Friday, September 23, 2011

Cold Reading


A cold reading is when someone auditioning reads from a script with no prior preparation. As you can imagine, this is likely to be a nerve wracking experience, One in which you could possibly be so nervous about not studying the script beforehand that you don't do as well as you know you are capable of. I am taking a Cold Reading acting class.
I have only been to one session out of four so far but I experienced the nerves which I imagine an actor feels when giving a cold read. I did not do well this past session and that is an honest assessment of myself. I don't want to feel like I did well when I did not. I know that I am not at the same level as anyone in this particular class because I am just beginning. I don't want to say I did well, but I do want to keep my confidence up by remembering that I am a beginner and that it is okay not to be as good. I think I was nervous mostly because I didn't want to feel in the way of progress, as if I did not deserve to be there as much as everyone else. My extreme desire to do well led to extreme nerves which I could not calm enough to think clearly.
My goal is to get over these nerves by preparation and so I gave myself an assignment for this week. I am writing down actions and then writing down physical actions that go along with them. I will tell you why. In class we were taught that an actor should act with actions and not emotions. Certain emotions go with action. Therefore, you will act more honestly if you decide on an action or goal that the character is trying to achieve rather than an emotion they are trying to portray. You don't want to be "angry" which is an emotion, you want to be "ignoring" which is an action. You will then turn your back or do whatever comes naturally when you are ignoring. It will be more dynamic because you can only go so far with "angry." There are so many things that "angry" can be a result of or result in. We also learned that if you pick an action for the end of a script (monologues are what we are concentrating on and I find those very hard) then your action at the beginning should be as far as possible from the end action. So, if you are ignoring in the end, you should have started out listening.
One of the most interesting things I was made to think about was that you should look at the words for clues (because the words never lie) but that the words can be made to coincide with your action. Basically, words can mean almost anything when said a certain way in a certain context. I love playing with words so I have thought about word and context and word and emphasis a lot, but not related it to word and action and context before. Here is an example of interpreting an action and it changing the meaning of a phrase.:
Phrase:
"Oh yeah"
Actions:
Reminiscing (said softly, your hand on your cheek).
Remembering (said with a high note at the end, snapping your fingers)
Climaxing (well, I won't describe it)
Distancing (said monotone, lifting your chin)
Ignoring (said Staccato, with your back turned)
Agreeing (said drawn out, with your eyes wide open)
I have been trying to really concentrate on what goes along with actions. What do people do when they are trying to achieve a short-term goal? What emotions are they displaying? What physical actions are they doing? When you aren't in the moment, it can be hard to think of. That is what happened to me in my acting class. I was overwhelmed with information and desire and I could barely get "breathe deep" out of my head to pick an action, to analyze my script and then perform it (and we were given 15 minutes in which I used part of to go to the bathroom). Also, I was mainly trying to concentrate on "pulling words" from the script which is what we had been practicing and which I had improved on. So, examining the script in a limited time threw me. Hopefully these exercises will help. I just find it fascinating though and that is why I want to do this. It is all so fascinating to me.
So, different instances in my life led to me not being able to pursue it until now, but I have loved it ever since I was the fourth commandment in my Children's Choir production of "Angels Aware", it grew as I was on my Youth Drama Team, and as I had my first experience with the mechanics and tactics in a semester of college-Acting 1310- I realized it was still there. Now I am acting on it!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Austin City Limits


This past weekend I went to Austin City Limits music festival. My mother-in-law bought tickets for my husband and I to go. I have never gone before, but it has been a yearly tradition of my husband and brother-in-law. My husband even went when our son was born three weeks prior to the festival. My only goal was to not intrude on their fun. I had an inkling that in this area I am not as cool as they are. But I wanted to try out the festival.

I didn't really examine my intentions. I think I wanted to get away, I wanted adventure, I wanted to see somebody I knew or meet a stranger. These were all reasons I went. It's funny, really, because I avoid going to concerts often. Mostly because the act I want to see comes on about the time I am ready to go to bed. But I wouldn't feel so tired if the venue wasn't dimly lit (which it usually is), if I didn't have to stay in one room (you usually do), if I didn't have to stand in a crowd for hours, or sit in a crowd for hours. I like to be moving around and I like space.

I overheard a guy at ACL this weekend saying to his friend "she doesn't like music and she doesn't like people so I don't know why she came (to ACL)." I love music. I love people. But loving people doesn't mean you enjoy watching Coldplay with a ponytail swishing in the front of your face and a backpack smacking the side of your face. It doesn't mean that you enjoy some random girl who is upset at her friends pushing you deliberately to get out some of her aggression. Okay, it was kind of funny. Liking music doesn't mean that you want to stand in sweat and rain and use port- a- potties. Liking music doesn't mean you want to stay all day. So, I think there are music people and then there are music festival people.

We went to a concert after the festival and I got to stand on the upper floor right by the railing. I could see! I wasn't tired when they came on! I wasn't hungry! I enjoyed it. It was Ty Seagall and his drummer was female and named Emily. I really enjoyed myself. My guidelines for perfect concert going don't line up with the realities of concerts and festivals though. My opinion is that everyone should spread out and then everyone can see. And if everyone gave enough space for people to twirl and dance then I would be at festivals all the time. Music + outside + dancing without abandon = exhilaration. I think I wanted to love the festival like my BIL and husband. they get tickets as soon as they can, they check the website everyday to see the lineup. They map out who they are going to see and what stage they will need to be at when. They get there when it starts and they stay until the closing act. They go for all three days. That isn't me. What is so funny about that is that I am a planner. But at something like this, I want to chill. I want to lie in the grass, throw a frisbee, go to a couple of shows, have room and dance and sing and not worry about who plays when or have the other people with me do so. But I was a guest and besides, like I said, festivals don't follow my criteria.

I do want to share some of the wonderful moments I did have this weekend though because there certainly were plenty to make it worthwhile. Here they are:

  • We sat at the stage where Asleep at the Wheel was playing. Everyone was sitting so the stage was visible and there was enough space in between people to lay on your back or spread out your legs. The wind was blowing and the sun was not scorching. As the band tuned up for their second song Bobby asked me to dance. We danced barefoot in the grass. I don't know if it was the magic of the festival but he wasn't self-conscious and he was the one to ask me to dance. Twice. My heart sang. This moment alone made it worth it.
  • We were in more of a crowd and the sun was hot enough to make sweat run down our backs but every once in awhile there would be a reprieve. Bobby held me in his arms from behind while we stood and listened to one of his favorite bands. It felt like when we first started dating.
  • I went off by myself and looked at the art section of the festival and picked someone I felt like listening too and did so (Wanda Jackson), then I sat down and met two guys who I talked to for awhile. They wondered what I was writing in my notebook and although, at first I was writing lists, I began to write thoughts. One of the things I was pondering was which guy at the festival was my dad in the 70's. They looked with me after I described what I knew about me dad at that time in his life.
  • After they went off, I made a sand alligator eating a sand turtle.
  • I went outside the festival and walked down the road to Yum Yum Yogurt, taking the free sample offered on the street although I had already decided to go there. After I tried the Tart flavor and the Vanilla. I decided to get a little bit of both and mix in Snickers. I sat down at a table right by the window which looked out on the sidewalk. There was a constant stream of people walking back from the festival and I as I sat at the table I just began writing down any thought that popped into my head. I enjoyed seeing my thought on paper and I realized it was a great writing exercise. It wasn't the exercise where you write and write and don't set down your pen no matter what you are writing and it wasn't sitting there trying to think of subjects. It was an organic brainstorming. After I was done, I walked back against the steady flow of festival goers to the bikes where I said I would wait for the rest of my crew.
  • Riding bikes to and from the festival. Riding a bike is exhilarating.
  • Eating at Takoba in Austin. Go there if you are in Austin. The food was amazing. It wasn't good or delicious, it was amazing. We went with Danny (my BIL) and his girlfriend (who is also my friend) Lauren. Beside the food being amazing, I felt young again. We didn't have Elijah, we didn't have a certain time we needed to be back (my MIL had him for the whole weekend), we ordered a carafe of mimosa (two, actually!) and drank if all between the four of us. The restaurant was super loud and we had to yell to be heard. We just chilled and drank and ate. I loved it. It has been so long.
  • The first strains of "Yellow" being played live by Colplay and the crowd roaring with enthusiasm. It was a true psychological experience the whole crowd mentality. It was synergy and I was caught up in its influence.


It was a fun weekend. I felt younger. I am not old, but I am at another time in my life where this kind of experience is not so readily available. For example, as I type this my son is throwing a tennis ball and yelling "baaaaallll!!!", now pushing his feet into my side, now falling into my lap, and, finally, in a last attempt, sitting on the keyboard I am typing with, while I still endeavor to type. It was a sweet fantasy that I enjoyed for a weekend.

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