Beauty On The Fly
Wings Grounded, the Curtain Calls
“Study and, in general, the pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.” Albert Einstein
“Crazy times. Absolutely crazy. In Heinz-sight, if we could turn clocks back, can we pretend this never happened?!” Quarantext from a friend.
Heinz-Sight is 20/20
The flight response to the covid-19 crisis has put the brakes on travel. Our hearts race from country to country, with an outpouring towards the haves and have-nots. The gravity speaks volumes. Trail mix, granola bars and tuna tins have bowed their heads back into the pantry. The masks, gloves and sanitizers of our airplane lives rerouted to health care workers on the front lines. Ketchup typos aside, our lives have been halted to the point of inner reflection on the pace of our unsustainable co-existence. Heinz-sight is 20/20.
Wings grounded, the curtain calls. A casting director beckons for a self tape audition. It is by no means a promissory note. It is a healthy distraction from the surreal pandemic. A learning curve, while I flatten. I crowd out my cries for justice. The silence is telling. A creative journey is ignited. Photography, makeup and representation by lacedupimagery, wilfertorres, vmtm
I pour myself into the meaningful dialogue of a script. I am not a stranger to modelling on television or appearing in a music video. Second City Improvisational Actor training has in part, prepared me for the unrehearsed world. Acting requires in depth layers of study and experience. An acting coach during social isolation is not an option. This is bound to up my writing jam. Classes here: secondcitytoronto
I also learned about the emotional wheel which encompasses basic emotions, the basic opposite emotions and the advanced emotions and advanced opposite emotions. An advanced emotion is a combination of two or more basic emotions. I relish the study, and vow to delve deeper, after I meet my deadline with the casting director.
HB Studio Uta Hagen’s Acting Class
I learned so much from Uta and her constructive criticism was more like a loving, motherly coach. Her words are like pearls of wisdom that shed light on transference of emotions from the past. It was Uta who inspired me to use an antique oversized art book as the storybook from which Duke reads to Allie. I take the book into my hand as if Duke has handed it to me and press it fondly against my chest. It triggers a memory through the emotional enjoyment of the love story. This is one aspect of the actor’s process. To paraphrase Uta, the human psyche is unchanged. It is fashion and morals that have changed. We all still want love, for example. Invaluable advice given here at utahagenhbstudio
After video recording The Notebook dementia scene, I dissect a second script with Kathleen. The word swell rings a bell, and there is a typewriter in the scene. Kathleen brilliantly audio googles the names of the characters and we are delighted that it is a scene from Madmen. I felt compelled to play Joan. I think this is what actors call a juicy role.
I used the art book like a file folder in my second acting tape. I donned fake lashes, an up-do, and attempted to replicate Hollywood lighting. My red top transmitted a siren confidence. If we did turn back the clocks, we might have been able to interpret Peggy’s line.
“Why is it that every time a man takes you to lunch around here, you’re the…you’re the deSERT.” Hard to fathom the mindset of that time period.
“I don’t get it. Swell. Typewriter.” I rationalize, “Maybe they mean dry like the DESert.”
By my own admission, the Sahara was not what the writer had in mind. And yes, the wrongful metaphor of dunes made our final cut. Unlike this layover oasis in Rome enjoying gelato with Jelica, we put the emPHASIS on the wrong syllABLE.
Michael Caine Acting Class for Film and Television
I managed to watch two of his classes. All kinds of people have re-posted his classes all over youtube. He has an eye for the subtle. Michael Caine taught me to pick an “eye” of the other actor and don’t dart my gaze from eye to eye. So I taped an eyeball on a paper beside the camera and made sure most of my face was towards camera. Michael quenches the thirst for knowledge of the acting on TV and film genre. I would later get advice that 4 inches away from the camera is the way to go. The acting jury seems to vary. Since Michael Caine got to me first, I looked Duke straight in the eyeball.
Great tips from mostly casting directors, the dos and don’ts, all kinds of useful information. What would the character carry in their purse or pull out from their pocket? Theoretically, Allie probably wore fresh classic pearls. My first instinct was to absentmindedly play with the necklace. I swapped that idea for a large art notebook and squeezed it like the security blanket it was. I could express fondness in how I handled the book that was a love story.
For more dos and don’ts, An Actor’s Playhouse is great too. All these resources I discovered in a very short amount of time, taking notes and getting into character.
Some other resources on youtube were The Actor’s Academy and The Heller Approach. About organic and inorganic crying on the spot. This inspired me to create my own technique of freshly chopped onions on my set. And…nothing! It didn’t work! “Aargh!” I was able to access these emotions in the first two times I read with Kathleen. I dabbed leftover Filipino tiger balm in the corners of my eyes, since I had some on my temples. If eyes could clench from burning, mine did. That was something I would not advise ANYONE to do, ever again.
These two sources of acting information, (actor’s academy and Heller approach), gave me permission not to dig too much into the past because of mental and physical health repercussions. Even Mel Gibson said, doing so, you may die young. I have worked so hard to overcome negative emotions, I did not want to experience them with the same rawness. But a hint of them, I could do. I also learned not to rock back and forth while talking to my focus eyeball.
Backstage offers core training for performers. I learned about breathing, balance, overcoming anxiety, physicality and more. Many gems here. Despite this short description, this information was invaluable. Subscribed to this channel as well.
The Script Whisperer
I asked a male friend, Mark, to record on messenger the lines for the character of Duke. I used this to cue my line. One lilting line threw me off, frittering the essence. This nullified my original intention to have a male voice to read lines. I also practiced singing outdoors, as I had been whisper practicing in the house so as not to wake anyone. I wasn’t sure I would be able to do the lines above a whisper, partially because I was playing Allie so sad from the very beginning.
Uta taught me that I was “anticipating.” I was so ready to cry. It was influencing my previous line. I was anticipating the next emotion instead of letting it process. So I tried to do the lines in different tones in the tranquil ravine down the road. I experimented and shook it up. I also used the DO, RE, MI scale to say the lines in various speaking tones. The trees played a stoic Duke. A bulldog’s gruff barking and a chase ensue as I growl back Allie’s “stranger danger” line from the diaphragm, “No! No!” And a little quieter, so as not to alarm the neighboring squirrels, “Help! What do you want from me? Help!” The fence between us gave me security as we raced repeatedly the length of the canine’s ravine facing backyard.
Finding My Voice
A pivotal video I saw before going to bed was that of actor and acting coach John Windsor-Cunningham (well worth subscribing to). He took a painstaking few minutes to put emphasis on the first line of the scene. How to believe in what you are saying with the very first line.
In the morning after that video, I proclaimed to Kathleen, I had been playing Allie too sad. I have been anticipating that she will be very sad from the get go. So I abandoned the onions, digging for buried low points in my life, and really processed her emotions in finer detail. Stella would call these advanced emotions. Allie expressed so many permutations of emotions despite only remembering anything for a few short minutes.
Also John Windsor-Cunningham helped me to say the first line with an emphasis on my belief that it is true. Then I remembered that casting directors may decide if they will use you or not in the first 10 to 45 seconds. I realized, that my first line had been the weakest, quietest whispering, emotional line. So I decided to react to the story book being read by Duke to my character, as I would if the book touched me in a profound way. I played it with the emotion in the moment, which morphed into a processing that it was actually our (Duke and Allie’s) love story. I was not sad yet! I was elated and alive with cognizance for a few brief minutes.
“What would you attempt to do, if you knew you could not fail?” (author unknown)
Kathleen and I were self conscious about our lines. At some point, she was fed up. “I don’t HAVE to act too, I don’t HAVE to do this!” It made me tear up. But then I said, let’s use this emotion. “I am sorry if your feelings are hurt. But I have no desire to act.”
My fingers reach for the outer corners of my eyes to unblur my lines. I suppress the labyrinth of self doubt. I choke the words out to my line reading advantage. Failure is my teacher. My will picks up my inner actor and brushes the dust off. We get through the script one more time and call it a day.
The next day, I gingerly, ask her to give me more time to process emotions between some lines. Other lines require my line reader to cue quicker to trigger a response or overlap a response to my reactions. Practicing repeatedly, we evolved our performance gradually. When we began to record, we both became more invested. The sooner we did a final take, the sooner we could breathe a sigh of relief.
Practicing the shallow breaths of anxiety actually made me anxious. This method was destabilizing my performance. I had trouble taking deep breaths in between takes. A deep breath and slow exhale was restorative. I repeated. I processed. We tweaked. We abandoned our fears. We honed in.
“Cut!” and then, “again!”
“Take it from the top.”
“You missed an entire line. Again!”
She assumed her position as the director, and coached me to be my authentic self. If we did not believe I was Allie, no one would. Many subtle and organic details were born out of working out the timing and mutual encouragement. The rhythm of the script were like beats. An exchange of energy. My line reader became an actor behind the video taping smartphone. It propelled me upward towards inspiration.