The show must go on…
Zoom has certainly made a lot of things awkward, and I would count acting classes near the top of the list. While it isn’t the same, online acting class feels like just as much of an out of body experience. As theatre kids, we can’t do anything half assed. If we have any superpower, it’s that we commit. Despite the chaos of the world, we remain dedicated to our craft! Now we have something else to overcompensate for: the distance between our artistic souls.
Here are some of the best activities from our Zoom acting class:
The Vowel Tree
Here’s the gist- each vowel is connected to a different part of your body, from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head. We’re asked to go to the vowel tree quite often, and each time we do, the gutteral sounds of an actor at work ensue. I think it is important to say, usually I have headphones in during class, so as my roommate was putting away groceries, all she heard was my deep “ZOOOOOMMMMs” and “GAHHHHs.” From her perspective, this behavior could have been without any prompting whatsoever. Like I was just doing this for fun. But I wasn’t. I was acting.
This was like the second day of class, tops. We were working on action and being able to make someone do something we want them to do. We don’t have scene partners online, although I’m sure if we were in person, we wouldn’t get a human scene partner either. In comes the chair. Imagine this, a chair is in your way. The chair won’t move. You need the chair to move. You will DIE if this chair doesn’t move. How do you get the chair to move? How do you save your life? Such are the questions that prompt yelling and begging for a piece of furniture to move out of your way. But the chair never moves.
As any well trained actor knows, before you even think about beginning a scene or monologue, you MUST warm up your instrument. This includes practicing articulation in the most ridiculous way possible. There’s no better way to start not only your class, but your morning with dramatically overexaggerated mouth movements accompanied by screaming “PETER PIPER PICKED A PECK OF PICKLED PEPPERS!” or “GADABADAGADABADAGADABADA” into your computer. And all of this is happening at 9am! One of my roommates has been woken up so many times by my aggressive overarticulation, that she no longer needs to set an alarm on her phone. She loves it! I can always see her amusement and support as she stares at me off-camera with deadened, sleep-deprived eyes.
In addition to warming up our bodies and voices, we also warm up the soul. Although there may be states between us, that doesn’t mean our energies cannot come together. As a class, we whoosh the energy ball to another person in our class. This helps of course to feel the connection between us thespians, but also to blow out your back committing to the weight of the energy ball being thrown to you. Like everything else, it is a really great way to start your morning. In fact, I propose every class you have begin with a class wide whoosh circle. See if Zoom is a barrier then…
Take a Walk Around Your Space
In order to be a great actor, one must not only master the language of their character, but embody them completely, filling themselves with their aura. A tried and true means of achieving this is taking a walk around your space holding your character’s posture and interacting with the space and objects as if you were them. You also cannot simply act like your character, to truly transcend into great acting you must BE them. This is made infinitely more fun when the “space” you are working with is a twelve foot by twelve foot square of a living room in a tiny Manhattan apartment. Characters I have walked tiny square laps in my living room as include: little girl with a lisp, an awkward lesbian fisherwoman, and nosy college student. This is occurring all the while my three roommates are getting free, high quality entertainment. I’m basically putting on a one woman show for them at 9am Tuesdays and Thursdays and I don’t get nearly enough praise or credit for it!
The Monologue Cooking Show
It’s the natural progression, really. After practicing performing our monologues in front of the class, in order to really get into it, we were asked to perform an action whilst doing the monologue. Time to get into the kitchen! Shakespeare clearly imagined his immortal words spoken between bites of a sandwich. Picture this, it’s 11pm on a Wednesday and I am standing in the kitchen muttering to myself and aggressively chopping celery. Now while one may be quick to call this insanity, I’d say its art. My teacher said my monologue didn’t feel natural enough, so of course, her and my first instinct was to head into the kitchen and cook while reciting it. Now, what exactly was I going to do with all the aggressively chopped celery? I had no idea but that didn’t stop me from continuously chopping throughout my monologue until I only had microscopic bits of celery strewn all over the counter, which I then proceeded to throw in an unheated pot with a pinch of salt just so it looked like I was actually cooking. I call this dish “Celery a la Stanislavski”. This activity wasn’t as bizarre as the others on the list, but it was interesting… and delicious.
Image Via Bwog Archives