Saturday, October 27, 2012

Object Lessons: The Acting Lifestyle

Many people will tell you that the acting that you learn in school is only half the training. It's how you learn to apply that training in the real world that makes the young grasshopper a kung fu master of the arts! Here are five lessons from my personal acting life where I learned far more than what was in the textbooks.

One

This is a picture from when I played Owen Musser in The Foreigner. When I came to audition for the show they were orginally going to do another show. I did my audition and left feeling like I wasn't going to get a part. Then on the second night they said that they weren't going to be able to get the rights for the show and that they were going to be doing The Foreigner instead. Knowing the play and that there was serious need for people to play the bad guys with a southern accent I played to my strengths and bagged the role. 

Lesson: Always try out for every part you can because you never know when you're going to be in the right place at the right time.

Two

This is a publicity photo for a show that I both wrote and was the producer for, Last Hope For Twenty Miles After an actor had to step out of the show I had to step in as the character of Tate. I immediately thought that this show would be a breeze because... Heck! I wrote the thing! Boy was I wrong. I was having every problem in the world trying to get into this guys head. Then I had the brainflash of... "Why don't I just look at this play like I've never read it before." I read over the script from scratch and found a lot of things that I had never seen before. I was then able to do the character some justice. 
Lesson: Never assume that you're an expert on something and don't have to do your research/homework. A change of perspective can mean the world to your character.

Three

This is from my first bit of acting experience in college at Austin Peay State University for the student directed one acts. I had to play my first bad guy...in this case a Nazi Officer in the play Bent. At first I didn't think that I was going to be able to play someone who was so mean and had to do so many monstrous things. Then I had the brain flash to ask myself "What was this guy like before he joined the Nazis?" I did some research and invented a little history for the character and I found out that maybe my character was an average guy but was led to believe that the awful things he had to do as part of his job were the right thing to do. I was able to do some justice to the character and found a good niche for myself in playing the bad guy. (I make most of my acting business playing very unscrupulous characters.) 
Lesson: Find the common points of interest between you and your character. Remember that every character is the protagonist in his own story.



Four

This is one of my favorite parts ever. I played a tiny bit character in a cute play called Nothing Says 'I Love You' Like Bad Poetry.  I played the role of a funk podiatrist called Dr. Feet that ran a poetry slam at a coffee shop. All he does is get onstage and read his rejection letters from famous magazines out loud. I maybe had three lines and my character was really not important to the main plot at all. But I did what every good actor does and treat the character like he was the star of his own play. But how was I going to make so much out of so little? I took all of the clues that were given in the script and made each of those a major character trait... I milked everything the script said for all that it was worth. I had a great time and the show went well.
Lesson: Pick apart every part of the script like every bit is precious gold. The more bits that you find the better your character will be.

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