Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Ethical Acting Technique - Overview Pt 3

The next steps in the outline of the technique are:

(An OBJECTIVE is something the character WANTS, which would explain their actions.)

- Read the play, and decide in a single sentence what it is the character WANTS throughout the play. This Super-Objective MUST explain EVERY action the character takes, or it is wrong. The Super-Objective should look a lot like the MESSAGE of the play, if the character is a Protagonist, and a lot like the opposite of the message if he’s an Antagonist.

- Read each scene and decide, in a single sentence, what the character WANTS in each scene. IT MUST be some part of his Super-Objective!

(A TACTIC is HOW the character tries to get what he wants, or WHAT HE’S DOING AT ANY MOMENT to get what he wants.)
(A BEAT is the EXACT MOMENT a character starts a NEW tactic.)

- Read a scene, and as you go, decide what the character’s TACTIC is and write down, in a simple sentence, what his TACTIC is at the side of the script.
- Find the EXACT MOMENT, or BEAT, when he changes tactics, and mark it with a small red line in the script. Then, figure out the NEW tactic, and write it down at the side of the script.

The rest of the outline when I get over 10 followers. If you're reading these posts and not following, there won't be any more if you don't jump in. That's how acting works, too. You only get out what you put in.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Ethical Acting Technique - Overview Pt 2

The next steps have to do with breaking down the role from your viewpoint.

Steps 4-10 assist the actor in defining the character, and in the creation of ACTOR’S CHOICES, ideas you will apply toward the playing of your character. This work should be completed BEFORE you ever have a rehearsal, along with the memorization of your role.

- Read the play looking at only what your character DOES.
- Read the play looking only at what your character SAYS ABOUT HIMSELF.
- Decide based on the info HOW THE CHARACTER SEES HIMSELF.

- Read the play looking at only what other characters DO about your character.
- Read the play looking only at what other characters SAY about your character.
- Decide based on the info HOW OTHER CHARACTERS SEE YOUR

- Add up steps 4 and 5. Decide what kind of person your character REALLY is.

- Look for any action, any character, any scene, ANYTHING about the play you
feel you don’t fully understand.

- GET YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED! The following ways in order:
- Restudy the script to find what you missed. If you STILL have words
you don’t understand, clean them up!
- Whatever you still don’t get, read any essays the author or others have
written about the piece.
- Ask the writer, if available, for answers.
- Ask the director, if available.
- Ask other actors, if available, in the production.
- Read other works by the same writer, looking for TRENDS in his writing
that may explain what you’re looking for.
- LAST RESORT- Make up answers, based on the best available info.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Ethical Acting Technique - Overview Pt 1

The following is a very basic overview of the technique that I teach, and this post is just part one of the overview. It is intended to give you a simple outline, and is NOT descriptive of the steps and actions. The full description and use of each step will follow in later weeks IF we get more followers, and some of you folks add a comment or two.

The overview is to be used essentially as a first, simple view, and for quick review purposes once one knows the technique. The technique has 12 steps in full. here are the first 3.


The first three steps deal directly with the actor’s WILLINGNESS to play a role. There really isn’t any point to taking on a part and doing the needed work if the actor is going to in any way resist the piece out of some essential disagreement with either the piece itself, or some of the things the actor is going to have to do or say to portray the character.

- Read the piece to get the plot (“This happens, then that happens”.)
As you read, make certain you use a dictionary to define ANY words you
do not fully understand!
- Ask yourself about the play; “What does the piece make me want to DO?”
- Make THAT the message, in a single sentence.

- Decide if your character:
AGREES with the message (Protagonist)
DISAGREES with the message (Antagonist)
HAS NO OPINION regarding the message (Neutral)
- Look at the character’s actions for things you either cannot or will not do.

- Based on the two steps above, do you agree with the message? Can you do everything the role requires, and would you? If so, then you’re WILLING to play the role. If you disagree with the message, or can’t or won’t do the things the role calls for, you must turn down the role.

Monday, September 6, 2010


The history of theater is a long one. Theatre and the plays authored for her have gone through an evolution, made of many phases. The way theatre has been presented, the sort of theatre presented, and the conventions of theatre, have altered dramatically over the past 2,500 years in the west, and many times.

A “school” is a type of theatre that was used during a certain period of time.

Let me clarify what I mean by a “convention”. A convention is a rule, a standard, the agreed-upon way a thing will be done. An example can be offered from Japanese NOH theatre. In NOH theatre, if an actor is dressed in black, it is understood by the audience and all concerned that he is “invisible”. So when he moves a set piece around, the set is “moving by itself”. If he lifts an actor, that actor is miraculously “floating”. No, in real life, people in black are not invisible. But in NOH theatre, it’s accepted that they are, as a convention.

Another convention is the foundation for all opera and musical theatre. It is understood and accepted that in these works, people are going to sing and dance when they are moved. No, in real life, normally, people don’t invent songs and dance with dozens of others on the streets. In musicals, it is the accepted convention.

Theatre and film are actually nothing but conventions. The audience accepts that the actors BECOME the characters, that the story is really happening. But there are conventions with the big conventions, and every play, every musical, every movie or TV show develops its own set of rules which the actor must create within.

Every past and present school of theatre has its own rules and methods. As you read more plays, and study the history of theatre and film, you will discover how much these media have changed.

The Greeks wore heavy masks and declaimed their dialogue. They used a chorus of people for commentary and narration. They played outdoors, in an amphitheatre. These are part of the Greek school of theatre. It should be remembered that, before Aeschylus, the first great Greek playwright, no actor is thought to have spoken independently. The convention was that they spoke as a chorus. It is also believed that Greek dramas may have been sung through, like operas.

During the Medieval period in Europe, theatre was often performed on the steps of a church, and only biblical themes were acceptable for a very long time.

Shakespeare used an essentially bare stage. As he used no settings, he was forced to tell the audience in some way, at the start of each scene, where we are. This very much alters the writing. Women were not allowed to act in his day, so men played the female roles. Much of the audience, called the “groundlings”, would stand throughout a performance. Poetic language was not only accepted on stage, but it was understood that what happened on the stage was “heightened life”, so poetry was expected to some degree.

Moliere’s troop toured the country, and finally founded a theatre on a tennis court in Paris, before taking over a huge, indoor theatre which had been in the possession of a Catholic cardinal. He used women to play women (a novelty until that period of history). He borrowed heavily (as did Shakespeare in his comedies) from an Italian school of theatre called “Commedia”, in which there were certain “stock” characters used, like a miser, or a braggart general. (Commedia borrowed heavily from the Roman playwright, Plautus.) It was understood that a play would be populated with characters who were sort of “stereotypes”, not particularly original, but familiar and comfortable for an audience.

Realism came into the theatre in the mid 1800s, and with it the portrayal of the average or “common” man, and realistic sets and casting, a huge contradiction to the existing schools and conventions of the day.

Film has gone through many schools. The German Expressionistic school created films like M and The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. These found their influence in American and foreign films in a school (type of film) called “Film Noir. Such films as Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon are examples. ”The “Spaghetti Western”, which borrowed from the conventions of Hollywood Westerns, had many unique conventions, which were in turn borrowed by great directors like Kurosawa to make masterworks like The Hidden Fortress, and The Seven Samurai, which eventually made their way back to the United States as Star Wars, and The Magnificent Seven!

An actor MUST understand the school and the conventions of the piece he’s working. These will directly alter the choices the actor must make. A performance in a film noir type of piece couldn’t be more different from a Shakespearian performance, which is wildly different from a Greek drama. Not only do the schools change, but the rules from show to show WITHIN A SCHOOL are different, as determined by the writers. Aeschylus does not write like Euripides, though they are contemporaries. Shakespeare does not write like Christopher Marlowe. Ibsen does not write like Chekhov. Each invents his own conventions within the school they are working, and those conventions can and do change from play to play, even with plays authored by the same man.

What do you need to understand about a piece. Here are a few basic questions;

-Does the piece tend to be REALISTIC, or NOT REALISTIC? This will obviously change your approach somewhat, though remember, audiences identify with Human Common Denominators and real emotion, even in a fantastic piece. We love Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz because she’s an innocent who finds herself in a strange and hostile world, as anyone who ever left home will understand. Her emotions are real, so we care. Still,if the piece is highly comic along certain lines, like a farce, demanding some “mugging” (over the top play for laughter), then that’s its rules.

-What were the rules when the piece was written? This may require a little study on your part. You’ll want to know, because those rules will largely explain why the piece is written as it is! Without this info, you may very well make outrageously wrong decisions! What school was the piece written in, and what are the rules of that school? Additionally, will your director be using those rules, and how, or will he be updating the the rules and the feel of the piece? You’ll definitely need answers to these questions!

I’m afraid that a truly good actor needs to be more than a little bit of a historian, as well as a detective. You can’t rely on directors to be able to answer all your questions. Too often today, directors take on older plays without any real knowledge of the manner the author wrote them to be done, and with the sort of foolishly arrogant assumption that the piece needs updating. A reminder… Shakespeare will survive us all. This is not to say shows should not be updated, but they should be with respect and an understanding of the original intent of the authors.

And if you’re cast in a new movie or play, you will find that it has tendencies to fit into one school of theatre or another. All writers write IN CONTEXT TO THEIR CIVILIZATION. Ours, today, is a product of all that has come before us, so many schools of art may influence a single work. I’ve described some schools above, such as the Greek and Shakespearian and Realism. There are many more, and you will need to read a lot of plays to understand them! The history of literature and mankind both influence every work written today! Plan on becoming very smart!!!

Here are a few more basic schools prevalent in the 21st century:

-Theatre of the Absurd: A European and American response to WWII and the existence of the Bomb. A type of theatre in which there is little or no hope, communication is seen to have failed, life is pointless outside of the act of living and dying itself, and these have little meaning. Tends to be motivated by the pain of mankind feeling “small” in the face of his own hostility, and that of the universe’s.

-Stream of Consciousness: An outgrowth of novelists in the 20th century such as Kafka and James Joyce, in which we enter a character’s rather rambling mind and are “entertained” by his rambling thoughts. Playwrights such as Samuel Beckett have employed this as a device, as in his play “Krapp’s Last Tape”. It is the character’s thought process that IS the piece.

-Black Comedy: Very grim, but sometimes hysterically funny comedy, which grew out of Absurdism. Often intended to shock, and make people think and revise their opinions. This could be seen to be an outgrowth from Aristophanes, Moliere, and Chekhov, by the way, and not entirely the modern invention we often believe it to be. A BAD HEIR DAY is a black comedy. It was also adapted from a play by Euripides, a Greek, who wrote its original, Alcestis, some 2,500 years ago.

-Musical Theatre: A type of story telling where characters sing and dance when they are moved. These have a “book”, which is the script, and a “score”, the songs, made up of music and lyrics. Sometimes there is almost no spoken dialogue, sometimes, there’s a great deal.

-Musical Revue: A musical which does not tell a story, with songs tied together either by theme (political, social), or by the fact they were all written by a certain composer or lyricist. In this case, the actor is creating each song as if it were a play unto itself.

-Noir: Tough characters like detectives and their dames, in black and white, from the 40s.

-Epic Theatre: The invention of Bertolt Brecht, the great German playwright, director and theorist. A type of theatre intended to be intentionally artificial, not believable, so the audience is always aware they’re watching a show. The theatrical lighting is visible and exposed, the actors are “acting”, there are many conventions. Well worth studying, especially for a director!

When you read plays, try to also read about the authors. If they wrote articles or books about the theatre of their day, or their inventions of conventions, read them. Brecht wrote many hundreds of pages, as did Shaw, on their intentions. These can be truly educational, and open the actor’s mind to possibilities in theatre perhaps undreamed of before.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


A condition is some temporary or permanent quality which does not belong innately to a character, but which they might be experiencing, and which may alter the character and the way he or she is portrayed.

A condition can be innate (built in to the character), self-induced, or imposed from outside. Here are some examples of conditions:

The character is mentally challenged.
The character is very short,
The character is very tall.
The character is underweight. (This could be self-induced, or organic)
The character is overweight. (This could be self-induced, or organic)
The character is of a particular ethnicity.
The character has a birth defect of some sort.
The character is brilliant.
The character is blind, or losing their vision.
The character is deaf, or losing their hearing.

The character is drunk.
The character has intentionally injured himself.
The character is on drugs.
The character is starving himself.
The character is gorging himself.
The character is desperate for sex.
The character is in love.

The character is in jail.
The character is being starved.
The character is being or has been brainwashed.
The character has been drugged.
The character is ill.

There are many more potential conditions that can alter a persons life and actions. Probably, there are as many conditions possible as there are people. Your character will likely have innate conditions that help shape who they are. They MAY OR MAY NOT have self induced, or imposed conditions. If they do not, you MAY OR MAY NOT wish to create conditions for your character. They can add richness to your portrayal, both comic and dramatic, if the conditions are carefully and wisely selected and utilized. They can also unnecessarily complicate a portrayal. This is a matter of choice, an Actor’s Choice. Use as your guide the message of the piece, and the super objective of your character. If adding a condition or three will assist in the communication of the message and character, do it. If not, then don’t.

That said, I would never allow a condition to BECOME the character, to dominate the portrayal. It should only be an addendum, an add-on that brings more color and clarity to the portrayal, for the audience. It’s too easy for an actor to work very hard on a condition, say a chronic limp, a bad cold, a bout of drinking, and let that BE the entire character. Conditions are not characters. They are things that happen to characters, or that are done to characters, or that characters do to themselves. Please make this distinction.


EXERCISE: Select an INNATE condition your character could have, from a given scene in a play. It doesn’t matter if the character has it or not, just assign a condition they were born with. Play the scene with a partner at least five times, grooving in your portrayal of that condition. Work it until you know how that condition alters the playing of your character, and you know you can use the condition to create nuances in the character’s portrayal.

Do the same thing again, with another innate condition.

Do the same thing again with a self-induced condition,

Do the same thing again with another self-induced condition.

Do the same thing with a condition imposed from without.

Do the same thing again with another condition imposed from without.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Everyone could be said to have some sort of spiritual state. They do not believe in a thing, or they do believe, and if they believe, they generally believe in something specific, and that belief (or non-belief) can color their actions, thoughts, and emotions, not to mention their objectives.

Many people and characters assume a spiritual belief as their principle objective in life. Service to God, or a belief system, is not unique as a life choice. This can certainly be true of a character, such as Shaw’s St. Joan, or Ben Kingsley’s Gandhi. And needless to say, an actor playing Buddha or Jesus or Mohammad will be playing a character with a strongly defined spiritual state.

Non-belief is a state, as well. One’s choice not to believe in prevailing religious doctrine can certainly color not only their own actions, but how others around them perceive them and respond to them.

You should always takes a few minutes to determine your character’s spiritual state, and add it into their character history.


EXERCISE: Take your character in a play. Determine his beliefs or non beliefs. Look over the play and decide how his or her religious state affects the character’s behavior (as in Step IV.) Determine how the religious state of your character affects other characters reactions to your character (as in Step V).

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Bodies are tricky things. They can be injured, or ill. They can be healthy. They can be strong, or weak, or somewhere in-between. Every character exists in a given physical state.

Certain parts of the body may be in pain, and disturb a character, altering the way they gesture or walk, as an inflamed hip or broken leg might.

There will be a CHRONIC state of the body of the character, an on-going state. It is healthy, or it is always sick. There is always pain in the left tibia. He is always tired.

There MAY be ACUTE, or temporary states a character’s body passes through. he has a cold in scene five. He can’t stop sneezing in scene two. She bangs her funny bone at the end of Act One. Acute states pass, but they effect your performance of that character during the time they are active.

Be aware that your character’s body is NOT your body, The character has chronic and acute physical states that must be portrayed by you. This may include such things as height, skin color, and weight, all aspects of a physical existence that isn’t yours.


EXERCISE: Looking at your character from a play, in a selected scene, decide what their CHRONIC physical state is, including height, weight, skin color, physical strength or weakness, and continuous pains of any sort. Work the scene through at least five times with a partner, and work to clearly portray their chronic physical states.

Now, in the same scene, either spot an acute state, or provide them one. This is a passing physical state, such as pain, or illness. Something temporary. Play that thing five times through, until you know you can play an acute physical state.

Monday, August 30, 2010


The audience enters the theatre (movie or stage). They’ve each had their own day. Some of them had a rough day. Some of them skipped dinner to get to your show. Some of them left their children with the local baby-sitter, who they know learned their craft from Attila the Hun. The unhappy guy in the back, his car broke down today. The frowning lady in the second row only came to the theatre because her mother bought her a ticket, but she hates hates hates theatre.

Still, they’ve all shown up, the deaf and blind, the halt and the lame, the disgruntled and the preoccupied. And they’ve each brought with them their daily, monthly, and life long baggage. It sits in front of them, and around them, and over them and under them. They can barely see the world through their baggage.

Somehow, your performance, your movie or play or TV show, has to be so urgent, so immediate, so important, and become so much so for your audience, that they find themselves able to set aside such concerns and woes and thoughts, and utterly commit to the on-going performance before them.

This is a very tall order. This problem stands at the very crux of the problem of entertainment and art.

You have several forces operating on your behalf. First, they’re THERE. They arrived. That means that, to some large extent, they’re WILLING. You recall how willingness was the first thing you needed to develop to play a role? Well, willingness is the first thing an audience must develop to watch you play the role. If they’re there, the overwhelming likelihood is that they’re at least willing. They want to enjoy the evening. They want you to succeed! At least, they want you to succeed before the piece actually begins.

There will be many artists who have decided that their audience is some sort of enemy, opposed to them and their success in some manner. It simply isn’t so. They took their time, paid, and showed up. They’re hoping you can do something for them, something wonderful. This hope keeps the arts viable and alive. Your success at providing them what they hoped would happen will make you and the works you appear in successful.

So, here’s a key to such success: What is happening to your character must be more important, urgent and immediate than ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING WHICH MAY BE HAPPENING TO ANY GIVEN AUDIENCE MEMBER at the moment of performance.

This is pretty important. If what is happening in the piece to your character is not very important, even to your character, then why should the audience care about him? If he can’t raise up a serious amount of concern or involvement for his own fate, why should others care if lightning strikes him? After all, the people in the audience have problems of their own.

This is true of both comedy and drama. In fact, it’s especially true of comedy. A character must feel that what is happening to them is critical, and as close to life and death as possible. Moliere’s great comic characters seem to be ever on the brink of utter ruin and destruction, and no one’s plays are funnier. The bigger the problem, the funnier the character becomes.

Big problems can also, obviously be deeply tragic. Romeo And Juliet are in love and can’t be together. This problem resolves in their mutual annihilation. Macbeth wants nothing small, he wants to be King, and he has no right to be. Hamlet wishes to take revenge for his father’s murder, but to do so, he must take revenge on his own step father and mother. Revenge, in this case, means murder, by the way. Caesar loves Rome, and wishes to rule it wisely and well. His opponents love Rome, and do not want to see one man rule, a tragedy of disagreeing principles which results in the murder of a ruler and following anarchy.

Shakespeare and Moliere understood that, for the audience to be engaged, the problems facing the characters must appear to be truly significant…even if only to the character. But ideally, these problems should seem large to the audience, as well.

There are seeming exceptions to this rule, the greatest being the plays of Anton Chekhov. These are brilliant and funny plays whose characters have what appear to be the smallest of problems. They’re indolent, lazy, uninterested. It seems as if the author is working in direct opposition to what has proven to work in the past. But this is only a first impression. His characters are all deeply troubled, if by nothing else then their own inability to get up and get moving! Their own indolence haunts and torments them. They are infected with a terrible disease, apathy, a lack of concern for their own fate, and this concerns them. Do you see the contradiction? This is, of course, wonderful ground for both comedy and drama.

The greatest playwrights, all of them, from Aeschylus, Shakespeare and Moliere through Brecht, Shaw and Stoppard, and understood that a character is going through must be so urgent, that the audience will set aside their own trials and travails and commit. You as an actor must understand this, and make certain you play as close to life and death as is reasonable, comedy or drama, regardless of the size of your role. Every character wants something. They almost always confront barriers to their desires. The battle is on, and this is what life (and acting) are about.


EXERCISE: Using a selected scene from a play, with a partner, go through the scene at least five times, playing ever closer to life and death, as though if your character does not get what he or she wants, they will die. Work this through a number of times, please. Don’t stop until the urgency is powerful and compelling, funny and sad. Work until you know you can play close to life and death, even when it’s not appropriate.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Really need followers

Hi folks

I appreciate the few of you who are following! For the rest of you, PLEASE sign up to follow. I'd like to see that there is a reason to continue this. Thanks!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Human Common Denominators are those experiences very common to human beings. Anything that most of us experience qualifies, including birth, childhood, school, rejection, acceptance, game-playing, winning, losing, becoming aware of sexuality, falling in love, having children, aging, seeing one’s faculties diminish, and death.

Shakespeare understood Human Common Denominators perfectly, and built his plays around them. Othello experiences jealousy; Shylock, greed; Macbeth, thirst for power; Romeo & Juliet, ruinous passion. Human Common Denominators, all. Here is his straight-forward statement on Human Common Denominators, from As You Like It:

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;
Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."

Human Common Denominators are largely how the audience recognizes a character. They see what a character is doing, thinking, and feeling, and they respond with “Oh, I’ve been through that! Let’s see how HE handles it!” So, you’ve won their interest and understanding, sympathy or empathy.

A smart actor will go about consciously spotting the HDCs his or her character represents, and a smart director will help them. If the world’s smartest playwright thought it wise to build every play and sonnet around these experiences, wouldn’t you think it wise to follow in his footsteps?

When looking over a role, ask yourself what that “person” experiences that YOU’VE experienced, just for a point of comparison. HOWEVER, DO NOT USE YOUR EXPERIENCE TO CREATE THE CHARACTER, PLEASE! This has been amply discussed above. Instead, just note the points of comparison and know that these are HDCs you can use to earn the audience’s support and understanding.


EXERCISE: Look over a selected scene with your character, from a play. Look for HCDs. Compare what the character goes through with the simple fact that you’ve gone through similar things, without getting into your own life, or a string of painful recalls. Just note the similarities.

With a partner (as possible), run the scene five times, stressing in your performance the elements of these common experiences. Is your character in love? Has he given up on life? Is he desperately trying to succeed at something? These are HCDs. Use them to color your performance. At least five time through, until you know you can locate a HCD, and use it to help an audience understand the character.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Character Qualities - THE SOUND OF SILENCE

There is almost no phenomenon more powerful in a performance, than that of silence. Silence is unexpected. There is so little real silence in life, generally, that silence can be shocking when it happens. In a work of performance art, where words, music, sound is the normal state of affairs, silence can be overwhelming.

An “incorrect” or accidental silence, such as when an actor can’t recall a line of dialogue, can be devastating, embarrassing for actor and audience alike. I once worked with a famous actor, who was performing Hamlet on a nightly basis. Every night, he would get to the “To be or not to be” soliloquy, he would put in (intentionally, one assumes) a longer and longer pause between the words “To be…”, and the words “Or not to be”. One night, this very self-indulgent pause hit 28 seconds! Try that right now. Get a watch with a second hand. Say “To be…”, and then fill silence with some sort of emotion or interesting thought or SOMETHING, for God’s sake…for 28 seconds. The audience did more than squirm, and I’m certain many of them whispered “Or not to be, you idiot”. I know everyone backstage did.

This was not an accidental silence, but a foolishly intended silence. Let’s understand something about silence and acting, something very important. A silence in a performance MUST BE EARNED. You are asking your audience to bear up with your silence, to assume that something is happening inside the character which prevents dialogue, something deep and profound, or something so funny he can’t bring himself to speak for fear of embarrassment. Silences should never be accidental, they should always be actor’s choices. No silence will work if the audience does not understand the reason behind the silence. No silence will work if the audience DISAGREES with that silence! You must earn their understanding and approval for that moment of silence, or skip it. The audience must feel that the selected silence is inevitable and necessary, whatever it’s mood and motivation.

Works of theatre or film which employ many silences for “dramatic effect” are deadly boring as a rule, and you know it. This is self-indulgent garbage, the actor, writer and director enjoying emotional excess at the audience’s expense. Don’t fall victim to this. Any number of silences may be possible, if you bring the audience along with you, into the heart of that silence. But NOT ANY NUMBER OF SILENCES ARE DESIRABLE! Too much silence can not only bore, but as is the case with too much of anything, too much silence can dissipate the power of silence itself. It becomes a round of “Oh no! he’s thinking again!”, for your audience. It demonstrates a serious lack of discretion on the part of the director and actor to so indulge.

Accordingly, you will want to select your moments of silence. When can silence be used to most powerfully move an audience? That’s what you want to know. Most silences happen for one (or a combination) of three reasons:

-The character needs time to think or feel his way up to the next line
of dialogue or action.
-The creation of a moment of comedy or dramatic power.
-For emphasis, to accent something as important, to underline it for the

And don’t assume that silence itself can’t be used to create laughter. One of the funniest scenes ever takes place in the film Victor/Victoria, where Blake Edwards shows us a restaurant with cockroaches loose in the food, from outside the building, looking in silently through a picture window. All is calm, then, suddenly, everyone erupts in panic as the insects are discovered, but we hear nothing. We only see the comic devastation. Another such scene can be found at the ends of Mike Nichol’s The Graduate, when the hero and heroine enter a totally silent bus. Funny and telling.

In our line of work, one controls the audience with a flow of sound and emotion and ideas. Silence comes out of the blue, and is one of our greatest tools, being unexpected. Use it wisely.


EXERCISE: Take a scene with your character from a play with a character you can play. Look it carefully over. Then, run it with a partner at least five times, putting in a silence everywhere you can. use “pregnant pauses”, thoughtful excursions. Don’t worry that the silence is ridiculously excessive. Don’t concern yourself that the scene is three times longer than it should be. Just get the feel for a proper use of silence to allow the character a moment to think before speaking or acting, to create drama or comedy, or for emphasis.

Next, select ONE spot in the scene which, based on this last experiment, seems to support silence well. Do the scene several times, just placing and using that one silence, until you can do so effectively.

Next, select a different spot in the scene which can support a silence, and run the scene with only that one silence, until you can do it effectively.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Characters are representations of human beings. Human beings feel emotions. Often, those emotions are in the full control of the person “experiencing” them. Sometimes, they are not. The emotion one is experiencing will enormously alter their behavior, and their reactions to others. An angry man does not respond in the same way to communication received as does a happy man.

We’ve talked a lot about characters USING emotions to get what they want, as in the tactics and beats step. However, there will be emotions that assail the character, seemingly from outside and beyond his control. As an actor, you will need to understand this and locate such emotions. These will alter your character’s actions, thoughts, and reactions to the environment and other characters.


EXERCISE: Using a scene and character selected from A BAD HEIR DAY, locate emotions the character may be feeling which would be beyond his or her control.
Then, decide how experiencing such emotions might impact the character’s actions and thoughts, and how this might change your performance. With a partner if possible, run the scene at least five times, allowing the emotion or emotions selected to influence what the character thinks and does. When you’re certain you understand how that emotion can influence your character, and how you would portray that influence, move into the next part.

Select an ARBITRARY emotion to influence the character, one not suited to the scene. It does not need to, and in fact, shouldn’t make much sense. Run the scene five times using that new emotion to hinder and control, or push the character. You’re looking for the ways an emotion can alter a performance, and the audience’s perception of a character. Do this until the new emotion controls the character and his thoughts and actions.

Do this again with a third emotion, in the same way as above. You should now have a pretty fair idea of how a character is influenced by an emotion.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Every character has had some sort of education. Some characters are ‘street wise”, and their education came from the school of hard knocks. Others are Harvard grads. In other words, characters are people. To play a character, you’re going to need to figure out what their educational background is, and put this into your character history.

An education largely dictates the type of language one uses, and this is one of the most important tools the actor can use to determine the character’s educational history. You can “back-engineer” your understanding of the character’s education by a hard look at the TYPE of words he or she uses. Are they big, literate words? Are they “specialized” words, nomenclature that fits the character into a certain profession or set of beliefs? Are they ‘street-wise” words, portraying your character as a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks? Is there a lot of slang in their dialogue? Is the slang current?

By the way, it is both the words and the way the character strings them together – the sentence structure, which inform.

Determining the educational background of the character will also help you decide what sort of objectives, tactics and beats the character might have. These are always limited to some extent by education. It’s the “Opportunity Cost” principle in economics. If you invest your time or money in one area, you no longer have the time or money to invest in another area. Generally, a person with one kind of education has not had time to get another kind of education, and so is limited by both the education he DID receive and the education he DID NOT receive. A guy educated on the street knows how to get along on the street. He may make a terrific salesman or athlete or pimp. He would not make a good physician or physicist – he doesn’t have the education. This is not to say he couldn’t go out and GET that education, but we are interested in the character’s current state of existence.

EXERCISE: Select a scene from a play that has a character you could do. Look carefully at the sort of words used. Do they suggest an educational background for the character. You’re looking at words and sentence structure for that scene. Take notes on what you learn about the character. Look at your notes and make some decisions regarding the character’s education.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Good ideas from a Casting Agent

Here's a link to some interviews from a casting agent. I agree with most of what she has to say, and I think you'll find her ideas useful.

The Size of the Media and the Performance

We’ve touched on this briefly. Film is a very large, very intimate, very “real” (or “reel”) medium. The pictures are huge, and every little pore will be exposed for scrutiny, every article on the set, every stitch of costume. On film, there is nowhere to hide, and your smallest gesture is magnified to gargantuan proportions. Film is not much of a medium for metaphor. Everything is so large and literal in film, that the size of the action and characters force film generally into a literal mode. This is why there is a great premium placed on “truth in acting” in film.

Theatre is different. There is distance between the actor and his audience, distance in which he can hide a little bit. The actor can look small, up there on stage.

There has been much talk over the years about how “big” an actor should play for the screen, in as opposed to on stage. I don’t generally believe that the actor should much alter the size of his performance to accommodate the camera. There are too many great “big” performances on the screen to debate this, very much. This does not take into account the fact, however, that if the actor flails about and bobs and weaves, he’s going to find that the camera can’t follow him around. So somehow, all that “big” physical energy does need to be squeezed into smaller, more controlled gestures to maintain the shot. The size of the performance doesn’t change, but the body is used differently in order to express the performance, to account for the camera and microphones.

However, one often does need to expand the size of his performance a little bit when on stage, if not used to performing in the theatre. The lack of proximity of the audience requires the actor to play a bit louder (unless on a microphone) and bigger than in front of the camera. This can be an interesting adjustment for the actor trained in TV/film.

There is also the issue of pacing. One can move more quickly through a speech or series of actions on film, than on stage, generally, because of the amplification factor. The actor is very large on the screen, and loud, so that his every gesture and nuance is easy to spot by the audience. Thus, he can move a bit faster than a stage actor. Additionally, today, the audience can replay a film as many times as they wish, on DVD. The stage actor has only one pass through the material to communicate it to his audience, so he must take a little more care, and be a bit more conservative in his pacing. But an audience is an audience and expects to be entertained, so don’t take these comments as a license to perform at the pace of the grave.

In the end, acting is acting is acting. Regardless of medium, a character must be created and portrayed convincingly. Audiences are essentially the same from the movie theatre to the theatre (though theatrical audiences probably have more money).


EXERCISE: Take a scene you’ve run through many times. Run it five times, playing each selected action as large as possible, until, even though it’s large, there’s a certain sort of sense to it (limited). Then do it again for five runthroughs, and take the same ideas and gestures and play them as though you were not allowed to move or gesture in any large way, or you’d be off camera. Maintain the intensity and actor’s choices you played with the first part of the exercise.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Playing Against Type or Result

Actors tend to be cast by type. People who look like bad guys get cast as bad guys. Ingénues are cast as ingénues. By always being cast per your type, you are going to find yourself limited severely in several ways. First, the roles you are going to be cast in will always be the same role! That’s bad enough. Worse, though, everyone who hires you will be expecting the last ten performances you gave, without change. Just “do what you did”. While this is a way for some actors to make a living, and while I’m not in any way arguing against getting paid for acting, there are ways to expand upon your career and your ability and not get caught in the very narrow alley of creativity many actors find themselves in for an entire career! They come under a general heading: Play AGAINST the obvious.

Play against type.

Let me give you some examples. Bad guys don’t think of themselves as bad guys, generally. They believe that they’re motivated by just cause, and are doing the right thing. Very, very few people would tell you “yeah, I’m the scum of the Earth, and I’m proud of it”. They’re much more likely to present to you a laundry list of the reasons they use to justify the terrible things that they do. So if you are type cast as a villain, play against type. Make the character right. Make him know he’s doing the right thing. Let him feel aggrieved. Let him be amazed that the world cannot see his kindly nature and justifications. This could earn you some much needed laughter, by the way. Playing against type can often add to the humor quotient of a piece!

You’re playing a mentally challenged individual. Such people do not try to appear stupid. They work very hard to appear “normal”. So do that.

You’re playing a drunk. Most drunks try NOT to appear drunk, even as they are so shit-faced they can’t walk. So do that.

Often, someone wildly in love will put up a huge show of not caring, for fear that if it were known they were in love and they were rejected, they would never recover from the loss of face. Pretending NOT to be in love while being madly in love is an ancient staple of romantic comedies, and even drama. It works.

Your character is injured, but must finish the race, so he works very hard to appear healthy. Such choices can not only expand your career and make the roles you play more interesting, but they can also earn you some vulnerability points.


EXERCISE: In a scene from a play you've worked on, read your character (with a partner), as a drunk trying not to appear drunk. Do this at least five times, or until you’re comfortable playing against type as a drunk.

Do the same scene, as if your character really cared for the other character (which is good for this play, as they basically don’t care for each other). Five times, or until you’re comfortable playing against type in this way.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Humor In Acting

Is there anything more dire, more unpleasant than to have to spend several hours with a humorless and pathetic drone of a human being, short of being placed in an Iron Maiden (a popular torture device from the time of the Spanish Inquisition)?

Yes, there is something more dire. PAYING a lot of money to spend several hours with a humorless and pathetic drone of a human being, that’s worse. And that’s how the audience feels when they see a performance (or complete work) lacking in all humor.

Part of our job, and this is something easily forgotten, is to entertain. Even the worst bad guy can have a sense of humor, albeit black. Even the stiffest Dudley Do Right good guy can laugh at his own stiffness for a moment or two, can’t he.

Generally, people do not care for others who cannot laugh at their own insufficiencies. And make no mistake, we all have insufficiencies enough that we should be laughing, given that the alternative is despair. I’ve worked with a few…very few, thank the powers that be…actors who had limited senses of humor. I didn’t care for them much as people, and I truly did not care for their performances.

Humor is a symptom of intelligence, and the ability to see the difference between what is and what should be. All comedy is based on the idea that we just don’t live up to what we should be. Classical tragedy is about mankind striving for perfection. In comedy, the hunt for perfection is surrendered, replaced by lower and simpler pleasures. In tragedy, the soul rules. In comedy, it’s the body. But, sad to say, even when mankind aspires to be one with God or the Gods, he’s still dragging along a body for the ride. In the darkest of tragedies, there should always be a sly glimmer of humor. Hamlet preaches to a skull, and speaks in ironies about the sort of work of art man is. If Hamlet can jest, any character can, if subtly.

There have probably always been actors capable of raising a smile while in the dark grip of drama. Some of these are “over the top”, playing a bit large for the moment, or are inappropriately small given the tragedy surrounding them. Some are self-deprecating, at moments when they most need their confidence. Regardless, their reaction is INAPPROPRIATE for the surrounding events, and this is funny. The great tragic hero, climbing the jagged mountain with bloodied fingers, only inches from the top and nearly able to grasp the hand of God…will suddenly scratch his butt and nearly fall. Why? He’s human. He’s flawed. Like all of us. And we will love him for his flaws and accept him as one of our own. Though he is greater than we, we’ll root for him, as we do for Hamlet, Lear, and the others.

Perfection does not need to, nor should it include, a lack of humor. And no character represents a perfect human being. Find the flaws and exploit them occasionally, maybe as a surprise. Humor, so long as it isn’t inappropriate to the piece and the moment, is golden.


EXERCISE: Take a scene from a play, one you’ve worked earlier. Decide where in the scene the character displays or might display flaws which would show up as physical actions. Start with the easiest and most obvious moments. Run the scene with a partner five times through, experimenting with these moments, until you feel you can accurately display character flaws which are comic.

Then, find moments in the scene which would NOT seem to support a character’s flaws being presented. Decide on a single flaw which could physically show up at that moment, one which will reveal the tension or pressure the character is experiencing. Some physical trait, action or glitch that let’s us know he’s in trouble or upset without having to tell us. Play the scene through at least five times mastering this display of inner incompetence or failure or angst. At first, play it broadly, very obviously, and then, make it ever smaller and more subtle until it’s just big enough to be seen by an audience if they’re paying attention. When you know you can present a character flaw and get a laugh from it, at any size of play from large and obvious to small and subtle, you’re done with the exercise.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Communication and Acting

Actors are expert communicators. They are able to communicate very complex ideas, very quickly. In fact, they communicate the entire essence of a human being, a character, and often do so simply by entering the shot or stage and embodying the role.

Why do you go in front of the camera, or on stage? Is it to get paid? To be famous? To be loved, or to get sex? All of the above and more? Well, these are not the best reasons to enter into this very difficult, insanely competitive profession, If, on the other hand, you are an actor because you love “let’s pretend” and you love to communicate, you’re in the right place and with the right rationale.

Every gesture, every word, every vocal inflection communicates. Your existence, as we covered earlier, communicates. And many others will stop and listen to you, and watch you, and be eager to receive your communication, if you are a good actor. Isn’t that wonderful, and a wonderful reason to be an actor? people will listen to you, and care about what you’re doing. You may move millions of people to tears or laughter, just by communicating well. Then, you’ll get paid! Just for doing the one thing you can’t help but do if you exist…communicate.

If your attention, once through Step X, is not on how you will COMMUNICATE the decisions you’ve made, first to the other actors and director, and then to the audience, then you’re not acting, you’re doing something else. You’re job is to play a game brilliantly, a game of “let’s pretend”, and to communicate it so well that it is clear, understood, and moves others.

How do you improve your communication skills? Start by understanding that a communication starts with you, and must be received and understood at the other end. Are you actually initiating communication with the intent to be accepted and understood on the receiving end? If not, you should be. Get your intention to communicate to the audience firmly in play. Then, communicate the script and all those decisions you’ve made, and make sure they get it without nudging them in the side with your elbow and winking. Have it as your conscious purpose to communicate brilliantly.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Presence In Acting

The most overused, misunderstood word in the acting universe. What is presence? It is that intangible sense that someone special has entered the room, and filled it with their Beingness, I guess.

I’ve heard tell that when Clark Gable entered a room from the back, quietly, all heads would mysteriously turn and look at him. I’ve worked with a few people who seemed to have a similar quality, particularly John Travolta and Isaac Hayes. I’ve watched actors over the years on stage who created that sort of an impact, simply by their being in the room with you. I’ve also met and worked with politicians who had the quality of presence.

Helen Hayes, perhaps America’s greatest actress during the 1930s-1950s, tells the story in her autobiography about her very long run in Maxwell Anderson’s great play, Elizabeth, The Queen. She performed the role, though she herself was very much too short for the part. But no one ever complained, and why? Presence. Ms. Hayes filled the stage and the theatre with the magnificence of her spirit, and no one doubted that she was, indeed, the greatest female ruler in history.

So now, you ask, isn’t THIS a quality one must be born with, this unique type of presence?

Yes, it is.

And everyone IS born with it.

Everyone has a degree of presence. If you exist, you impact a space when you enter it, and something vital exits the space when you leave. You have presence, and the quality of it can be consciously developed, to some extent.

Some of this quality is a result of confidence, a real awareness that a person can do with extreme professionalism what he’s there to do. There are plumbers who step into your house, and you know you’re in trouble because they’re going to break something. Another plumber walks in and you immediately sigh with relief. He KNOWS. And he knows he knows. He’s not worried, so neither are you. This sort of confidence results in presence, a sense that one is in powerful and benevolent hands.

An actor with presence radiates confidence, regardless of the role. He or she KNOWS. They know they’re good, and that you’re in for a treat, and so you are. You sit back and wait, knowing something good is going to happen, and glad you’re there to be a part of it. I believe that one of the most important elements of presence is confidence. You will develop confidence as you succeed as an actor. Another aspect of presence is a powerful sense of being exactly where you are, and knowing that you are. You can help yourself with this by simply and truly looking about each space you enter, and truly locating yourself in that space. Know that you’re there. Know that you’re YOU. Know that you know what you’re doing.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Transparency In Acting

Another quality that many really good actors develop is transparency. This means that the audience does not see the “actor” or any “acting” being done, they see only the character’s emotions, thoughts, pains, desires, etc. And those emotions, thoughts, etc. are very clear, present and understandable. When we see and hear the character with very little of the actor and his craft intervening, we have transparency.

This is a very high order of accomplishment. Some actors seem to have this quality even from the start of their training, from their first acting assignment. They just don’t appear to be “acting”. They seem to be living the role, up there on stage or in front of the camera. Their technique, the “work” they’re actually doing to create the illusion of the role is “invisible”. Only the character is visible. They appear to naturally be the character. The effort to present the character is simply not visible or apparent.

How can an actor develop transparency? There are a couple of things you can do. It is important to understand that such an actor is totally focused on creating the character and only that, while performing. Their attention doesn’t slip to other issues such as the audience or their upset stomach. They place their attention on exactly the thing or things the character would be placing his (or her) attention. For the time they’re up there, they think like the character, feel like the character, pay attention to those things the character would pay attention to.

So the first thing for you to get right in developing transparency is to know what the character would pay attention to, what interests you, and the difference between the two. They will not be the same thing. Then, while performing, place your attention on those things the character would place his or her attention. It is their universe you’re up there to create. Be interested in what they’re interested in, which almost invariably will have something to do with their objectives, tactics and beats.


EXERCISE: Take a scene from a play. Look over that scene and decide, at every point of it, what the character would be paying attention to. What would the character be interested in at any given point in the scene. Write out at each point in the scene what EXACTLY the character is paying attention to, and how it relates to his objective. Then, read through the scene five times at least, or until you are certain you can do the scene with nearly all of your attention and interest on EXACTLY what the character would be interested in.

Do this again, with a second scene, and perhaps a different character. Repeat this exercise until you feel you can focus, and be entirely interested in what the character is interested in only, while performing.

If you’re not certain what transparency looks like, watch almost any movie with Spencer Tracy or Denzel Washington.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Become a follower and tell a friend

Hi actors!

I'm happy to share with you the hard-won ideas and knowledge of over 40 years in the business. But I need you to share one minute of your time and become a follower. It would also be nice if you shared this blog with friends, please. When I started my students, they were not in the union, inexperienced, and without representation. Now they all work, are SAG or SAG Elig, and have reps. I'm sharing with you for free some of the ideas they pay for in workshop. Put in your exchange and at least list yourself as a follower, please. That will encourage me to wish to continue to service you with this blog. Frankly, if no one follows but I keep seeing visitors each day (as I do), I'll discontinue the blog. Thanks for your consideration. Next post will be Monday.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vulnerability in acting

There is a unique quality some actors possess, which greatly assists them in earning the empathy of the audience. Let’s call is “vulnerability.” It is that sense you get about certain people that they might be fragile or breakable, more than they appear to be. It is NOT necessarily the sense that they could break in two at the arrival of the nest stiff breeze. But it is something the actor communicates, that under the visible exterior, under what the audience sees is a human being who can be damaged.

We root for such human beings to survive, because we ourselves want to survive, generally. I can’t think of too many enormously successful actors who do not or did not have this quality. Even the real tough guys, like Bogart, or Bruce Willis, have it. Watch Bogart in Casablanca as he tries to push the love of his life out of his life, or Willis in Die Hard as he looks at a world bent on his destruction and seems to ask, a quizzical look on his face, “what did I do to deserve this”? We can love these men at these times, because they are no longer simply bigger than life and indestructible icons. They hurt, just like us.

This is a wonderful quality for an actor to have. It can be developed. Like all the qualities of an actor, YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE BORN WITH IT! Art is NOT an elitist club for those born with “extra sensitivity”, or some such rot. Art is for everyone, and anyone can be an artist, and a good one. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you, for some reason I wouldn’t care to speculate on here.

All human beings possess a degree of vulnerability. It is a Human Common Denominator, a quality and experience we share. We all endure life to some extent. We all suffer through life to some degree. Some people hide the suffering better than others. Vulnerability is generally the ability to hide the suffering to a just slightly UNSUCCESSFUL extent, so that it is there and visible to those who wish to see it. It can make a performance darkly comic (as with Bruce Willis performances in Die Hard), or rich and sad (Bogart in Casablanca). The attempt is there to hide the fact that there is pain, but it isn’t entirely successful and the audience says “Ah! I see that he’s in pain! Look at him try to hide the pain! Poor guy.” By the way, that pain can be emotional, physical, spiritual, you name it. So long as the character feels it and tries to hide it and keep going, he’s vulnerable.

And for the record, characters who simply whine and suffer are NOT vulnerable or likable. Neither are human beings who whine and suffer. Generally, a large part of the audience will wish to take such a character, slap them around and yell at them to grow up. Such characters can be funny, or pathetic. But they can never be lovable. Actors who specialize in such roles will not be much beloved, either, as a rule.

We love the actor who is strong, but human. We love to know he hurts like us, but that he (or she) perseveres IN SPITE of their pain. We honor that artist. (This quality can be found in any art form.)

This is a quality you can develop. They key is to be able to create pain for the character to feel, and then to have the character hide the pain, though it’s still there, and to keep going. Start with this exercise.


EXERCISE: Select a scene you are familiar with. Decide in what way your character might be suffering in the scene (even if it's a comedy). Describe the reason for his or her suffering in one sentence, get a very clear idea of it. Now, with a partner if possible, play the scene through five times and play the suffering OVERTLY, openly, without any attempt to hide it whatsoever. Keep doing this until you can really play the pain, and know exactly how to turn it on and off.

Now, part two. Play the scene five more times, feeling the pain as the character and yet persevering, keeping a stiff upper lip, hiding the pain without losing the fact that there is pain there. Do it more than five times as needed, but not less than five times. Don’t stop until you’re sure you can let a character experience pain, try to hide it, and persevere. You may need to work at this for several days. Always start with the first part of the exercise, experiencing the pain overtly and openly. Then, experience the pain but persevere and try to hide it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How to get to emotions while acting

Characters feel. Sometimes their emotions are extremely intense. Many actors have a rough time getting to their emotions, and layering them into a performance. It can be difficult to play an emotion that is somewhat foreign or uncomfortable to you. This is certainly true, and it is the foundation for the on-going popularity of The Method, a system where the actor is asked to look at his own life history to locate moments where a needed emotion was felt by the actor, in order to “re-create it”. This, of course, locks the actor in his own past, just when he most needs to be right in the present…when he’s creating.

There are better ways. The Method assumes you can’t create an emotion out of nothing but your wish to create it, right now. You can. Children do this constantly. They decide that now is a good time to get upset, so they cry and scream and throw temper tantrums. Adults stare in horrified wonder at the rapid, mercurial changes a child can pass through, emotionally. You’ve heard of the “Terrible Twos”? Their not a myth, I have two children, and I know. And you’ll notice that there are few two year-olds who have studied The Method…

I know this sounds silly, but if a two year-old can do it, so can you.

I directed an actress in a play once, who I asked NOT to cry in a scene. She cried. Afterward, almost an hour later, I found her in her dressing room, still in tears. I was concerned. I asked her if she had hurt herself. She said she had not, that she just “couldn’t get out of character”. She was never in character, of course. She was just crazy.

Anyone can create any emotion at any moment. All emotions are created. They don’t come at you from outside. You decide to fall in love! You decide that a thing is funny, or sad! No one makes you angry, or makes you cry. No one makes you happy. That’s all you, and if you’re honest and sane, you know this is so.

An actor needs to be especially aware of his ability to create an emotion upon demand. It’s his livelihood. Now, you can choose to be nuts about this, and put yourself through all sorts of memory-oriented torture, in order to get that one, precious tear. Frankly, I’d rather see a glycerin tear, and I know that deeply offends many actors. Folks, this is an art, yes, but it’s also a job. You should do the job professionally, with as little pain and misapplied drama as is humanly possible. Your fellow artists will bless you.

So how does one get to an emotion? Well, how does one get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. When you rehearse, hopefully you’re going to do a lot of experimenting with emotions in context to your work. For now, you should practice turning emotions on and off at your demand, until you know you can do this.


EXERCISE: Select a scene from any play with a character you could play in it. Find someone to read the other roles, if possible. Look the scene over and select a single emotion the character might feel at some point in the seen, such as sorrow, anger, boredom or elation. For the first experiment, select a grimmer emotion, an unhappy or angry one. Go through the scene five time with your partner (or alone), using the dialogue and action to express ONLY the selected emotion, whether it makes sense or not. Groove the emotion in. Get control over it. You should notice that, as you do this repeatedly, the emotion becomes easier to contact or create and control. Do it more than five times, as needed, but not less than five times. Once you have control over it, take five minutes off, get some air. Then, select a happier emotion, like hope, or elation. Run the scene again at least five times, using only that emotion, regardless of the sense it makes. When you’ve mastered turning on and off that emotion, and contacting or creating it at will, you’re done. You may do this with any number of emotions, whenever needed, to work at creating and controlling the needed emotion.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Unique Qualities Of An Actor - Should The Actor "Believe"?

You’re going into rehearsal, to finally create the character you will play. Here’s a big question actors always seem to ask…should they “become” the character they play?

Here’s the answer. No. Never. We have a name for a person who really believes he’s someone else, and that name is psychotic. The actor should never, ever believe he has become the character. But he should endeavor to create as perfect an illusion of the character as possible, for the audience’s sake. That’s what he’s paid to do. He is NOT paid to inflict psychic trauma on himself by forcing his life into a character’s pattern of life. That is the road to insanity.

There has long been a ridiculous and disgusting rumor held to be true by many fools that to be an artist, one must be neurotic, partially insane. Artists are “different”. Artists are “odd”. Yes, well, artists ARE different, that’s true, because they must develop and maintain a heightened ability to communicate, and an awareness of their own creative faculties. They are different…they’re saner than the average man, at least when the artist understands that his sanity is one of his chief tools. Sad, but true.

You are unique, as an artist. If you grow into greatness, you will become a national and global treasure, whose work will be admired by millions and tens of millions. Celebrity is grand, but it’s a terrible cross to bear as well, and requires unique degrees of sanity to survive. Creation is exhilarating, but requires a high ability to remain sane and separate from one’s own creations. The artist can never afford to really fall in love with his own work. he must maintain some distance, some ability to critique and improve, and to see his work as the audience might see it. This ability to differentiate requires a very high degree of sanity.

You are not the character…you’re playing him. Always remember this. Work to look like the character, move like him, sound like him, and at least appear to think and feel like him while in front of your audience or the camera. But never make the mistake of believing you are the character. And PLEASE leave your work at work. Actors who feel they must “keep working” their character at home are insane. No one wants to live with Jack the Ripper, or Little Mary Sunshine. When rehearsal or performance ends, be the nice person your friends and family love. Leave the role at work.

More tomorrow about the unique qualities of an actor and HEY, if you're reading this and finding it fun or useful, HOW ABOUT A FOLLOW PLEASE?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Playing Comedy Vs Drama

Hi actors!

Last night in my workshop one issue that came up was whether or not the actor needs to develop and play a full character when playing "over the top" comedy. This could include comedy or farce as varied as Moliere or Aristophanes, or as current as "dumb comedy" like what you see on Disney or Nickelodeon.

The brief answer is "yes". You ALWAYS develop a complete character and play it. You do this regardless of whether the piece is comic or dramatic. Always.

For some reason, actors (and others) often degrade Comedy in their mind, as if it were some "second rate" cousin of Drama and not to be taken quite so "seriously" when putting it together. Nothing could be further from true. Any pro will tell you that Comedy is harder to make work, generally, than drama.

There is a famous story about a famed comedian, I believer it was Henny Youngman. supposedly as he was dying (physically dying, not just "dying" on stage)someone in the room said "Oh - it's so hard! You're dying! It's so hard that you're dying!" The comic looked up and murmured "dying is easy - comedy is hard".

That about sums up the truth of the matter. Comedy IS hard and requires the best of your effort and intelligence in approaching it.

A character in a comedy often does strange, almost inexplicable things. The wilder the comedy, as with a farce, the wilder the action often becomes. Yet, if the audience doesn't see real "human beings" caught up in perhaps odd situations, human beings with REAL thoughts and wishes and emotions, then the audience will simply not care much. They also won't laugh much.

Comedy has a special and extreme need for "real" from the actor. The circumstances in the action and story make it particularly difficult to believe in the play of film. Yet it is imperative that the audience care, that they even root for the main character in some way. We MUST see REAL people, regardless of the situation, people caught up in what they perceive to be life and death situations, even if the situation is nothing more "extraordinary" than, say, the character is hungry, waiting for dinner, and it never seems to come. To the CHARACTER, the situation is real, and what's more, dire.

I talk to actors about this sort of thing all the time. When constructing a character, the closer to life and death importance what is happening in the piece FOR THE CHARACTER, the better (in all likelihood) will be the performance. The clearer it is to the audience WHAT is happening, WHY it is happening, and the character's REACTION to it all based on the character's needs and desires, the better. That sort of thing is what makes an audience root for you (the actor and the character).

Groucho Marx was asked about "what funny" is. If anyone would have known, it was Groucho! He said that a baby carriage with a baby in it rolling uncontrolled down a hill is funny. Then he said that it's a lot funnier if the baby in the carriage is REAL.

One important "secret" behind playing comedy well is no secret at all. Play a fully developed character and show us their needs, their ideas, and how important to the character the predicament is that they find themselves in.

See you next week!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Unique Qualities of an Actor - The Voice

Perhaps the most important tool in your toolbox is your voice. Nothing effects an audience to the extent of the actor’s voice. You can thrill or irritate, frighten them or make them fall in love with you. The voice is powerful in our business, so much so that many actors are able to make an very fine living as “voice over artists”.

You will want a voice that is strong, flexible and versatile. Strong, because shoots, rehearsals and performances can be very rough and long, and hard on a voice. Many actors loose their voice by opening night. Their instrument can’t handle the work or the stress, or both. Flexible, so that as an actor, you can reach your entire vocal “range”…your upper, higher voice, and your lower voice. Each part of your range will serve you for a different type of role. A bad guy might have a low, throaty voice, or a high, reedy, scary voice. A femme fatal might be breathy and low in her range. Versatile, so you can play many kinds of roles.

You should study singing if possible. Again, this is a discipline an actor can really benefit by. One of the advantages of working with a GOOD voice teacher is that they will show you how to use your diaphragm to breathe, and not just your lungs. This is critical to an actor who wants to be heard by the audience past the third row, or who needs to carry those loooooooooooooooooong Shakespearian lines without a breath, so as not to break up the thought Shakespeare (or any writer) is trying to express, with a disruptive breath. And of course, there are always musicals to audition for.

I’ve also taught voice for over 30 years, so I know better than to try and teach you voice via a book. This really can’t be done. Find yourself a good teacher. If their technique hurts your voice for any longer than the first three weeks, walk away and find another teacher. You should see regular progress in your control over your voice, and its strength and range.

EXERCISE: Use a tape recorder, ideally a decent one. Get a novel or newspaper to read from. Start reading, recording. Speak into it using your normal voice for a few minutes. Then slowly work your voice into your upper range, as high as you can work it, stretching upwards gradually into Mickey Mouse range. Then work your way down to normal. Keep slowly working down until you’re as close to Isaac Hayes/Barry White range as possible. Then work your way back up to normal. Repeat this over a three day period, once each day, and keep your recordings so you can compare. Work to increase your vocal range. Keep this simple! Stop if it in any way hurts your voice!!!

As to accents. The more accents you know and can expertly execute, the more castable you are. If you can do a good Texas accent, you can put yourself up for a Texas cowboy. If you’re from New York and your Texas accents stinks, you’re probably not going to get the cowboy role. The more accents you can master the better. This can be done on the cheap, and on your own time. I’m sure you watch movies. Stop just watching and start studying. When you find a film where someone is doing a particular accent very well, stop the DVD and repeat their dialogue. Imitate the accent. Train your ear to hear it. Train your instrument to create a comparable sound. You can do the same sort of thing with acquaintances, but they may not want to hang around while you imitate them. Film is safer, you’re less likely to get slapped.

There are certain accents that seem to come up more often than others in English language pieces. Here’s a brief list you might want to try to master; New York (Bronx); Southern; Texas; Upper Class British; Cockney; Los Angeles (Valley Girl); Indian (from India); Inner City Latino; Urban Black. Needless to say, there are hundreds more.

Not everyone is good at accents, but anyone can improve through hard work and practice.

EXERCISE: If you’re not from New York, get the movie My Cousin Vinnie. Practice imitating the accents used by Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei. If you are from New York, get a film like Fried Green Tomatoes, Miss Firecracker or Driving Miss Daisy. Work for 2-3 hours, imitating any line you hear with the accent you’re trying to master. Don’t stop until you’ve accomplished it. If you already have both these accents try Cockney and Upper Brit, use My Fair Lady. If you have all four of these accents, go for broke and try a Scottish accent, or Australian, they’re very hard!

One other note on voices and bodies before we move on…drugs are very bad news for a body. An actor MUST have control over his faculties, and drugs rob away control. Drinking swells the vocal chords for at least 24 hours, stealing away the upper register. Smoking is a vocal disaster. You’re going to make a living using your body and voice, so don’t abuse them and they will be there when you need them.

Tonight (Weds) is my workshop. I'll write about what we learned in my next blog, on Thursday.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

THE UNIQUE QUALITIES OF AN ACTOR - The Sum Is Greater Than The Parts - The Body

You are going into rehearsal. You’ve done a great deal of homework, and have figured out the character and the piece. If you’ve done your homework with the script, you will probably understand the piece as well as anyone in the room, and better than most. What, besides your understanding and technique, do you bring to the first rehearsal?

An actor is composed of many aspects. The actor has a body. This is the part of the actor which the audience will see. They will see how the body is constructed, how it moves, what it looks like. These things will contribute to the audience’s idea of not only the actor, but of the character he or she is playing. Because when you’re on stage or in front of the camera, that body of yours is shared with the character. As far as many in the audience will be concerned, your body and what it does will largely BE the character. (Not the brightest audience in the world, however.)

You’ve been you for a very long time. That body of yours has developed many interesting habits. You don’t walk the same way other people walk. You don’t sit down or stand up like anyone else. You have funny little habits, most likely. Your hands do what YOUR hands do, your head tosses in a certain manner. Your appearance and bodily habits are a part of what sets you apart and makes you unique. These things may help you get or play certain roles. They also limit you severely.

If you’re a short, white male, you’ll have a hard time playing the tall, muscular leading man, especially if you’re the “nerd” type. And, I guess it goes without saying, you won’t be playing the leading lady’s role. You will, however, be “typed in” for roles that are physically right for you. This is especially true in film and TV, where the closeness of the camera makes it very hard to hide one’s actual, physical nature. The distance of an audience from the stage allows more latitude in casting, in theatre.

I know, you’re moaning “I’m an actor! I can play anything!” That may be true. But you won’t be cast in anything, not professionally. You may be the greatest talent since Olivier, but producers and directors of cinematic projects are looking for the easiest way, and they will almost always cast an actor who IS the type, not just one who could PLAY the type.

What can you do to increase the odds of getting cast, and to place limits on the limits imposed upon you by your appearance? Well, we’ll discuss the casting part in the chapter about auditioning. Right now, our concern is what you walk into rehearsal with.

You should work your body to keep it healthy, strong and elastic. Regardless of your “type”, theatre and film are very hard work. You’re going to want to be strong and healthy. You’ll want your body to be as responsive to your demands as possible. Actors are called upon to do all sorts of odd things “normal” people just don’t need to do, including completely alter their appearance on occasion. There are many disciplines one could involve one’s self in to gain greater control over the body’s movements. One is certainly dance. I’ve always felt that actors should study dance, whether they’re going to do musicals, dance professionally, or not. An actor should study dance to gain additional degrees of control over the body. You’ll need that control for your bib sword fight scene where you have to leap over a ten foot crevice.

One thing that dance classes tend to focus on is “isolation” type of movement…controlling and moving only selected parts of the body, and in controlled and selected ways. This practice can only aid an actor in making his body do precisely the actions selected for it by the actor, on stage or in front of the camera. These are a must.

Depending on your type, you’ll need to develop your body along different lines. If you’re the big, muscular type, and you’ll be using that physique to get roles, you’ll want to build up your muscles (within reason). If you’re a blonde bombshell, you’ll want the curves that go with the title. If you’re the friendly, weight-challenged “best friend”, eat away, I guess.

YOU WILL BE MARKETING YOU. Know your product. (But dance, regardless, because control over the body is a must, regardless of type.)

The most expressive part of your body is almost always your face. Many schools of acting are opposed to working a mirror. This would be getting in front of a mirror and really working the control of the musculature of the face. Working a smile, a frown, the raising of one side of the lips, then the other, etc. I think an actor should do anything and everything to gain control over his body, particularly the face. That said, I wouldn’t do this sort of work in front of others, as they’ll think you’re very odd. And I wouldn’t work a mirror very long, only until I felt I KNEW what my face was doing, and could make it do what I wanted it to do.


EXERCISE: Work a mirror for 30 minutes. See if you can a) Smile on demand. b) Frown on demand. c) Open your eyes wide on demand. d) Squint on demand. e) Raise only the left side of your lips on demand, and lower it, rapidly. f) Do the same with the right side of your lips. g) Curl your lips on demand. h) Raise one eyebrow on demand, while leaving the other down. i) Raise the other eyebrow while leaving the other down. j) Raise and lower both eyebrows rapidly, Groucho Marx style. k) Curl your nose. l) Any combination of the above, so long as it’s on demand.

The idea of this exercise is to gain increasing degrees of control over what your face is doing. If you encounter a movement you cannot control, such as a twitch, one you don’t want, then try exaggerating it. Do that movement on purpose and really go for it, until you feel you have real control over it. Don’t do more than 30 minutes of this in a day, please. You can repeat this the next day, and the next, until your control is sufficient.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Read Plays, See Movies! A real play list!

If you’re serious about acting, you should be reading plays and seeing movies. A LOT of plays and movies. (You should be going to see plays, too, and as often as possible.) Here is a list of plays you MUST read to understand theatre, and to be truly aware of the roles available to you. START READING! (This is followed by a recommended list of films you should see, for the purpose of studying the acting.)


Prometheus Bound Aeschylus
The Supplicants Aeschylus
Oedipus Rex Sophocles
Medea Euripides
Alcestis Euripides
The Trojan Women Euripides
Lysistrata Aristophanes
The Clouds Aristophanes
The Arbitration Menander


The Pot of Gold Plautus (Roman)
Everyman In His Humour (Medieval) Anonymous


Doctor Faustus Marlowe
Tambulaine Marlowe

by Shakespeare:
Twelfth Night; A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Julius Caesar; The Taming Of The Shrew; Romeo & Juliet
The Merchant of Venice; Richard III; Hamlet
Macbeth; King Lear; Othello; The Tempest

Volpone Jonson
The Alchemist Jonson


El Cid Corneille
Phaedra Racine

by Moliere:
The Miser ; The Misanthrope; Tartuffe; The School For Wives


The Sheep Well (Spanish) Lope De Vega
Life Is A Dream (Spanish) Calderon
A School For Scandal (British) R.B. Sheridan
The Rivals (British) R.B. Sheridan
The Importance Of Being Ernest (British) Oscar Wilde
An Ideal Husband (British) Oscar Wilde
Faust (German) Goethe
Maria Stewart (German) Schiller

REALISM (Plays which attempt to be more real-to-life) AND MODERN THEATRE

A Month In The Country (Russian) Turgenev
A Doll’s House (Norwegian) Ibsen
An Enemy Of The People (Norwegian) Ibsen
Ghosts (Norwegian) Ibsen
The Ghost Sonata (Swedish) Strindberg
Miss Julie (Swedish) Strindberg
The Lower Depths (Russian) Gorky
The Inspector General (Russian) Gogol

by Anton Chekhov (Russian):
The Sea Gull; The Cherry Orchard
Uncle Vanya; The Three Sisters


by Eugene O’ Neill
A Long Day’s Journey Into Night; A Moon For The Misbegotten
The Iceman Cometh; The Emperor Brown

by Maxwell Anderson
Elizabeth The Queen; Anne of the Thousand Days
The Bad Seed; High Tor; Winterset

You Can’t Take It With You Kaufman & Hart
The Man Who Came To Dinner Kaufman & Hart
Awake and Sing Clifford Odets
Waiting For Lefty Clifford Odets
The Glass Menagerie Tennessee Williams
A Streetcar Named Desire Tennessee Williams
Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller
The Crucible Arthur Miller
Picnic William Inge
Come Back, Little Sheba William Inge
Our Town Thornton Wilder
The Skin of Our Teeth Thornton Wilder
The Children’s Hour Lillian Hellman
Inherit the Wind Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee
A Raisin In The Sun Lorraine Hansbury
The Odd Couple Neil Simon
Barefoot In The Park Neil Simon
Brighton Beach Memories Neil Simon
The House of Blue Leaves John Guare
Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You In The Closet… Arthur Kopit
Indians Arthur Kopit
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf Edward Albee
The Zoo Story Edward Albee
Seascape Edward Albee
American Buffalo David Mamet
Glengarry Glen Ross David Mamet
Talley’s Follys Lanford Wilson
Fences August Wilson
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom August Wilson
Uncommon Women and Others Wendy Wasserstein
Buried Child Sam Shepard
Angels In America Tony Kushner


by George Bernard Shaw (British):
Major Barbara; Man And Superman; Pygmalion
Heartbreak House; Arms And The Man

by Sean O’ Casey (Irish):
Cock-a-Doodle-Dandy; Juno & The Paycock; Shadow of a Gunman

by Bertolt Brecht (German):
Mother Courage and Her Children; The Good Person of Setzuan
The Threepenny Opera (a musical, with music by Kurt Weill)
The Caucasian Chalk Circle; Galileo
by Noel Coward
Blithe Spirit; Private Lives; Design For Living

Six Characters In Search of an Author (Italian) Luigi Pirandello
Henry IV (Italian) Luigi Pirandello
Waltz of the Toreadors (French) Jean Anouilh
The Lark (French) Jean Anouilh
The Madwoman of Chaillot (French) Jean Giraudoux
No Exit (French) Jean-Paul Sartre
Waiting For Godot (French) Samuel Becket
End Game (French) Samuel Becket
Rhinoceros (French) Eugene Ionesco
The Leader (French) Eugene Ionesco
Look Back In Anger (British) John Osborne
Luther (British) John Osborne
A Man For All Seasons (British) Robert Bolt
The Birthday Party (British) Harold Pinter
The Caretaker (British) Harold Pinter
Amadeus (British) Peter Shaffer
Equus (British) Peter Shaffer
Absurd Person, Singular Alan Ayckborn
Master Harold And The Boys (South African) Athol Fugard
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (British) Tom Stoppard
The Real Thing (British) Tom Stoppard

(When studying a musical, one should get a recording of the score, and a script, and read the script, stopping when arriving at a song to listen, whenever possible! These are generally listed by composer/lyricist. This is a very basic overview of musical theatre.)

by Gilbert & Sullivan (British):
The Mikado; The Pirates of Penzance

by George M. Cohan (American)
(watch the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy, with James Cagney

by George Gershwin & Ira Gershwin (American):
Of Thee I Sing; Porgy & Bess
An American In Paris (movie, script by Alan J. Lerner)

by Irving Berlin (American):
Annie, Get Your Gun; White Christmas (the movie); Top Hat (the movie)

by Cole Porter
Kiss Me, Kate

by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
Babes In Arms; Pal Joey

by Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II
Oklahoma; Carousel; The King And I; South Pacific

by Frank Loesser
Guys & Dolls
How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying

by Frederick Loewe and Alan J. Lerner
My Fair Lady; Camelot; Gigi (the movie)

by Kurt Weill (with various collaborators)
Lady In The Dark (with Ira Gershwin)
Street Scene (with Langston Hughes)
Lost In The Stars (with Maxwell Anderson)

by Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley
Stop The World – I Want To Get Off
The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd

by John Kander & Fred Ebb

by Harvey Schmidt & Tom Jones
The Fantasticks

by Sherman Edwards

by Andrew Lloyd Weber & Tim Rice
Jesus Christ, Superstar

By Lloyd Weber and others
Phantom of the Opera

by Jonathon Larson

by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Aherns


(Not in any particular order)

Casablanca; The Wizard of Oz; Citizen Kane; Schindler’s List; The Philadelphia Story; As Good As It Gets; The Godfather (all three movies); City Lights; Modern Times; The Kid; The Thin Man; It Happened One Night; Mr. Smith Goes To Washington; It’s A Wonderful Life; The Searchers; Wild Strawberries; Annie Hall, Manhattan; Some Like It Hot; To Kill A Mockingbird; Lawrence Of Arabia; Charade; Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner; Inherit The Wind (with Spencer Tracy); Raise The Red Lantern; Forrest Gump, Gandhi.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A good idea on how to get work in Los Angeles

We had an interesting workshop last night. As usual, much of what we discussed revolved around how to get work. Not as a waiter, by the way, as an actor.

I have a small, select group of actors, all of whom have agents and managers and careers in one condition or another. One of the most devoted to getting work (and one of the most gifted actors I've ever trained) is just at the start of building a career I have no doubt will happen. It is not only his ability that guarantees his success, though it is certainly a factor. He's trained steadily and intently for over four years and has improved continuously. But it is also his savvy, his ability to understand where the industry may be headed and to use that knowledge to his own advantage.

You probably know what the breakdowns are. For the few who do not, they are a list of roles that casting agents want to see actors audition for on that day. It used to be that they were messengered and hand-delivered to agents and managers every morning in hard copies, but that was pre-Internet. Now, they are on the Internet.

You, the actor, are not supposed to see the breakdowns. You will be told that they are for the eyes of agents and managers only who, like ancient priests gifted with "knowledge above mere mortals", may look upon the sacred breakdowns without the wrath of the acting gods descending mand making their eyes to runneth with blood and tears. (Okay, sorry.)

Don't listen. Find a way to get a look at the breakdowns every day!

This is very important, actors! Agents and managers almo0st always have multiple clients. Some have many clients, too many to service well. They do not have the time to really scope through the breakdowns and place all their clients into the correct auditions that day. If you are a relatively inexperienced actor, one with few pro credits, then you may well be at the end of your agent's list of clients to send out each day.

You need to find ways to help your agent help you. Looking over the breakdowns over your morning coffee, though taboo (the breakdowns, not the coffee), will let YOU see what is auditioning that day. Just scan them, focusing on the age range and type required for each part. You're only interested in roles that you could play. In a future post we''ll discuss exactly how to determine your "type" or "types" for the purpose of head shots and casting, but for now, please keep it real. If you're a tall white guy, the center of your High school Basketball team, you are not going to be cast as a short Asian woman of age 60. Sorry, you can't get every roll.

Credibility in this process is key. You will find roles that you truly could be cast in, and then contact your agent or manager and POLITELY REQUEST that they send you out for that role. DO NOT INUNDATE THEM WITH REQUESTS! Pick your battle, one or two a week, tops. Pick the best bets. Maintain your credibility with your representatives at all cost. They also must consider their own credibility. If they send you out for roles you're dead wrong for, they look like fools and casting agents will stop accepting their submissions. It's all about keeping it real and credible.

Your agent may well ask how you knew about the available role. Just tell them that a friend told you about it. You keep your ear to the ground. Anything like that. DO NOT TELL THEM THAT YOU LOOKED AT THE BREAKDOWNS. They will angrily inform you that is their job and not yours.

This is a very tough and competitive field, and you do need every edge. The breakdowns can cost as little as $3 a month - I know people who pay that for access. They can cost as much as $40 per month or more, and are (yawn) only made available to agents, etc. Most actors in L.A. who are serious get the breakdowns, and I'm talking tens of thousands of actors! As sports commentator Jim Rome flippantly says, "If you're not cheating - you're not trying". I do NOT, however, see you getting the breakdowns as cheating, folks. I see it as you democratizing the process of casting.

That's it for this week. Have a good weekend!