A Lesson in Acting
Now, class. It's time for improvisations. Do we have a volunteer? Great, thank you so much for doing that. Now, picture this, if you will. You're moving a couch. Ready? Okay… Scene!
All right. Pick it up. Good. Hypothetically try to hypothetically feel the hypothetical weight of the hypothetical couch more… hypothetically.
No, no. I'm not saying you were doing anything wrong; I'm just explaining. The nonexistent couch cannot shrink when you move it. See the nonexistent couch. Feel the nonexistent couch. Be the nonexistent couch.
What are you doing? Get off the ground. No, no, silly, you're still moving the couch. I was just helping you engage yourself emotionally in the scene. Stop intellectualizing already, will you?
Okay, good. Can everyone see how much better it was that time? Did you feel it? Did it feel better to you this time?
All right, now a little to the left. Okay, great. Pivot now. Pivot. This time I want you to work on adding random unrelated gestures to the movement of the imaginary couch to make us believe what you're doing. Connect. Engage.
No, not like that. I want to see stiff, divided spirit fingers ala Fosse. Hold them up like you have glitter in your hands, and you're throwing your glitter.
Ah, perfect. Now keep moving the couch.
Why are you slouching? Don't bend over like that. Have power in your stance. Rounded shoulders look weak; your character is not weak. Straight back. Fingers at your side like you're in the military and reporting for duty.
Wait. Stop, stop. I just don't feel like you're engaging yourself in feeling how heavy that couch is. I want to see it in your stance, in your whole physicality that that couch is weighing you down. You're not Superman; you're an Average Joe moving a big old La-Z-Boy and struggling with it!
Better, but what happened to your posture? Stand strong, make me believe you. Great, tell me, where do you think you're moving it now? Be that couch.
What was that you just said?
A little to the right?
"A little" is not a strong acting choice.
Sorry, what was that?
Yes, of course not everything in real life is that absolute. You think this is real life? But, honey, tell me: where are you moving that couch?
Ah-ha, that's right. To the right. Good, good.
Oh, never mind. Never mind. Why are your fingers so unnatural and inorganic now? This isn't Cabaret, you know. Listen, I would like you to move the couch back to where it was at the beginning. I like it better there, I've decided.
Great, great. Now everyone give her a hand. No, no. Fingers together like paddles. No one wants to see Vienna sausage fingers on stage. They want to see surreal, perfect, ideal, contrived realism. Better, better.
I'm sure everyone can see how far we have come in this exercise.
A moving piece of dramatic artistry, that was. Moving, moving, to be sure.
Did you feel it this time?
Did you feel it?