Monday, October 31, 2011
Although I’ve been acting for several years, and consequentially auditioning for shows, I – and I’m sure I’m not alone here – have had a fear of the age old auditioning process. It is a scary thought: to go somewhere intentionally to be judged, inspected, and digested. It can be overwhelming and even paralyzing. I decided to take Freehold’s Auditioning class because I’d never, anywhere, heard of a class focusing just on the art of auditioning before. It makes so much sense, though! There are certain things you just don’t know, until you do; it is a class specifically for the ins and outs of that process.
In my short time working with Annette Toutonghi, the instructor for the Auditioning Class, some of the things I learned seemed so obvious it was “Duh”-inducing, but once they were stated simply out loud it made so much sense. Annette told us that the auditors WANT you to SUCCEED! They want you to be the right actor for them. What a concept! I’m sure I knew this, but hearing someone in the business, who has been on both sides of the auditioning table, tell me this with full confidence was pleasing. In our first class we expressed our fears about the process. We wrote them down on a white board, discussed them – and then immediately addressed the answers to them. Mostly all the answers were straightforward, mostly along the lines of ‘be confident, be warm, and be ready to roll with the punches’.
After all the hypotheticals and theoreticals had been worked out, we began practicals. This, I think, was the most beneficial for me. Just to get the practice of coming into a room with warmth and self-assurance, going through these actions and interactions in different kinds of scenarios built my confidence way up; with every class came the opportunity to improve and come into myself comfortably.
Our second to last class was set up like a general audition. Actor and Director, Tim Hyland was our auditor for this class. I remember years of sitting before an audition and with such anxiety, getting nervous and shaky. I remember that jolt in my stomach when I heard “You’re on deck.” With every audition that intense emotion is less invasive, but this time I was hardly nervous at all. I didn’t have a nagging dread or fretful anxiety, I felt that healthy kind of nervous – the kind that keeps you on your toes. I felt confident in my work, my ability, and my knowledge of the process that I was about to embark on. That same night we had a singing for auditions workshop and I did it! Several years ago that would not have happened. No way, no how. After this class, I must say, I felt a healthy abandon that I’m sure all actors must have to harness.
Along with all the very useful, straightforward “do’s and don’ts” that we learned, I also was very pleased to get poignant acting tips for my audition monologues. Annette spoke very directly to little shifts that greatly improved my connection to the material and my delivery of the monologue. Getting one-on-one time to work on my monologue, sides, and cold reading skills with Annette was definitely one of my favorite parts of the class. It was an invaluable experience, because she gave me small but significant pointers that brought to the forefront a depth, truthfulness, and purpose to my monologue that were only murmurs before. Her advice is something that I can apply to all my work from here on out.
The goal that I articulated on the first day of class was to take the fear and questions out of the process, to build a procedure to rely on, and strengthen my confidence through practice. Seven weeks later I feel as though I have accomplished that goal. This was a special, amazingly useful experience and something that I am sure will continue to help me as I carry forward in my life and my career as an actor.
Christine Marie Brown will be teaching Auditioning at Freehold this Winter Quarter, 2014 starting Saturday, February 1st at Freehold. Registration for winter classes is now open. More information about Freehold, can be found at www.freeholdtheatre.org
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
The feeling of Déjà vu comes to mind when I look back on the overall experience I had in Freehold’s Movement class with George Lewis. While the exercises and philosophy were all new to me, the dynamic, kinesthetic, use your whole body and mind and be fully present and aware attitude felt familiar to me.
I learned so much about myself. Over and over again I had to allow myself to feel vulnerable, feel all my fears and insecurities and know that underneath all of that, I have tremendous courage and strength and the ability to be present. I learned that I am mostly an introspective kind of person who likes time in solitude and that I also really like being with others, watching actors work and play and act with them. Working with actors mirroring back and forth stimulates me in a way I am so hungry for. I found myself thinking that people are so unique and fascinating. Each person has a different way of moving and speaking. While there were different cadences in our voices and bodies, we all had similar fears and challenges. I found myself having to deal with my assumptions and projections and realized that most of my problem is my own self holding me back.
I love and admire the work that actors do. My forte is visual arts. I am very moved when I look at paintings or create paintings and photographs and yet when I hear music or see a play or movie I really am affected in a more specific heartfelt way.
This class helped me get a feeling for my weaknesses and strengths both within my own body as well as in working with others, whether it was making eye contact with fellow actors or projecting out into an audience. Meeting twice a week was a benefit as well. Something about the consistent rhythm of meeting for 4 hours twice a week really helped snap me out of my comfort zone and into something new. The class also reminded me of being in a place where who we “are” is flexible and we can decide to add or subtract aspects of ourselves. I particularly enjoyed the movement exercise towards the end of the course when we got to use the set with props and a door and at the same time respond to our scene partners’ movements as well. I learned to be aware of my gaze and to look outward around the room and notice and be OPEN to what is around me and yet stay centered. Doing both in a balanced way felt so good. I was centered in myself in a grounded solid way and yet open and playful and connected to what was around me.
After this class, I am feeling compelled to keep taking acting classes and see where that takes me. I really want to incorporate visual with performing arts for my BA degree and might continue on and earn my MFA in multi-media visual and performing arts. Feeling more connected to community is one of the biggest benefits I gained from taking this course. It made me feel more alive and part of humanity to do this work. This class provided a safe, supportive environment to do this challenging work and I’m very grateful I took the opportunity to study at Freehold.
Monday, October 3, 2011
Photo: Christian Jenkins, Carl Kennedy, Amontaine Woods, Ieisha McIntyre in The Purification Process by Malika Lee
Writing has been a solo journey; until I attended Freehold's New Play Lab. I started writing my first play, The Purification Process, about three years ago and while I shared a few scenes with a handful of friends, I was finally ready to advance my work by sharing it in a safe space. Being a transitioning artist, starting your first project is a lot like walking through a dark cave with a lit match. I was stuck and wasn't exactly sure if I was on the right track. In the workshop phase the instructor, my fellow writers, & I took time reading each other's plays aloud. Their responses of enthusiasm and inquiry renewed my interest and imagination in my play, which had been lying dormant.
Sometimes we are so close to our work that we can't see it clearly. Receiving immediate feedback helped me correct some major oversights. One example is the element of my play involving audience interaction and participation. Elizabeth Heffron (the instructor) pointed out that introducing that dynamic so late in my play would pose a challenge for audience members and they probably wouldn't participate. Now why didn't I think of that!?!! She coached me that the audience needs to know the rules of engagement and what's expected of them early in the play instead of later to maximize that type of scene. As a result, I added a new opening scene which set the tone for the audience and (per my director Erin Kraft) added to the intensity of the following scenes.
The opportunity to experience my writing 3 dimensionally with the help of actors and a director is what enticed me most about the Lab experience. Where else would I have access to these highly skilled and talented people so early in my writing process? Having a fresh set of eyes (director/actors) was yet another opportunity to get feedback on whether my intentions were clear. They asked questions about the characters and relationships that challenged me to clarify back story and situations. The cherry on top was having a portion of it performed in front of a live audience. The audience's immediate feedback of laughter, leaning forward in their seats, deafening silence, (or yawns!) is a gift to any playwright during the writing process.
With the feedback and support from the Lab, I've been rejuvenated and plan to complete a strong draft of my play by the end of the year. Sharing my play with so many through this process has made this work real and attainable to me for the first time! It has gone from just an idea in my mind, a secret between my journal and I, to a living, breathing thing. This wouldn't have been possible without my experience at Freehold. Thanks to Freehold, Elizabeth, my fellow classmates, as well as, all the actors, directors and audience members that joined us on the journey.