Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Theater Class Redux

Warmer: It's important for actors and, you know, like, people in general, and, and all life on the planet, for that matter, to relax. Just TRY AND RELAX! Tough now, isn't it? 

Well, here are some tricks to get us into the right frame of mind...

Breathe from your diaphragm - breathing clears your mind and send oxygen flowing to your brain. (you're really making me explain breathing to you 😆)

Perform a series of stretches. This will loosen your muscles, causing you to feel a little more calm. (So go on and stretch then, ya lazy bones. 😂)

Massage yourself to prevent nausea. Gently pressing the underside of your wrist is supposed to be particularly useful for soothing an upset stomach. (Stop short of giving yourself a happy finish 😅)

Hold a power pose. It may sound silly, but multiple studies report an increase in confidence after a big, powerful pose. For example, place legs apart, hands on waist, and hold your head up. If you really want to drive it home, say 'I got this' to yourself. (This might have something to do with the lobster 😎 as explained by Jordan Peterson)

Tongue Twisters - Get your mouth limber and voice practiced.

Snap your fingers in front of your face - for 30 seconds in circles before you go on.

Singing - releases dopamine and oxytocin, 2 chemicals that enhance our mental ability.

Laughing - Letting out a big laugh when you wake up sets the tone for the rest of your day. In India they even have Laugh Therapy sessions in the morning before people go to work.

Another good way to relax is to paint


Consider your look. People are often cast in commercials based on the way they look. Since commercials are so short, they will often require a person to be immediately identifiable as being a certain character or role. When you are applying to auditions, consider what roles you think your look would best fit in to increase your chances of being selected.[2]
  • Think about what the commercial is selling. Could you play a part that fits with that product?
  • For example, you'll likely want to look like a “mom” if you are going to be in a diaper commercial.
  • There are roles for everyone. Don't worry too much if you don't feel you have the right look.

Learn the technical skills of commercial acting. Beyond being a good actor, you'll want to learn some of the technical skills that can help when shooting a commercial. These skills can help you do your best when acting for the commercial format. Check out some of these skills to get an idea of what you should know:[4]
  • Know where to stand and how to move during a shoot.
  • You should learn how to look and speak at a camera during a commercial.
  • Be ready to take direction and adapt to instructions.
  • Knowing how to stay relaxed and natural can be valuable skills to have when filming.


Here are a few 30 second commercial scripts for actors to practice.  Some commercial copy is serious in tone and others completely comedic.
  • COMMERCIAL COPY – Serious Toned
Headaches.  We all get them. We all wish they would go away.  There is a solution.  Excedrin. I just take two and there’s no more tension, no more throbbing, no more pain.  My headache completely gone.
It’s a mindset.  A focus.  A deep seated spirit.  It’s an inner strength to keep your feet planted firmly on the ground, no matter what presses against you. It’s confidence.  It’s belief. It’s a way of life.  It’s Nike.
Whoever said that a smell can bring back a flood of memories, was certainly right.  Whenever I use Pine Sol in my home, I’m brought back to visiting my Grandmother as a little girl.  She always kept her house smelling fresh.  I have Pine Sol to thank for that.
  • COMMERCIAL COPY – Comedic Toned
Whenever I feel like a sweaty slob, there is one assurance that gives me peace of mind.  Deodorant.  Just one wipe under each arm pit and I am good to go for days. Heck, I don’t even need to shower for one whole week.  That’s how good this shizz is.
Corn Buster
Ladies, can’t get those corns into that new pair of shoes?  Introducing corn buster. You apply the cream over the bunion and within minutes the deep penetrating solution forms a crust.  With one simple wipe, you will be able to get your foot into those high heels, giiiirl.
One Wipes
Ever sit on a toilet and have the never ending wipe?  Well, those days are over. I’ve invented one wipes.  A new form of toilet paper that contains a solution where with just one wipe, you are fresh and clean. Done deal.
The classic Industrial Film - Winnebago Man

The Competition

Make a Promotional Video for University of the Potomac - feel free to be silly

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


The above is a parody of the Twilight Zone episode To Serve Man. More people know the bit from the Simpson family and drooling aliens than do from the original Twilight Zone episode.

Some films like those of Mel Brooks are cultural reference machines. Sitcoms such as Simpsons and Seinfeld are TV institutions and often include history, cultural observations, and paying homage to classic films.

Take this for instance. In the episode below Kramer gets hit by a loogie and Jerry, with Newman's help, tries to determine the spit's origin. The scene draws on President John F. Kennedy's assassination and specifically Oliver Stone's movie JFK, which was based on Jim Garrison's real life trial to get to the bottom of who killed the President.

And here's the Scene from Oliver Stone's JFK

Indeed, it can be said that modern day idioms, expressions, and colloquialisms are now being generated by movies, TV, and social media instead of books and old word wisedom passed down from generation to generation as was the case in the past. Some expressions are used with little knowledge of where they came from.

And just like other idioms they can become cliche and overused. Also there's the phenomenon of expressions disappering and then re-appearing sometimes years later, such as the case with "bye Felicia".

It's important to familiarize yourself with the most popular films and TV shows (IMDB has a list of the top 100 movies).  When imitating these scenes it's usual to copy the rythm of speech and intonation of the actor who said the line.

Here is a smattering of some more famous lines:

On the Waterfront

Cool hand luke




young frankenstein

Apocalypse now

willy wonka

taxi driver


annie hall

dog day afternoon

animal house

back to the future


temple of doom

last crusade

breakfast club

ferris bueller

blade runner

GTCC presents...

GT Chicago Culture class has been a riot 
and there's more to come...

Sunday, July 7, 2019


In the early days actors were about big gestures, grand theatrics and the use of pantomime. Greek persona masks along with booming voices and chorus were employed as many times they were speaking to groups numbering in the thousands. It's from these persona masks that we get the word person.

Exercise - read a sentence and take a half step away from partner until whole monologue is finished. Project with shouting.

I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s no one anywhere that seems to know what to do with us. Now into it. We know the air is unfit to breathe, our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had 15 homicides and 63 violent crimes as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad. Worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in a house as slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller and all we say is, “Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster, and TV, and my steel belted radials and I won’t say anything.” Well I’m not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad. I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot. I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crying in the streets. All I know is first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, “I’m a human being. God Dammit, my life has value.” So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” I want you to get up right now. Get up. Go to your windows, open your windows, and stick your head out, and yell, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Things have got to change my friends. You’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
These early actors didn't necessarily feel the emotions, they just had to display their easily identifiable characteristics. As Frace puts it:
“The loud voices and exaggerated gestures of melodrama are there in order to reach the people sitting in the poorest seats in the highest balconies — the working people of Paris who have rubbed together their last pennies to come see their favorite actors on stage. The actors are reciprocating their love affair with the people by playing way up and out to them. Everything that we see as artificial now — the turns out, the big gestures, the loud speaking, the stomping across the stage — are all to make sure that the people way up there, who are a little tired after their day’s work, and maybe a little drunk too, are really following the story.”
Essentially, Frace says, melodrama is about acting full out, with no holding back, no worrying about whether you’re being hammy or looking foolish.
The 4 main Stock Characters of Melodrama (The Hero, The Villian, The Damsel, The Side-Kick) relate to the Jungian Archetypes (four main ones are: the Self, the Shadow, the Animus and Anima, and the Persona. The twelve are SageInnocent,ExplorerRulerCreatorCaregiverMagicianHeroOutlaw, Lover, Jester, and Regular Person.) and are firmly rooted in our collective unconscious.
Exercise - Are there universal gestures? Everyone selects a slip of paper with a message on it, student to act out message using body. Class is to guess. Examples here. Also tone affects what is said. Trying saying the following words with an ulterior motive:
'Boring' (annoyed/matter of fact) 'Painful' (outraged/exaggerating) 'awkward' (embarrassed/singing) 'hilarious' (amused/not amused) 'awesome' (impressed/cordial) 'ridiculous' (offended/amused)...
Compare the voice to a musical instrument. 

Now with drums...

Things volume, speed, variation in pitch, pauses, rhythm, character, and tone can change the interpretation of what we are saying. Take this clip where Kramer has a line in a Woody Allen movie, “These pretzels are making me thirsty.” Jerry, Elaine and George explore different ways for him to say the line. Here is the clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=su_o4Nvmr_M
Exercise - practice this scene from the TV show Seinfeld and notice how emphasis and intonation changes the meaning of what is said.
Here Jerry is dating a girl whom he finds went out with Newman. Of course, this ends the relationship. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Asv4IbNQ1Iw


[Newman enters]

Jerry: Hello Newman.

Margaret: Hello Jerry, I was wondering if you knew where Kramer was.

Jerry: No, no I don't. Why?

Margaret: You know, Genderson. This is something big.

Jerry: I suppose.

Margaret: What did Kramer say?

Jerry: I don't know. Nothing.?

Margaret: Come on Jerry. You know something TELL ME! TELL ME!, Oh, chocolates . . . Margaret?

Margaret: Hello.

Jerry: You two know each other?

Newman: You might say that.

Margaret: We used to go out.

Newman: Well, tootle loo. And nice seeing you again Margaret, goodbye Jerry. Have fun. Hehe

Jerry: . . . YOU went out with . . . Newman?

Margaret: Just a few times.

Jerry: Why?

Margaret: I liked him.

Jerry: You liked, Newman?

Margaret: Look I'm a little uncomfortable talking about this okay?

Jerry: No, I'm sorry. I'm just a little curious. I mean why did you stop seeing him.

Margaret: He ended it.

Jerry: . . . HE ended it?

Margaret: YES!! Yes! It was a couple of years ago. Why does it matter?

Jerry: No, no of course not.


Jerry: Newman! She went out with Newman!

Elaine: It must be a mistake.

Jerry: No. It isn't and the most distressing part of it is, not that she went out with him but that HE stopped seeing her. Do you understand? He, Newman; Newman stopped seeing her. Newman never stopped seeing anybody. Newman will see whoever is willing to see him. Not so much why she did see him as disturbing as that is. But why, did HE, Newman, stop seeing her?

Elaine: Perhaps there's more to him than meets the eye.

Jerry: No, there's less.

Elaine: It's possible.

Jerry: No it isn't. I've looked into his eyes. He's pure evil.

Elaine: He's an enigma, a mystery wrapped in a riddle.

Jerry: Yeah, he's a mystery wrapped in a Twinkie.


[Newman's apartment]
[knock knock]

Newman: Who is it?

Jerry: It's Jerry.

Newman: You've come at a bad time now. Could you come back later?

Jerry: Come on Newman. OPEN THE DOOR!

Newman: Hellooo Jerry. What a rare treat. What brings you down to the east wing?

Jerry: Okay, pudgy, lets stop playing games. What happened with margaret?

Newman: There's no need to get excited. Can't we discuss this like gentlemen?

Jerry: No, we can't. My skin is crawling just being inside your little rat's nest. Now, what happened?

Newman: Do you really want to know what happened? I'll tell you what Happened. She wasn't my type.

Jerry: Not your type?

Newman: Not really.

Jerry: Well, how come?

Newman: Ah, she just didn't do it for me.

Jerry: What, what is wrong with her?

Newman: Well, h ha ha- if you're happy with her, that's all that matters.

Jerry: You don't think she's attractive?

Newman: No. I need a really pretty face. But, Hey, that's me.

Jerry: Okay, Newman, thanks a lot.

Newman: Care for some lemonade?

Jerry: No, thank you.

Newman: Drop bye anytime, jerry. Hah, ha ha


[In Margaret's car]

Margaret: I mean they found a tee and he played golf that day. Nobody walks into a dry cleaner's with a tee. The circumstantial evidence is overwhelming.

Jerry: You had how many dates with him? Three?

Margaret: Around three. I don't know.

Jerry: And . ..

Margaret: I told you. He stopped calling me. I moved on. I'm not hung up on him. What are you looking at?

Jerry: What? I'm not looking. Nothing.

Margaret: Why are you looking at my face?

Jerry: Where am I going to look?

Margaret: Kiss me.

Jerry: . . . I can't.

[Throws Jerry out onto sidewalk and drives off]

Jerry: Newman!


Classic examples of melodrama and its stock characters have been seen in kid's cartoons like Dudley Do Right.

Exercise - Make your own short melodrama
Possible music selection:
Varied Instrumental Music (suggested): • “Morning Mood” or Peter Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46. • “Pretty Peppy” by Ludovic Bource • “Requiem K. 626” or Lacrimosa Dies Illa • “Silent Rumble” by Ludovic Bource • “Mysterioso” by Nicolodeon Theatre Music • Music for Silent Movie (suggested): • “Pineapple Rag” by Hollywood Studios Music Inc • “The Entertainer” by Hollywood Studios Music Inc • “Mysterioso” by Nicolodeon Theatre Music • “Life of the Party” by Jack Shaindlin

NEXT STEP: Find a Scene to practice using these techniques

1. The Stanislavski System

With the advent of the camera audiences came to prefer subtle gestures and realism. Enter Konstantin Stanislavski, a Russian actor, producer and director born in 1863, is the “father” of modern acting. He concluded that acting could be more effective as a result of internal motivations, instead of outside actions (often seen in Shakespeare acting). Stanislavski is responsible for guiding psychology and the inner emotional life onto the stage, frequently through his work with Russian playwright Anton Chekov.
Stanislavski’s ideas have evolved into various branches over the years. Although different at the core, all can agree that acting is, to a certain degree, induced by the internal.

2. Method Acting

The personalisation of a character’s experience is at the heart of the Method, according to Lee Strasberg. To establish this relationship, an actor substitutes people, places and events with things from his or her life, producing an organic connection to the character and story. There are two essential exercises in method acting: “relaxation” and “sense memory.” “Relaxation” is an exercise intended to free the body of tensions and provide a clean emotional palette. “Sense memory” is a set of exercises intended to provoke memories “saved” in the five senses. For instance, the smell of a perfume may be a reminder of someone you love or despise.
Famous alumni: Marilyn Monroe, Uma Thurman, James Dean, Angelina Jolie, Sally Field, etc.

3. The Meisner Technique

After time spent with the Group Theatre, Sanford Meisner developed the Meisner techniquederiving ideas from the teachings of Stanislavski. Although often mistaken for the Method, Meisner is radically different. The work between scene partners is key, and so at the heart of Meisner acting is the “Repetition” exercise, which taps into the emotional impulses and instincts of an actor, establishing a “bond” between scene partners. Nevertheless, it’s the comprehensive and systematic character work that makes Meisner a worthwhile technique to explore.
Famous alumni: Steve McQueen, Gregory Peck, Joanne Woodward, Robert Duvall, etc.

4. Stella Adler

Stella Adler, also inspired by Stanislavski, took part in the Group Theatre—but eventually left the group because she opposed Lee Strasberg and his Method. Adler met Stanislavski in person at a point in which he had abandoned the idea of “emotional memory,” so from her meetings with him, she inferred that acting is 50% internal and 50% external. To understand the character, the actor studies the circumstances of the text. An actor can encounter a character with foreign qualities which he or she must seek to understand and master.
There is an internal imaginary component to Adler’s technique, similar to the Method, but she stresses the importance of voice, walking, activity, and so on, in addition. She took Marlon Brando under her wings when he became a student at the New School in New York. “She taught me to be real,” he wrote, “and not try to act out an emotion I didn’t personally experience during a performance.”
Famous alumni: Marlon Brando, Salma Hayek, Christoph Waltz, Martin Sheen, etc.

5. Practical Aesthetics
This technique is focused in two parts: Act Before You Think and Think Before You Act. Script Analysis and Performance Technique classes focus on analyzing a script by understanding the story and given circumstances, and then going through the process of choosing an action and making specific choices that will create a character.
Actors are taught to focus on what is literally happening in the scene and focus on the pursuit of an action. Developed by David Mamet and William H. Macy, script analysis explores what the character is “literally doing,” what the character “wants,” distills this down to a playable “action,” and finally personalizes the choices through what is called an “as if.” The second part of the technique is called Moment. Through a course called Moment Lab, students work on a variety of exercises, including Repetition, designed to overcome self-consciousness and teach the student to fully put their attention on the other person and act spontaneously and truthfully based on what they see.

FINAL Exercise - think of a character from a movie you can relate to then find the script online - demonstrate what you have learned from one of these acting techniques in performing a short part of it.

Other Exercises from Viola Spolin:





Creating Environment, Character, & Action  


               BODY INVOLVEMENT

                      STORY TELLING