then worked on; tying shoes, waiting for Dad to come home after being bad, setting up toys like soldiers, ballerinas, etc., waiting for a friend to come over and play, hitting someone who took their toy away and on and on. 

Everyone learned that they restrict themselves as adults and the excitement is squelched because we are grown ups who are not allowed to express our feelings in an authentic way.  What a pity. Our heads guide us toward what is acceptable, safe and ordinary. And as years go by we make the rules more and more rigid and the child is no longer heard.

The passion, the joy, the commitment, the imagination, the excitement of the child is so necessary in great acting. Have you lost touch with yours? Where do you go to re-learn to be authentic, to see anew, and to play again, engaging others in the excitement of life?

I ask for 10 minutes of your time. Because you can’t THINK what it was like to be a child and try to re-capture it. You can’t IMITATE your childhood phrases or actions or words and expect to re-capture the child within. You have to get down and dirty. You have to put it into the present time and be the child.

That means you set some time aside – 10 to 15 minutes. Find a quite place. Yes, I know, that doesn’t really exist, but think of the rewards. Focus and concentrate (another important aspect of public speaking) on your task and nothing else.

Now start imagining your surroundings. You don’t have to be exact, just go with whatever pops into your head (the subconscious is where your creativity lives). If the colors in your room can’t be remembered, just toss in whatever comes up, because it will be there for a good reason. It can be a different age, 10 or 2. It doesn’t matter.

Now start to play. Don’t force, just let it come to you. If it’s difficult and you start thinking – DON’T. Just pick up a toy and start playing and talking to yourself out loud IN THE PRESENT, as if it’s happening right now.

 Be brave. Be adventurous. Be silly. Be amazed. Commitment, Focus, Imagination, Letting Go, letting it happen to you instead of making it happen, freedom, authenticity, seeing for the first time and being present  are just some of the rewards.

Without releasing the child, you will continue bringing your head, and not your heart, to your communication.

www.barbarakite.com

February 23, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

**WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM ACTORS ON SET? Ask a Director

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
 
What do you Expect from Actors on Set”
 
Ask a Director.
 

Sarah Kahn

December 2009

What do you expect from actors when they shou up on the set?  What are their responsibilities?
 
Ang Lee
New York; “Taking Woodstock,” “Brokeback Mountain”
 
 
I think being available is very important. Sometimes you have to dial yourself down to zero, so you’re available for the character, for the director’s directions, for the scene to happen. Make yourself available to react to people’s actions. I think that’s very important. At least for me, from the director’s point of view, they have to be available to us. Most actors are playing certain lines and certain actions so that they can be watched certain ways; they choose what people see of them. To me, that’s not a good way of acting. The best way of acting, to me, is make yourself available so things can happen. Just empty yourself. It’s more than just chilling out. It’s actually a very hard thing to do. The more skill you have, the harder it gets sometimes.

 

Rebecca Miller
Ireland; “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee,” “The Ballad of Jack and Rose”

I expect an actor to have really come up with a characterization, to have a full backstory, to be completely committed, to leave their BlackBerry somewhere else, to not read scripts of other shows, to be on set, to be just completely and utterly in the moment, committed to what they’re doing. Robin Wright is a joy to work with as an actor because she’s all of those things—she commits completely and she is very brave and she is very detail-oriented and very interior as an actor.

 

James Mottern
Los Angeles; “Trucker”

When actors show up on set, I want them to be prepared to allow themselves to be completely naked in their emotionality. I realize it is a difficult thing to achieve. I want them to feel that although I have certain ideas about a character, they themselves are on a journey to find the core of the character, and in that search they may discover a greater truth that they can share with me and everyone else. I may be the mapmaker, but the actor must dig up the treasure.

Drama or comedy, great actors allow themselves to perform without self-judgment, while being completely and brutally judged from head to toe by the entire world! It is a great and terrible gift to be able to touch that part of yourself at moments that are without hubris or cynicism, knowing that you are laying yourself bare. It’s not that I want my actors to be exploited—that’s not what I mean in any way—but an actor is an implement of humanity; he or she exists to glorify and vilify and unify a shared experience. So when they show up, I want them to have fun and feel safe and make money, but I also want them to know, or at least to have a sense, that I hold them in exceedingly high regard and that they are there for an important, profound reason, and it usually has to do with the truth.

 

Kevin Tanchaeroen
Los Angeles; “Fame”

Hands down, I expect them to know their lines completely. But I also expect them to have ideas on how to make it theirs. Because I don’t want them to be robots. When we were on “Fame,” a lot of the dialogue ended up shifting into something that felt like it was unique and in their own voice. So instead of trying to figure that out on set, I really like it when actors memorize everything, know it, but also have ideas how to make it feel better with them. And then we can talk about it. So come with ideas, but also come with your lines. If you walk on set and you’re not prepared, you’re wasting dollars and time, and it’s just not a good thing.

Barbara Kite is a professional acting coach and executive speaking coach as well as a keynote speaker based in Portland Oregon.  For more information see www.barbarakite.com

 

April 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

*Killing John Wayne

For those of you who don’t know who John Wayne was- see his movies. 

 He plays the same character in every movie, much like anumber of today’s “actors”.  I consider these people not actors, but personalities.  A true actor finds a way of getting out of their own way and becoming the character.   Ultimately, they join with the playwright in creating this character from the human “archetypes” that exist to reflect our own life.  John is one “archetype” played endlessly in every character he portrays.  I say kill John Wayne in our art.

I find the following excerpt most clearly describes what actors should be reaching for, which is, finding the character within themselves not themselves in the character.

Chekhov’s technique is a completely imaginative approach to experiencing the truth of the moment. According to Chekhov the work of the actor is to create an inner event which is an actual experience occurring in real time within the actor. This inner event as it is being experienced by the actor is witnessed by the audience as an outward expression related to the contextual moment of the play. This event and the ability to create it belong to what Michael Chekhov calls the Creative Individuality of the actor, and is not directly tied to his personality. This Creative Individuality allows the artist actor to use parts of himself that are not just the smaller meaner more banal elements that make up his daily life, but rather parts of his unconscious, where dwell more universal and archetypal images. In Chekhov’s own words:

“All you experience in the course of your life, all you observe and think, all that makes you happy or unhappy, all your regrets or satisfactions, all your love or hate, all you long for or avoid, all your achievements and failures, all you brought with you into this life at birth -your temperament, abilities, inclinations etc., all are part of the region of your so called subconscious depths. There being forgotten by you, or never known to you they undergo the process of being purified of all egotism. They become feelings per se. Thus purged and transformed, they become part of the material from which your Individuality creates the psychology, the illusory “soul” of the character.”

(To The Actor by Michael Chekhov)

In this way the ego of the character is not subjected to the ego of the actor, because the Individuality seeks a creative union with the character, and will not allow the smaller personality to invade the character thereby distorting this character into one more representation of the actor’s personality. The actor’s work continually becomes an artistic creation.”

Lenard Petit    The Michael Chekhov Handbook; For the Actor published by Routledge Press

Barbara Kite is a professional acting coach and executive speaking coach as well as a keynote speaker based in Portland Oregon.  For more information see www.barbarakite.com

January 25, 2010 Posted by | acting, acting skills, art, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

*TALENT is last on the list of MUSTS for actors

Yes, it’s true.  Talent is last on the list of MUSTS for actors who are just stepping into the field and those who want to continue working.

In over 20 years of coaching actors and being one as well as directing, I have found some basic truths many forget.  Let me give you my list of MUSTS for successful actors. 

First off you need to be

PROFESSIONAL.  And that means

                    PROMPT,

                    POLITE,

                   PREPARED –  ALWAYS CARRYING A HEADSHOT WITH YOU (AND LOOK LIKE THEM)

                                         –  ALWAYS WEARING THE APPROPRIATE CLOTHING FOR THE AUDITON

                                          – ALWAYS HAVING MADE SPECIFIC CHOICES FOR YOUR SIDES

                                         – ALWAYS READY TO DO TWO OR THREE MONOLOGUES

 EXPERIENCED,

 TAKING ACTING CLASSES, SINGING CLASSES, ETC.  YOU MUST HAVE ON GOING TRAINING,

 EASILY CONTACTED,

 FLEXIBLE,

  COOPERATIVE, 

RESPONSIBLE, (One of my favorite Acting Teachers at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts once told me that every actor in the play must take it upon themselves to do everything they can to make the play be a hit, as if their every deed and word contributed to the failure or success of the show.  I will always remember that.  He also said you cannot blame anyone or anything else.  You are responsible for it all.  You, as a professional, after all, know it’s not about you. It’s about the play, the audience and your fellow actors.) 

                   AND TALENTED.

I have seen a number of actors who were extremely talented but lacked one, two or more of the other qualities on the list.  Believe me,  there are 100 actors standing right behind you who are just as a talented so replacing you with one of them because you’re not prompt, polite or prepared is very very easy and it WILL BE DONE.

I have seen actors miss opportunities because they can’t be contacted during the run of a show and not be availed of a role they could be audition for!  or an agent they had wanted to sign with couldn’t reach them.

I have fired actors who weren’t cooperative and flexible when I directed plays.  Others I would never hire again because they were late, always blamed someone or something else, or fought me every step of the way.   Sometimes I want to tell actors who have authoritiy issues to find another profession.

If you think talented is all it takes you as so sadly mistaken and will pay for it in the long run.

Realize you can be ahead of the game if you take all the qualities listed above seriously.

Break a leg.

Barbara Kite is a professional acting coach and executive speaking coach based in Portland Oregon www.barbarakite.com

November 22, 2009 Posted by | acting, acting skills, art | Leave a comment

*ACTORS -If someone asks you why you do what you do…

If someone asks why you do what you do, tell them this:

“Actors are some of the most driven, courageous people on the face of
the Earth. They deal with more day-to-day rejection in 1 year than
most people do in a lifetime. Every day, actors face the financial
challenge of living a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people
who think they should get “real jobs,” and their own fear that they’ll
never work again. Every day they have to ignore the possibility that
the vision to which they have dedicated their lives is a pipe dream.
With every passing year, many of them watch as the other people their
age achieve the predictable milestones of normal life – the cars, the
family, the house, the nest egg.”

“But they stay true to their dream, in spite of sacrifices. Why?
Because actors are willing to give their entire lives to a moment – to
that line, that laugh, that gesture or that interpretation that will
stir the audience’s soul. Actors are beings who have tasted life’s
nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative
spirit and touched another person’s heart. In that instant, they are
as close to magic, God and perfection as anyone could ever be. And in
their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is
worth a thousand lifetimes.”

David Acker

Barbara Kite is a professional acting coach and executive speaking coach based in Portland Oregon www.barbarakite.com

October 18, 2009 Posted by | acting | Leave a comment

*Mesiner’s Repetition Exercise

THE IMPORTANCE OF MEISNER’S REPETITION EXERCISE CANNOT BE OVERSTATED.

Repetition or the Repetition Exercise or Game was developed by Sandy Meisner to train actors to actively listen to each other and pay attention to their stage partners.

Traditionally actors do not need to listen to each other, they’ve rehearsed the scene in the same way throughout the entire rehearsal process, so they know what’s coming next. This means that their skill must be in pretending to respond truthfully to something they’ve heard hundreds of times.    However, sooner or later, your performance will degrade over time. This might be fine on film but on the stage, where you need to remain spontaneous night after night, it becomes problematic.

In Meisner’s view, actors should listen and should not set their performances in stone, – they should be different every night.   If your performance is to be truly spontaneous and immediate (meaning based on what’s happening here and now rather than copying what happened in rehearsal ad naseum), then you must learn to work off what the other actor is doing in this moment.

Repetition helps you to build the skills to deal with this new spontaneous and immediate style of performance. Repetition is simple. Say something truthful about the other person and then that person repeats from their perspective and continue to repeat what you hear until something happens that makes you change.

For example: You’re unsure I’m unsure You’re unsure I’m unsure You’re unsure I’m unsure You’re unsure I’m unsure You’re unsure I’m unsure You’re unsure I’m unsure Etc etc… There’s no need to do anything, there’s no need to change what you say or how you say it unless you see something new occurring. Simply put: if you see the person fidgeting and biting their lip, you may believe they are nervous, then say it and continue to repeat (until one of you sees some new change occurring) You’re unsure I’m unsure You’re unsure I’m unsure (you see them bite their lip’ You’re nervous I’m nervous You’re nervous I’m nervous You’re nerbus (you hear them err) You made a mistake I made a mistake (they go red) You’re embarrassed I’m embarrassed You’re embarrassed I’m embarrassed You’re embarrassed I’m embarrassed

You do NOT need to change anything on purpose but If you see a change in your repetition partner, then say it, don’t deny it. Remember it’s Invent Nothing, Deny Nothing. There are three rules for repetition: 1) Tell the Truth 2) If in doubt Repeat 3) Dont stop playing the game: keep playing if you get it right, get it wrong, completely fuck it up or a herd of gazelles tramples your classmates. Place your focus on your partner and play the game until you’re told to stop.

You must allow yourself to be influenced by the other actor and to inadvertently (at this stage) influence their behaviour (without attempting to do so). This game has no winner, it’s not a competition, when you make a mistake or get stuck for words just attempt to keep going, your worst mistakes are gifts to your fellow repetition practitioner that will keep the game going. Simply say what you see regardless of social politeness. Meisner used to say ‘Fuck Polite’. He doesn’t mean be rude, he simply means that if you are an actor, you must be open to live truthfully under a wide range of imaginary circumstances and scenarios.

For this reason, the actor must be unrestricted by social niceties in order to prepare to do this. It’s not about being mean to each other, it’s about being open enough to say what you see and respond to it. Over time your repetition skills are integrated into your scene work. From herein it’s just practice, practice, practice.

Adapted from Mark Westbrook’s Acting Blog and from personal experience with the Meisner Technique.

Barbara Kite is a professional acting coach and executive speaking coach as well as key note speaker residing in Portland Oregon. www.barbarakite.com

October 10, 2009 Posted by | acting, acting skills | 2 Comments