AN OUTLINE OF BASIC ACTING CLASS AS TAUGHT BY ALVINA KRAUSE
David Press has sent two documents from the bibliography at the end of his doctoral thesis about Alvina Krause’s teaching methods. This is the course as I took it in 1958-59 and is evidently an account written out by AK for the use of John Van Meter who was taking on the teaching of the course.
People who have taken the course will recognize her “Socratic method” of asking questions, then answering them herself! She’d get into a kind of soft-voice rhythm that was almost hypnotic -- then stop, pace, turn sharply, and demand attention -- sometimes by doing something unexpected, like striking something -- or someone. “Now why did I do that?”
In the version printed in sections at www.prairiemary.blogspot.com there are some illustrations, which I've removed here. I debated whether to include comments but decided to keep them.
OUTLINE OF YEAR-LONG BASIC ACTING COURSE AS TAUGHT BY ALVINA KRAUSE AT NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY IN THE 1960-61 ACADEMIC YEAR.
Includes orientation to Acting and Theatre, the training of the actor’s senses, a study of the nature of Responses in human beings; training in observation, training in concentration, training in improvisation. The class work is offered in conjunction with lab periods in which students work on voices and movement, discuss plays they have read outside of class. All of the work of the course is intended to supplement reading on and about the theatre which students have previously done or are currently doing or will do. Discussion with other students in the lounge and over coffee is expeced to further develop ideas which are brought forth in class. The student keeps a journal, the daily entries of which record his awareness and give him a means of holding conferences with his instructor.
Beginning acting is devoted to a study of the actor and his instrument, which is himself -- his senses, intellect, emotions, talent and its development, and a consideration of whether they should be used in the theatre. There are two subsequent courses: Analysis and Performance, which centers on the written play, and Styles, which concerns the actor and style in acting.
Actors must develop objectivity about his work, must know why he is good or bad, must be able to repeat night after night what he does, so as to give the audience its money’s worth. Acting is an art; it is not an accident.
It is sad at 18, 19, 20 to discover you are not what you want to be -- an actor. It’s tragic at 40, 45, 50 to wake up to the realization that you’re in a profession you never belonged in; then you may not go back. But it’s not tragic to find out now. Nothing you learn now will be harmful or wasted. It can be used in any profession or in life.
People say acting cannot be taught. I agree. I merely set forth principles. I criticize. I lead you. In the last analysis you must be self-teachers.
Theatre is not one art: it is a conglomerate art that turns what the playwright has said on the page into something more meaningful than life itself, whether it makes the audience laugh, cry, or think. Your goal is to illuminate the life, not to show off or get rich. It is to create art. All of the intuition in the world is not enough; what you know, do, must be put into meaningful form which illuminates, communicates, says something. It isn’t enough for theatre to be exciting, it has to mean something.
Theatre is a great profession, a great art; it requires greatness of the people in it. Everyone can read; but can you make a word say something else besides, say, “dirty”? Acting isn’t speaking a line or moving as directed. It is much more.
The difficulty in acting is that the actor is his own instrument; he acts with all he is. You have to look into your souls. You act with all that you are: all you have experienced, sensed, read, come to know up to this instant. When Antigone says: “I am the last of my line” on her final exit, what do you have in you that will illuminate this line? When Lady Macbeth says: “Will these hands ne’er be clean?” what is in you to show us a woman who can never look at her hands again? Look for what you have in you that indicates you have or will have the capacity to play Macbeth. Theatre involves a development of all you are. What you are can be added to that you can interpret life. Participate in the world: don’t shut your senses up too much.
There is no one single method of acting or teaching acting, as far as I can see. We have all been seeking THE Method; some think they have found it. I hope we keep seeking. What you learn here you will adapt to your own uses; challenge these ideas until you can accept them or discard them. It isn’t enough to talk about acting, to know it -- you must be able to do it.
A performance onstage is not life. It is an insult to an audience to ask it to believe this. A performance is scenery, lights, illusion which are intended to make an audience laugh, think cry. You don’t live a part, you give an audience an illusion of life. Our job is to make the illusion believable. A performance is never complete until it is before an audience. The audience reaction is a part of the performance. Acting is a communicative experience. Acting is not done for the joy of the actor, but is done for the audience. We believe or reject what we see onstage according to the degree that the illusion approaches a likeness to life. Actors must learn to be lifelike.
Drama lies not in words but in the pauses between words when something is happening to you; it lies in what we do to each other. What is drama? It is what makes you smile when you don’t mean to. Acting is responding, is reacting to a stimulus or stimuli. Part of a response maybe be words, but how much can words say? Some experiences are too deep for words, or too sudden. Melodrama is words and actions without motivation; motivation lies in the responses to stimuli which, in turn, touch off words. We response to a smell, a sound; the stimulus has to come first and then echoes our particular response. Responses onstage are not memorized things, but are freshly experienced each time the stimulus comes.
Acting is creating the behavior patterns of an individual in given situations -- the playwright’s situations. Behavior patterns come out in response to stimuli about you. Behavior patterns are total things. No two people respond to stimuli in the same way; how you respond is you. Has everyone felt jealousy? Well, have you felt Othello’s jealousy? Let’s hope not; he killed his dear wife. Many good actors and actresses draw from stored-up memories, impressions. The words on the page touch off something in hearing, tasting, smelling. You create out of what you have seen, heard, imagined, tasted, known. To create Lady Macbeth’s bloody hands, start with something you know. Shakespeare will give you more things to build on. The process of using memories, if well done, is unconscious. Directors can’t give you the truth great acting must have. Aspire to be great.
If the stimulus is real (i.e. if you respond to the right things in the stage situation with your senses and make the appropriate associations out of what you know about your character and about life) the emotion you want will follow automatically. You don’t create emotion -- it follows by itself on the heels of the stimulus.
First quarter is devoted to training senses, storing up impressions. Cleopatra’s jewel box is a tawdry thing supplied by props. But you have to touch it as it it were the real thing.
“TOUCHING OFF” THE SENSES
“Method acting” was very exciting to actors and observers. It seemed mysterious but everyone felt it. Quite simply, it was the “touching off” (to use the phrase often used by Alvina Krause, acting coach) of empathy by using sense memories of your own to “make it real” to you and transmit that to an observer. We do it all the time, but not on purpose. It is an ability evidently supported by specialized cells in the prefrontal cerebral cortex in the area behind the forehead and is mostly sight-related, part of the phenomenon of “The Gaze.” If you have been close to someone with damage to these cells (most often because of trauma), you will have felt their coldness, their distance, their out-of-sync-ness. The lack of empathy and thus community can lead to criminal behavior.
II. VISUAL SENSE
Some people go through life seeing. Some are blind (like Tiresias) but see. In a class this size (20 people, say) 2 or 3 people see clearly. The rest see only generalities. Can you see color keenly? Can you go downtown and match a color from memory? Do you know how much yellow or blue is present in a given shade of red? Can you remember an exact color hours later? Ten years? Can you remember color, form, mass, background, perspective of a scene? Should not be a memory exercise, but an effort to experience color, to make a particular grey, say, a part of your total experience. Some people touch colors to make them more completely their own than before.
Store up color as a total organic response. “Now I’m in a play. I want to tell you about a man I know. Oh, yes! He wore very decorative sweaters . . . I looked into space and saw the sweater again before I spoke.” (This would be a visual image.) Watch a person today so that you really see him -- maybe start with just his hands. Store up your observations, because you can’t experience everything yourself. You must known how to look outside yourself for materials to use in acting.
Watch two people study a painting. What does each see, how does each sit, how does each study a picture? Find a dominant characteristic in each person, in each act, in each object you study to which you can later add others. You fix this dominant trait in your memory and recall it when you run across a character in a play who is like the person.
Side comment: Concentration on the right thing is a great secret of acting. Losing the sense of the great hole of the proscenium and the fact that the audience is looking at you results from concentration. With such awarenesses there are tensions which should not be there and which cause you to use muscles you don’t need, to overwork. When one of the people really looked at the picture, when the total body looking at it, we felt an ease. Hence, an attitude of “I’m going to make this scene go” can, in acting, lead to bad tensions.
Side comment: Always have a purpose for being onstage. audience should always be able to sense why you are there, should be able to believe that there is no audience of which you are too keenly aware, that what you do is inevitable, that what you are doing has a motivation.
Our organic, physical bodies follow our thoughts. Speaking the playwright’s lines is nothing if they don’t come from a whole chain of inner thoughts and responses. . . Try the device of turning an actual object onstage (a patch of light on the floor, say) into something in an imaginary situation you want to create; let it be a beginning stimulus: imagine other sights, sounds, smells and respond to them. Whatever is or is not onstage, actors have to see the things their characters would see and respond to them as their characters would; he may have to create the stimuli out of nothing. The stimuli and the responses can’t be faked -- otherwise the body will not respond to what the senses and the mind and the emotions do. Responses happen first inside us, then travel outward in various manifestations. Real drama occurs inside people.
Onstage with another actor, play into his eyes, respond to what you see in his eyes. . . Make a first entrance of some character in some play: respond to those things in the environment that the particular character would -- and in that character’s manner; create the visual world around the character even though you are on a bare stage. Avoid “remembered responses” -- they must be fresh adjustments to current stimuli; you can act “only in the present” . . . Don’t skip the little initial moment of decision, of uncertainty, before doing something; the little moment of decision is always the dramatic thing, not the big crisis; the little things take you to the big moments. . .
Goal of early exercises: to create a stimulus with your imagination and then give us the response to it -- which, often, is what we call emotion. Always start with something specific: give a specific response to a specific stimulus, not generalized responses to generalized things like “night” and “desert’ and “aloneness”. . . The best actor is the one who asks the right questions to start with -- (of where he is supposed to be, of who he is, of why he is there, of what he wants, of what may happen, of what could happen, of what stimuli might be present, of what his conditioning would cause him to do by way of response, etc.) Say: IFIFIF I were running in sand, what would it feel like?” (To touch off imagination.) “Is it still warm from the sun, or cold? Gritty? Soft? Slippery? Wet? Dry? Am I barefoot?” (If senses are responding, the body picks up the responses and telegraphs them to observers. A spectator sees the decisions a mind in a body is making . . . When you begin right, it will be easy . . .
Another device: vocalize what you see; let someone ask you specific questions about colors, sizes, dimensions, textures, etc. of what you see to help you further crystallize, concretize images that are to be stimuli . . . One must be able to keep responses coming, flowing from one to another. . . Not everyone must feel the same, behave the same; our conditioning and the circumstances of the moment cause each of us to respond to stimuli in our own ways . . . everyone needs to find ways to “get themselves going” when responses to stimuli are needed. . . Do not try to create too much for people out front in first “scenes” (first class exercises) and take plenty of time.
To further test your ability to see, recall, observe, Observe smoking habits of people in general and then of one person in particular; not yourself. Observe someone else in the same situation who does not smoke to see what behavior they substitute for smoking. See if you can reproduce those actions without smoking actually. Let us hope you continue this type of observation and recreating of it forever.
In responding to imaginary stimuli, it isn’t necessary to stare and stare, or to stop and think. Just look at an object you imagine as being there and see it.
Side activity: Walk around edge of stage. First thing to be a walk: get your balance, so that you aren’t bent over; body should be erect with head up.
A smoking exercise: Performer and audience should be able to answer the question: why does this person smoke? AK notes that the smoker’s focus was really on a letter she was reading; much of cigarette was being allowed to burn away; cigarette and holder were just part of hand, accustomed to be there. Another question to ask: what character in drama might smoke this way? Women look for someone who smokes like Hedda Gabler; someone like Candida who doesn’t smoke but does other things in place of it. Men look for smokers like Stanley Kowalski or Biff from Salesman. This is the beginning of characterization, which must start with observation, or else you end up with something false which people won’t recognize as being true. When you observe people, always get at the why of behavior. They take refuge in objects -- use them to reveal or conceal.
Why does Hedda smoke? Sadie Thompson? They’re not types. Look for specific people. Kowalski’s no type, even if Brando tried to make him one. In Kowalski’s case you’re looking for someone with strong animal responses; stalking a prey, peacock-like, etc. Stanley erotic? What’s left for Blanche? Dramatists never put two similar people together in a play.
This section starts out dealing with listening and soon drifts over to the kernel of AK's message: watch people closely and try to understand why they respond to their environment as they do. None of AK’s work that I can remember is very “psychological” in terms of inner patterns like id, ego, libido. Nor is much of it about relationships like intimacy or domination. The questions are always specific and her examples often reveal HER! Hedda in particular, wrestling with her boredom and gender confinement. And yet AK suggests Hedda doesn’t smoke cigars because they are ugly! So much for a cherished male symbol! Just a cigar -- maybe not.
Watching AK write material like the following was always interesting, though I didn’t think much about it at the time. She used those half-size bluebooks without a clipboard. (My high school teacher used a clipboard for notes and often used it dramatically, slamming it to the floor when her adolescents were out of control.) She usually used a pencil, but didn’t erase -- more likely to cross out. She underlined a lot. An English teacher would discourage all those three dot pauses, those dashes, those semicolons that are everywhere. It’s not that she’s punctuating in an old-fashioned or ignorant way, but that she’s trying to record the spoken words she’s hearing in her head as she writes.
I wish I had a painting of her and Lucy in a rowboat out on the water at Eagles Mere on a Sunday afternoon, an umbrella shading AK while she scribbled, and Lucy alternating between rowing and just basking. A public and idyllic intimacy, entirely blameless.
It’s interesting to ask why AK’s life was confined to the small world of academic theatre on one campus. She was not competitive or ambitious in any obvious way, though she clearly threatened those who were like that in her small world. She didn’t try to go to Broadway and always spoke against the star system, even as she served it. She didn’t produce books. It was almost as though she were creating family with students for children, cherishing and punishing them, sometimes controlling a little too much, very occasionally driving one out.
Side Activity: Nobody has talked about voice work in journals. You begin with breathing. Correct breathing is based on rib support. Place hands on side of waist to find correct position for ribs. Or lie on floor with book on diaphragm. Get feeling of movement. Actors must keep ribs expanded and out all the time. Take supplementary breaths with ribs expanded. Work at this fifteen minutes a day.
Behavior Patterns, Basic Drives and Observation: AK: “What makes me the individual I am?” She ruffles hair of one of the students. “Why did I do that?” So-and-so, another teacher, would never do that in class. This is part of her behavior. Through observing what people do, through speculating on why they do it, we begin to understand human personality, human motivation, human character. This is where characterization begins for the actor -- through insight coupled with the skill to reproduce meaningful behavior. To grasp why people do what they do or do not do what they they don’t, you have to find out what drive motivates their lives. Drives are basic; they are modified by environment. Self-preservation is one drive. They become elevated, sublimated, degraded, turned into other things through living. It is miraculous how you can turn yourself into someone else by simply doing what they do. When you feel low, you might ask yourself who you have been seeing, who you have been with; we tend to take on the qualities of people we are with. There is nothing mysterious about reading people’s characters through their behavior. What we are is written all over us -- what we think, believe, feel, etc. Most people are so concerned with selves that they simply don’t notice what others are going through.
III. AUDITORY SENSE
Study your own auditory pattern. What constitutes sound? Vibrations. Is a voice you hear nasal, denasal? What is its pitch, its timbre? What rate does the person speak at. No two people hear the same thing, hear the same way. Note how differently two people describe the same experience -- a musical composition, say. Two-thirds are satisfied when they hear the theme; others go farther. Sharpen your own hearing. The fog horn in Anna Christie: sound crew produces a sound that is O.K. out front; but onstage it may be a distortion. Act I of Seagull: A song comes from across the lake. For each person onstage it has different connotations. As actors you have to create imaginary sounds and respond to them, have to create people who have keener auditory senses than you may have. Marchbanks has a keen auditory sense but is not what we call neurotic. What does Lady Macbeth hear? Macbeth? Watch people listening. What can you learn about them as people from the way they listen? Put a person in a situation where he has to listen and individual differences begin to come out. Listen to someone speak a foreign language; what do you hear? Out of several listeners, one may be caught up completely in a sound or series of sounds. If you completely use a sense, you lose yourself. Some people listen only for the sense of an utterance. Others hear and can reproduce vocal tones that go along with the utterance. Actors onstage must not only hear words spoken onstage but overtones and undertones that creep into voices onstage -- or that are missing and which tell so much more than the words. Actors must play to voice quality just as they play to eyes.
Side comment: Remember that whatever you do onstage by previous plan may have to be changed when you come to rehearsal; there may be other actors onstage to stimulate you . . . On writing: Good writers don’t state how a character feels, in a story or novel; they record what the character does and the reader draws the correct conclusion. How do we know who and what people are? By the small things they do. If I ask you about Hedda, you will say she is bored. She is. But how do you act boredom of that size? [AK demonstrates by having responses to the ugly brown cover on the piano which is also locked in the classroom.] Things add up into boredom. You have to find something tangible to begin with. You are bored in response to something. Hedda’s boredom is going to lead to destruction. Actors are lucky; in plays the playwright tells you what the character does -- now and later. But the actor has to fill in between the moments the playwright gives. These are the five-finger exercises of acting we have been working on. It is basic that lines must follow from a stimulus; every time an audience knows whether a response is real or faked. Your -- the actor’s -- little empathic response to the stimulus (which an audience never analyzes) tells the truth . . . There is much made of a light bulb in Streetcar. Three people respond to it. Blanche says she can’t stand that naked bulb (it shows up her age). First you must feel its heat, then wince, then speak. It should be a hanging bulb, too, that can be set to swinging, be made to dance; it must be there -- to reveal character. . . .
Onstage inner lives are being revealed . . . Special project: observe spines of people for a while -- and nothing but! . . . Why does Hedda smoke? It’s just come into vogue; not many women do it in her circle. Would not smoke a cigar -- she loves beauty too much. Hedda would take her feelings out on a cigarette. Take her out of the world of women and put her into the world of men, where she wants to be . . . A student imitates a smoker who he thinks is like a young Biff Loman. He has observed the person’s traits, but in his reproduction of them they are still exterior. Actors must be good mimics, but acting is not a representation of exterior qualities. It always has to illuminate the why of behavior. You can ask a person, “Why do you do that?” and they will say, “Oh, do I?” . . . Drama lies in seeing a stimulated by something. . .
AK CRITIQUES STUDENT ATTEMPTS
Exercises reproducing behavior of a blind person: (Part of the work on the visual sense, since this is the inability to respond to visual stimuli.) A real blind person has such keenly developed senses that he can always tell where he is. What does each specific blind person you study hear? How does he identify objects, places, people? What associations follow upon more identification? We have sequences of responses. What happens to a blind person’s voice? Often they talk softly so as not to interfere with the intake of other stimuli. Why do some blind people carry their heads so high? There is no reason to look down and it’s easier to hear, to feel sounds, makes one more open and perceptive; you can feel light on your face.
To give a student a sense of being deaf, AK has other students around her mouth words but make no sound; often they ignore her. She begins to feel “out” of things, that she must strain awfully hard to keep up with others; that she needs to watch every second. Student has an experience of what the world of deafness must be like and begins to make some of the adjustments a deaf person must . . . There are deaf people who can dance because they feel the music’s vibration on the floor or on their skin. When there are silences around you, how do you know what is going on? From vibrations in the air? . . .
AK sends someone onstage to be a blind man standing on the edge of a cliff (i.e.: Gloucester in Lear); There isn’t any cliff, only level ground; someone goes with him, his objective being to make the blind man think he’s climbing, going up -- to make him believe absolutely; this is a transfer. Find the thing that will make him believe: tell him how high he is; what do you see? Create a visual image for him -- a valley -- people -- how big are the people? -- Is there a river in the valley -- what does one see from the height? -- what is this power of suggestion that makes a blind man believe? She is applying what the class have been working on to an actual play . . .
New exercises involve creating the stimuli around Lady Macbeth or Macbeth on the eve of murder. She is concerned about Macbeth, wants to be with him, near him, but something keeps her here in this room. What does she respond to in it? What stimuli come to her? Create the thing that halts her, keeps her here, causes her to jump owl [? sic], and ends with “My husband!” How do you keep “Is this a dagger --?" from being a histrionic speech? How do you create a dagger in the air? Have you had any personal experience? Have you ever seen anything materialize? Why does it? You’ve been thinking about it so hard it does. When he comes from the murder, what has he seen that won’t ever leave him? The images will never be lost from this great man’s life. Movies would take us into the room; Shakespeare brings the murder onstage through Macbeths. Have you stored up any images in the last three weeks that you can build to the sleep-walking scene with? Sleep-walkers use senses better than when awake, are in danger only when someone wakes them up unexpectedly.
[There was a story going around at the time that the students who lived in rented rooms upstairs in AK’s house heard night noises, came out on the landing, and found AK balanced on the railing in her nightgown! Probably apocryphal, but then -- what does it stand for? What was she doing in her sleep? They were afraid to waken her.]
Her eyes are open -- seeing -- but seeing more. She sees with her subconscious. Lady Macbeth sees the blood there, smells it. Juliet accepts the potion, then realizes she is going to be put in the tomb. What do actresses do? Run around the stage screaming? Can you see the rows of people in the tomb? Tybalt, newly dead? Images must materialize before you -- out there. Lady Macbeth relives the moment when she smeared the grooms with blood. Have you ever had human blood on your hands? For a lifetime she has to conceal this. It’s pushed down in her subconscious but comes out in sleep. Don’t dare act emotions: they will come if you create the stimuli. “The Thane of Fife" -- where does that come from? A message which said -- “The Thane of Fife’s wife has been murdered.”
There isn’t one moment in drama that you can act without an image behind it. The Greek drama class (second year acting) is having trouble because they didn’t learn to create a stimulus last year. You’ve somehow got to see (if you’re doing Antigone) the brother’s corpse, smell the stench, sense the hot sun, see the vultures, etc. The words that Sophocles gives come in response to these stimuli, which you must create for yourselves.
Side comment on stagefright: AK has a student who confesses to being afraid come off the stage and study the setting which has been put up for a forthcoming production. What kind of play would you act in this setting? Ibsen? Tennessee Williams? What does it do to you? Does it make you fight? Is it frustrating? Does it lift you up? Does it warm you? If the curtain went up and there were no actors onstage for 60 seconds, what would the set do? After actress has forgotten herself by concentrating on something hard (here, the setting) AK sends her back up to present her scene.
Lear scene again: Two actors have been working on it. AK asks if actor playing Gloucester was “psychologically on a cliff.” Tells both of them that they have to get some of the “why” into it, especially at the beginning, to show the compulsion in it. Says it has to be more kinesthetic than they are making it, must seem to be really climbing, although on the flat surface.
Critique of actresses pretending to stop to admire baby in carriage: there seemed to be “blank spaces” in it -- too many did not believe there was a baby there -- you couldn’t describe the baby even now -- you were acting in a plot -- you didn’t hear the baby cry -- you didn’t ask yourself questions: is it big or little, etc.
Critique of actress doing Lady Macbeth reading letter and trying to motivate what she says and does: Walk tells nothing, with which scene was begun -- and Shakespeare begins in the middle of the scene and the letter reading. If there was to be a messenger to bring the letter, what became of him? You’ve been standing all day, perhaps days, waiting for a messenger to bring a letter from Macbeth. Plays don’t begin when you come onstage -- they begin offstage. If there are other people present when the letter arrives she must get to a room alone. What does the letter look like? What kind of paper is it on? What is she learning? What does she do? The scene leads to: “Glamis thou art, etc.” and a tragedy is underway. On a later try at the scene: Work until you can sustain a horizon there (at the back of the audience) as long as you want. What is on it? What color is the sky? Are you listening for the sounds of the battle? Don’t stay on one stimulus longer than you need to.
If an object materializes for you, or a sound, we out in front will see it or hear it, too. Use your senses, not your minds. You see, hear, with your senses.
Critique of actor doing Macbeth and imaginary danger: He did see something, but then began emotionalizing; he was aware himself that he was faking part of the time. AK adds an “if.” "If you are a general, strong, brave, courageous -- now go on with the situation.” Posture of actor has changed: “You are a leader, you have just won a battle. . .” You create Macbeth or Lady Macbeth one step at a time.
Critique of actress doing sleepwalking scene: What should be your first question? What is blood? It is an image which runs throughout the play. The blood is where? You’ve got to get it there (on your hands) first. And if you’re squeamish about blood, you look anywhere else but at it. If you have no response to the image of blood, to smearing blood, you are no actor. If the idea hit you, it would show in your stomach. You have to sense it now, every time you do it.
Bad method acting is: getting lost in yourself.
What does your dramatist tell you about Lady Macbeth? That she is revolted by blood. She is driven to suicide by it. Actress must be able to get to this ultimate point of the role. Lady Macbeth’s subconscious mind will not tolerate it. Again: she cannot look at it ; she is sleep-walking; she even has nightmaries when awake; the things she sees are out here. Work for images that will come instantly.
Critique of girl doing potion scene as Juliet: I’m going to question the position of that chair. For four weeks we’ve seen people placing chairs center stage. Chairs are placed in relation to something. Chairs center stage cause me to question the truth. What is now in relation to the chair (which has been moved)? A bed? Walk around it. Where is the head? If a piece of furniture is not in relation to something else, you’re acting in a vacuum. Tell me what the dramatist gives you; he is always very specific. A holy man has told a young girl: here is a potion, take it, and you will fall asleep and seem dead. It begins with trust. If she hadn’t trusted, she wouldn’t have accepted it or wouldn’t take it. How big is the potion? In a tall glass !! Who put it there? Why didn’t family see it? You violate something when you make it big. I had you create a room so that you would know what it is to be alone alone. Start with one reality and build from this -- justify. You’re in a room that has suddenly become empty. You’d love to hear voices in the passage . . .
Critique of girl doing sleep-walking scene: She wasn’t sleepwalking, was awake and using her “thinking mind,” which should be shut off -- it’s just the subconscious that is going. Have you ever come up out of ether? What happens? You hear sounds, buzzings, drumming; then you see colors -- blue, green, etc. Doctor and Nurse seem to be miles away. In sleepwalking you do not think, you re-experience more vividly than you have before. What tells me on Monday morning you’ve had a wild weekend? Your eyes don’t focus. Well, her eyes don’t focus. Then images begin to come.
What is her objective? Sleepwalkers always have a very strong objective. How does she enter? Slowly? Nooo! If there is something she has to do (wash her hands), she comes with terrifying directness. She is reliving that moment of “Come, come, a little water --” (irony!)” -- cleans us of this deed.” It is horribly ironic. It is the moment of leading of Macbeth and washing his hands for him and her own and being at the gate to meet people -- which moment lives in her memory forever? Voice? Something is cut out of it, as it is out of her mind. The vocal tone is direct, but something alive is missing. they both physically get the blood off, but neither really do.
Now you hear voices. “The Thane of Fife has lost a wife.” The stimulus comes in and then another on top of that. Shakespeare gives the whole scenario. How do you get at sleepwalking if you’ve never done it? One does things clearly, positively, decisively (like you do when you turn off the alarm and then get back in bed and pull up the covers and go to sleep.) She can’t touch her garments and doesn’t. Associate sleep-walking with hypnotism -- you are fully aware, but “looking through the wrong end of the telescope.” Doctor says: “Her eyes are open, but their sense is shut.” Don’t get too involved, but get at producing the stimuli. We are trying to get you to discover what acting is and where emotions derive from. You’ve got to store up sensory images, sensory memories, so vividly that they come to you, bang; you can’t wait ten minutes. And all the time you’re doing this, you’re asking yourself -- not me -- am I an actor? A good director give you images to build on; a director has to have an actor’s approach when working with actors.
Actress playing waiting scene from Macbeth must not say to herself, “Lady Macbeth is tense.” Find instead the verb that states what she is doing. She is listening for a sound which will say, “Duncan is dead,” after she has left people she has drugged, hoping they won’t wake up. Offstage the man she loves is killing the king who is a guest in their house and she knows her husband well enough to knows her husband well enough to know that at the last minute he may turn “milk-livered.” You must walk silently down the hall, but part of you trails behind, and she must be close to something, like a wall. Shakespeare does a brilliant thing: he brings the murder onstage when it is off. Actress who tries scene is criticized: “You come onstage anxiously, as if thinking, I wonder if the refreshments have come? Or, is that the children stirring in the nursery? Not enough. You have to recall an experience of your own, observe someone, or else read something hoping for a vicarious experience.
Side issue: A class in body movement is announced; it will meet at an hour convenient for enrollees, maybe limited to upper class students.
Critique of girl attempting Juliet’s potion scene: What was your working objective? “To show why Juliet has to drink this potion. Why carry a candle? (Poor reading of scene when studying it.) What does Shakespeare give you? What is the correct actress’ objective? Actress has to find what will get her to: “Stay, Tybalt, stay; Romeo, I come!” Why does she take two or three minutes first? If she has doubts, why? You must find the inner motivation for the lines the playwright has given. She has made up her mind to take it, but she hesitates; why? What happens during the hesitation? The hesitation has something to do with the appearance of Tybalt’s ghost, with the quality of an imagination that conceives of things as hers does.
This scene is full of realizations, one after another. She realizes the room is empty, there is nobody in it. Tell me what you see that says to you the room is empty. What does she see as she turns around? Her shadow? She’s been alone in this room before but now sees a shadow of some sort. Potion is where? (If it is at her breast, your hands will go to this spot when you sense it.) Bed is where? How does she look at dagger? What does the dagger symbolize? Death is what a dagger always says. Maybe you can’t play through a whole scene, from moment to moment, realization to realization, stimulus to stimulus; but it is your job as learning actors to find out what a sensory response is and bring it off onstage.
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS AND MOVEMENT
Side Issue: Stream of Consciousness Term is introduced when two students are having trouble with an exercise they are presenting. “Let’s hear your stream of consciousness,” says AK, meaning let’s hear you vocalize what you are thinking, noting as the scene progresses. If you look at the floor (a response) it has to be because there is something on it (to stimulate your thinking.) Girls are trying to create an imaginary room, to respond to it. Do this responding with your senses, says AK, not your mind; do it with your muscles. When you see that real table, what does it make you want to do. (i.e.: what empathic response does it set up in you, which of the table’s characteristics or your muscles tend to copy?) Find something you like to look at and surrender to it. What are you? A person? Really an organism, a total physical being -- which responds to physical things around it. Why are you different from somebody else in class. You are all the same age, all speech students. But one’s makeup is different from another’s because his past experience is different from another’s. One is “a bunch of conditioned responses.” We are “products of our environment.” What were the actual tangible forces which led you to this room in this building? (Answer lies in the whole past lives of the students: parents, family attitudes, choices made, etc.)
Reference to a recent Bergman film with scenes in a train compartment. Three people in a specific environment; what did they do -- shut up in four feet of space in a railway carriage? What was there in the compartment to use? A book, a window, a cigarette; consider what each of these objects was like in relationship to the possible variations on the same objects. Why does the author-director give him or her these books? (To reveal who and what the people are by their attitudes toward relationships to these objects.) Where do one’s conditioned responses come from. We all do the same acts differently because we have our own conditioned responses to living, to life. (What we do and how we do it constitutes our behavior patterns; characterization is reproducing the behavior patterns of other people -- together with their motivations.)
Critique of an exercise in which a girl crosses a room onstage: An acting job you can praise to the skies. What she gives is something that has scarcely been seen in class: response to stimuli! Whom did she see in the street? To whom did she bow? She looked at someone for a long time that eyes that almost devoured him.
Another critique: Actor attempting Macbeth’s dagger speech goes into “false emotion” after seeing the dagger. His difficulty is the common one of not making transitions -- of going from this to that. Transitions are the most important part of acting: fill them in. Boy dismisses servant and then has a transition into seeing the dagger -- and is better as a result.
Student impersonates a bird he has seen at the zoo. AK points out that Voltore in Volpone is a character who is like a bird, is a vulture. But the vulture observed at the zoo did not move, did not respond. Well, if this vulture moved, how would it move. Go back at feeding time.
Girl reproduces behavior of a cat-like animal, even parries taunts from a class member with an umbrella, in a way that animals in cages who are used to people doing things like this to them would. Girl got the lurching of the shoulders, power of the paw blows, the line that goes through the whole body when the animal lunges. AK has her slowly turn into a person who has these qualities: a person who “pulls from the spine” when walking, when coming down on an enemy. Animals are bundles of energy; you can sense in an second what they are like.
New Idea: a girl imitates some sort of prancing animal and the class laughs. Why do we laugh? Analyze what makes comedy. It is incongruity of things -- here the growls of aggression vs. the abrupt backing up. Animal is a hyena. AK has girl buy a dress, wear it at a party, laugh, listen to election returns coming in -- all in the manner of the hyena. Animals don’t think; they react with their senses. There are contradictory impulses in animals just as in people. These opposites make for humorousness.
Students imitate monkeys. AK asks what they learned -- about monkeys and about their own kinesthetic senses, asks for the monkeys’ motivation, for a state of why they did what they did. Student says they are motivated by curiosity. AK says actors did not show one scrap of curiosity. Another actor says that male monkey “didn’t want to be bothered” by anything else that was going on. AK says that fact was not given to the audience. Also that why the monkeys came out in the first place was not made clear. The scene was diverting and amusing but not believable. If a creature is curious, how do we know this? How does he observe. Is there anybody in class who has curiosity? She helps them identify three or four people who have curiosity and whose eyes reveal the fact by the way they light up with “eternal wonder.” She admonishes the class not to talk or think in generalities, saying they will never be actors until they get over this. (Someone has answered the question, who is curious, with the statement, “everybody.”) As students continue to do other monkeys, AK adds first monkeys to their scenes, then a man with peanuts, etc., so that students have to respond to new stimuli spur of the moment as their animals would. AK points out that of two monkeys onstage, the lady one will get any food that is available because she’s more alert -- her senses are.
AK has one of the monkeys begin to “turn human.” A gradual process: when she begins to lose her monkey spine, AK has her go back to being more monkey again. Then she starts a business of selling candy, feeling animals, still trying to give a sense of swinging along branches; she dances a while, a Charleston, goes out for basketball, goes to a sorority after-the-game party -- all in the monkey manner.
Discussion of “curiosity.” The word is a label we put on some act. Curiosity comes from: “I’ve never seen that before; what is it?” It is an open attitude. Curiosity is necessary to acting itself. What was an Elizabethan curiosity like? Some people in class with imagination can develop a whole sequence of things that come into Elizabethan England on ships from India or elsewhere -- things never before seen: amber, jade, ivory, spices, slaves, lace, animals, stories about far places. Along with curiosity, Elizabethans have pride and independence, too. You can create an Elizabethan by developing these traits with specific details. This opens up an area of creating characters through a kinesthetic approach -- looking at pictures, clothing, statues, furniture, etc. and letting them carry you into an experience of the past.
Critique of another animal study: Why did you walk across? You have to have a motive. Animals seldom go crazy but yours would turn into a neurotic. What did you observe about its spine? (Observations must start with a study of the spine.) Where are you going? Where are you? Create your environment and respond to it. Your shoulders are still not being manipulated by your spine; your neck is still not part of you. To test actor’s kinesthetic resources: telegraph to me that you want to climb; that you don’t want to climb, that you’d like to be up in that airplane flying overhead, that you want to swing on those chandeliers. A really kinesthetic person does things before he touches the actual objects involved -- he sizes up the shape and weight and location of things with his muscles, eyes, etc. Muscles lift objects, kick balls, etc. before we take the time to think. What is a kinesthetic person? Have you been watching for one? Is there a kinesthetic person in this class? A kinesthetic person is kinesthetic every moment of his life; they size everything up with their muscles; their muscles feel chairs, the floor, everything -- and won’t get stuck in an awkward position. This isn’t an intellectual thing, it’s muscular. We enjoy watching highly kinesthetic people onstage because our muscles more readily copy what theirs are doing. Kinesthetic people don’t waste movement. The whole body anticipates a step they plan to take. The whole body is behind a movement. The muscles enjoy what they do.
When an actor does something wrong onstage, out front our muscles reject, refuse to accept. (Much of what we call enjoyment at the theatre is the result of acting empathetically along with the actors.) There aren’t many kinesthetic people left. However, if football players weren’t kinesthetic, they’d get killed.
Sense memory means that one’s senses are responding more vitally than other people’s and that one is capable of storing up sense images. Without a sense memory, one will never be an actor. The class as a group did not continue its search for people who were visual or auditory people so that you could study them. There isn’t time to search out and study someone of the current type once you get into a play. It is through kinesthetic responses that we understand, and understanding is being in somebody’s body for a moment. I don’t have to tell you so-and-so was a dancer and one of our best actors; his body telegraphs this.
Elizabethan improvisations: People onstage and put in motion, walking with some objective to secure food, shelter, clothing, etc. They are told that now it’s 1600 and there’s a ship in from the Orient and they’ve money in their pockets and there’s a new play opening at the Globe . . . Hamlet . . .
More animal imitations: One girl tries a penguin. The “whys” of its behavior, its motivation discussed. She then changed into a human like a penguin. The question is raised, is a penguin as dumb as this? Why did Anatole France write a satire on penguins? They have no legs and so can’t move rapidly, otherwise they’d be thrown off balance, but are a graceful bird. . .
Monkeys are so alarming because they are so close to being human that we see ourselves. Even if these animals take a stationary position for a long time, they have a latent possibility for quick and ready movement . . . How do you know when a cat that it still has latent power? It begins with the eyes. What’s back of the eyes? Cat opens and closes lids, but its eyes are already in focus when they open, as if it has been alert all the time the lids were closed. They are awake often when they appear to be asleep. . . Five animals are put onstage as if in their natural setting and allowed to respond to one another, thunder, lightning, wind, a falling tree, fire. Then they turn human and are at a cocktail party. Back to animals. Back to party. All are advised to “preserve your instincts” as they go back and forth between animal and human states. Self-preservation! Ladies, you’ve got to have a man! Dance! What do you do at cocktail parties. Drink! Talk about plays! Make it realistic! Snub her. Etc.
Old age studied through kinesthetic sense. Nerves in lower spine usually control movements: in old people they are not responsive and the mind has to consciously direct the raising and lowering of an arm, a leg. Fatigue hits the lower spine and causes us to droop. Actors act with their spines. Watch people’s spines. Even animals in a cage have a sense of self-preservation; watch their eyes. Movement should start in the spine, travel into the shoulders, out arm . . .
Boy does snake. Excellent; all spine. Turn human now. What are “snake” qualities? It attacks; it is often a slow thing; its protective device is its fangs -- but as a last resort; quick movement is another; camouflage; could easily get lost among a group of people; frightens us because we don’t see him until there is a movement; are a part of the landscape; are close to ground and the same color; can slip among things; you meet a snake often in drama.
As I type this material I am 75 and fairly widely read, so naturally much more strikes me than did when I was 18 and only read novels. One thing I note (maybe I read it somewhere) is how much AK comes back and back to the Elizabethans and the Greeks as epitomizing what it is to be free and alive. Other writers have noted this. In the Sixties, just before the cultural renaissance called New Age (if you accept that characterization), American culture was celebratory. We had won WWII, we all owned cars and houses -- but it was unseemly to show off our conviction that we were a “peak culture,” so we implied it by associating ourselves with two other periods that were grand and cultured.
Now, of course, we are looking at the end of things, diminishment, confusion, and want to think about neanderthals and the end of the Roman Empire as well as the end of the English empire. It’s a playwright’s problem, but also one for the actors. Perhaps AK is so fond of Ibsen and Chekov because they are critical and see “modern” as not so fail-safe. But my high school teachers in the Fifties also held up Elizabethans and Greeks as exemplars. Was the Sixties and Seventies an attempt to return to those periods in some way?
The point for an acting teacher is that a sound knowledge of culture and history is vital. How did AK come by her opinions of how people did things long ago?
V. GUSTATORY AND OLFACTORY SENSES
Can be put together but are separate. Gustatory is in tastebuds in tip and sides of tongue, but there is also a response in the stomach. Other sense is in the nose. These are two senses that have become dull -- very. [Sometime I wonder how much of what AK thinks is true of the society is in fact her own self projected. She is aging, thus her senses become more dull.]
Begin acting by asking why is this character in the play, why is this scene in the play. One Foot in America (opening U.T. show of this season) is filled with eating scenes. How you eat, your response to food, is you. One Foot is folk drama -- delineates a folk through their love-making, hatreds, etc., exists to reveal a people. We saw a group of people onstage acting -- sitting around a table and doing what? Why does your mouth water at the thought of food? . . . Once there was a reason for a prayer before a meal; when our attitude toward food changed, the prayer went. AK recollects a man who smiled at food, another man who thought a baked potato was “beautiful.” Comments on how long a novelist takes to describe about food, eating, etc. which we can show in an instant onstage. She refers to other eating scenes in Studio Theatre plays class has seen: Sicilian Limes, Demi-Monde; recollects her first French breakfast: “Ze butter is in ze roll!” an article in the New Yorker about a restauranteur who goes around tasting food, asks class to distinguish between a gourmet and a gourmand.
Eating reveals national characteristics. In the last scene of R.U.R. there are people in tails after dinner drinking brandy -- have reached the highest level of sophistication, but only one man onstage recalls how to handle a brandy glass. If you have a drink to handle onstage, know what it must tell. You say you can’t eat and talk? People do it. The way you size up your plate (or don’t), put in the first fork-ful, etc. all reveal something about us. think of your favorite food; what happens? Your mouth begins to water. Think of Falstaff. He tastes beer before he’s got it. Where does he want food? Elizabethans were very open about it. You can’t fake these things onstage, can’t “play an attitude.” What do you get in an animal? It’s a necessity to have food. When he has enough he quits. Eating scenes provide dramatists with one of the best ways to show family and social relationships. Noel Coward went to the cocktail set for his material; a whole era was caught and on top of it are the clever, brittle lines. Do you know the mark of your own eating? What epitomizes you? What food?
One girl says German beer is her favorite. Not just beer, but German beer -- she’s gone up in the scale of discrimination; the girl explains why and comes alive as she talks about drinking the beer in particular surroundings with particular friends under particular circumstances; she describes the taste, color, richness, glass it is served in, where you go for it, etc. and almost makes a stein of it materialize. The stein itself is an expression of part of the German temperament -- German word for “friendship” mentioned, for love they can be very sentimental -- can weep, sing, be warm, you belong, you are welcome in their little places. . .
Do you know spices? The names of them perhaps, but do you really known the essentials of them? Acting is illusion; that’s why we’re training your senses -- so that you can turn stage oatmeal into -- ?
Critique of a student’s efforts to reproduce someone’s drinking: Give me a character sketch of him? What do you know about him? A professional gambler? (He was throwing dice and drinking.) Why do you use the label “professional”? It looked kind of amateurish. Was it whisky? How do you know it was whisky? You mean you didn’t know what he was drinking? Was he rich, poor, in between? What sort of place was he in? Was he a heavy drinker? A light drinker? We ought to know a great deal about him by the end. What size glass was it? What are his eyes like? What makes him sit there for a long time between drinks? WHY? HOW DO YOU KNOW? AK says, “I’m still asking why.”
Critiques of other eating scenes: Class are giving situations rather than character responses to food. . . AK wants to know what a character’s attitude toward food is . . . What role you would identify the character with -- Juliet? Hedda? Clytemnestra? it should be possible to take the character into some other situation once his or her eating habits have been established. . . One student seems to be acting any young girl, to be acting attitudes; each person is a unique being in a specific situation: look at her head, feet, eyes, etc. From the cigarette exercise onward you’ve been looking for the why of behavior.
Critique of an exercise in which a boy attempts to create an Elizabethan: you’re faking. The listening was inadequate, the voice was wrong. Now you’re really listening (to the critique!) Before you did didn’t hear. No, you’re going through planned sequences. You were a little modern man rather than an Elizabethan with curiosity, wonder, love of life. If you wore tights all the time you would be free, and you would show your legs to advantage. We see something prissy. Where’s your weapon? How do you know you’re not going to be attacked? Murders occurred in broad daylight as well as at night . . . Create an Elizabethan who might be in Shakespeare’s plays. Before you weren’t alert; you’re a little alert now; London must be full of smells, etc. He talks about there being “garbage” around; is that all there is in the room? he is “attacked” by another student who has been hiding in the shadows. There’s always something going on around you. Student look up several details on Elizabethan life, but made the mistake of stopping there. Put into action the child’s principle: “IF I wore tights -- IF I lived in dangerous times -- IF I were a man and wore a necklace -- IF I wore a ruff.” Pictures? What did you see in the pictures? Hands must be ready to draw weapon, but must not touch weapon unless someone else draws. Protect the vital parts of the body -- where the organs are. In this era of Elizabeth you do need to to be prepared. No “buts!” something has to transform you or else it does no good to read dozens of books. I’m giving you what is typical. . .
Critiques of other Elizabethans: Did she have a quality of open-eyed wonder? Why did she walk sideways, crab-like? Only crab-like people walk sideways. Where’s your big skirt? Twirl it, kick it out of the way. Arms being out away from body at the beginning was good, but don’t let them get stuck there. don’t get so close to a chair as you approach in your voluminous skirt; some women wore farthingales, but not all. How much do skirts weigh? Feel resistance against them with pleasure.
To a boy acting the death of Christopher Marlowe: You are giving us an elaborate “plot.” You must achieve a much stronger walk; sitting needs more room; never let yourself get squeezed up against furniture regardless of what the play is. Handle the cloak easily; experiment with possible ways to dispose cape around you. Now feel the weight of the cape and enjoy the movement of swinging it; these people have energy. Don’t swing your weight from side to side. Keep a pull upward; work on stopping the middle of a strong step. Let all parts of body “follow through” on a movement. Exercises tried to get strength and suppleness and follow-thru.
Girl dressing herself before a mirror: her happiness was excessive to the motivation; no reason for being so happy. What was she, anyway? I’m going to say she was a high school girl doing her first costume show. Were you an Elizabethan? assignment was to get an Elizabethan body responding. To another girl: You’d be carried out of court for a little bow like that. The bow goes down and under, with nothing sticking out. Circle around rather than pivot; the skirt must follow you. Feel the skirts; where’s the pull felt? What about her step? What’s inconsistent? It’s little and tiny. Women, too, must take long steps to get somewhere. Do exercises; enjoy them. Everything (parts of body) needs to be in alignment; bodies “resent” an off-balance position . . .
To students attempting to be Romeo and Mercutio: you aren’t holding out attention; if you can’t hold attention something is very wrong. Mercutio should be the best swordsman in Verona. He is not an animal but an element: quicksilver! Moves quickly, all in a piece.
To another girl: leap, leap for the joy of it; walk; leap; reach for something -- a star, a man, anything! Elizabethans have so much to reach for they can’t choose. The Queen is coming! The Earl of Leicester! A musician! Strange animals! Strange people! . . .
To another girl: Nothing really Elizabethan in her portrayal of a Catholic woman at a shrine. Her religious feeling would be very intense, because she’s had to take sides, or evade the state’s decree. The worship business restrains you; try being at a theatre with a mask on, in a world of intrigue; skirt must have weight, a concealing cape; enjoy it! What play is it? Why are you there? . . .
To another girl: Movement actually suggests a dainty delicate person! Be Juliet running to meet the Nurse, with the “why” of Nurse bringing Romeo’s first message. Running on tiptoe to life. What is life to a young girl in love for the very first time -- and with a Romeo! What does the sky look like? The grounds? The trees? she wants to take it all in! Don’t think about it -- feel and sense it all. Make one good run across the stage and stop; good because it had suspense in it.
Side comment to girl who “doesn’t feel like it” when it comes to doing a scene: What do you do if the curtain is going up in five minutes and you’re scheduled to play Juliet? What do you do? Never let an audience down: never, never, never. The rule of the theatre is: the show must go on. If you aren’t there, that’s the end.
Other Elizabethan: You’re acting attitudes. There was no reason for picking up that skirt. It is stupid to walk in straight lines; your clothes wouldn’t follow you; you must go in circles. How many petticoats do you have? Many. don’t tell me, feel them. It is nothing to intellectualize: you must be kinesthetic, not mental.
Actor showing Krapp’s response to banana -- and other stimuli. Everything was “more than clear.” What dimension did performer add? Delight. A man who knows how to get what he wants out of a watch, a banana, etc. who has the delightful recognition that everything is “working as it should,” that the watch is running, that the banana tastes as it should, etc. His joints had to be manipulated as a result of extreme age. Everything he did was beautiful. What did you learn? -- that what the author gives him has to be motivated.
Critique of actress setting table: Class is asked to give a biography of the character they have just seen. Why does she do it this way? She did each thing one at a time. Finished one thing absolutely, then took up the next. Tiredness without martyrdom was clear. She realistically checked everything. Woman seemed older than student actress because she had a “settled” quality of middle age.
Same student as Kate the Shrew: Let’s see her express joy in living. You have so much energy it has to be expended somehow -- in climbing to the sun, in choking a man, etc. Cry out; leap; run. Now pick up that little lute, used to sing insipid songs to Bianca. (Movement is too inhibited.) Get on a horse. Swing up! Get on a bike. Two men go onstage to “tame” her -- real men, not Bianca men. (Now actress feels “just great.”) Her society is is trying to make her conform to being a Bianca -- she replies by being the opposite. Then she meets Petruchio and falls in love with him: Recognize first that he dares, then respond. . .
Critique of boy presenting a character study observed from life: Everything onstage tells a story: tell me a story here. You saw a timid little man absorbed in his paper and less in his food? If you were writing a play, how would you use him? This is character study. I’m not interested in plot. One person east at a particular time -- so, when it gets to be that time, he eats; is this the man you saw? He felt he had to read the paper? What page did he read? Was that the actor or was that the man observed? “He reads the comic section first? How does he read the comic section; why does he read it first? Does he laugh inside? Does so because it doesn’t take any concentration? Because he doesn’t feel like plunging into world affairs or high finance? Because comics provide a certain positive thing that comes up day after day -- provide a kind of safety, certainty, security. What did the eating tell? College student? Businessman? Does he taste his food? What’s he eating? An egg? Oatmeal? Does he enjoy it? If it is not so good as usual, would he know it? Is he in his own home? Go on doing it, and while you do, tell us what you’ve discovered about him. Give us a “hand study” again. Does he smoke? Is there anything you notice particularly about his hands? Does he use his fingers separately, or the hand as a whole? If the former, it says that this is a man who has time and/or taste to know what his fingers are doing. Next time you do anything, take your opposite, somebody as different from you as possible.
Critique of a boy doing an Elizabethan: We don’t like the laugh; it’s a self-conscious snigger. Show us you can laugh like an Elizabethan. Movement excellent -- had pull-up, follow-through, balance, ease.
Critique of boy eating: A laborer? An Italian -- or some excitable nationality? A person who hasn’t had much education, but who gets through life well enough? A college student showing off? Go up onstage again. Something needs clarification. Study him more. Enjoyment of food, showing off, etc. coming through better . . .
Critique of girl impersonating an old woman eating: A very old woman. Some good observation of character. She did walk in between counter and stools. Why didn’t she take napkin to begin with? Why was coffee put where it was? it is an actor’s job to give the audience cues to understanding. Did spectators believe in it? Was it caricature? You tend to say this whenever you see something extreme; Evanston is full of extreme people. Scene still needs “the reasons why,” although some of these were there. AK asks actress if she is satisfied? Actress feels she hasn’t got inside woman yet. AK says audience wanted to know why she became old in this particular way.
Critique of boy who impersonates a literary-minded college student who does nothing but talk, talk, talk at table. Next time choose an opposite kind of person. When class laughs, AK points out they are laughing at a comic irony.
Critique of a girl’s exercise. What did you get from this? Did you believe her? What kind of person is she? What is her personal drama? How does she look at life? I’d say that she rejects practically everything. What we’re searching for is the reason why -- otherwise you will act stereotypes.