I just got back today from the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama. Not usually there during the day, but I wanted to get myself registered for level 2 of their acting course this January. I guess I was feeling a little bit of separation anxiety, as last night was the bittersweet final class of level one. Got there early early as always, got to chat with Boss Barry Karp as we waited for our classroom, the Nathalie Stern Studio, to clear out. Watched as my classmates, those that are left, straggled in one by one…spotted Catriona Leger milling about (filling in for Pat Gauthier? but I digress…) too.
There were only nine of us left standing come final roll call…myself, Rachel, Catherine, Stefan, David, Vanessa, Julia, Sabrina and Helene. Tho I think a couple folks were out sick, so I still hope to see them again next semester. We got right into it this class with our long-awaited, in some cases dreaded Enchainements. One after another, rapid fire, and we finally got to my turn. I was going for an undulation / weird infinite loop-hands-head thing (I forget the name) / flat surface / weightlifter / baton combo. Naturally, I damn near fell over during the undulation opening…feet apart, Visitor, feet apart! So stoopid…
But, I think I recovered by the end, and managed to escape with a shred of dignity. From the performances, we got to dive right into Barry’s bin of hats, which was a treat indeed! We just started grabbing them and wandering about, getting into diff’rent characters and interacting with Boss Karp and each other. I switched between a heavyset factory worker from Vladivostok, a snooty southern gentlewoman, rebellious preteen Tommy, and a clueless wannabe rapper dude. Not bad for a few minutes work.
After hat time was over (awww!) we started right into something Barry’s been promising for weeks…animals. He gave us a rapid-fire guide to channelling the qualities of this animal or that, to bring out new aspects in a performance. I think everyone had fun doing the mouse, although I for one found the elephant pretty tricky.
We split into groups after the ensemble practice to do some 3-person scenes, all animal based. Boss Karp stressed how crucial it was to remember what we learned during the plate game previously, about timing and…
…what’s that? We never DID the plate game?? Right, full stop. EVERYONE GET AROUND THE GOD-DAMNED PLATE! And seriously, I don’t think I’ve felt Barry exude a sense of urgency before like what we got during the now-infamous plate game. It was fairly awesome. To imagine the plate game, imagine a groups of cowering theatre students in a huge circle, standing on an imaginary catwalk surrounding an imaginary giant plate, balanced just so on a single beam. Someone then leaps into the center. Then they deliberately upset the balance by moving OFF center, and someone else has to leap in to keep it even. Then THEY throw the balance off, and someone else hops in, and so on…it gets pretty intense. We heard quite a few shouts of CLEAR THE PLATE! from Boss Karp, as we kept on not-quite getting it. But we got better! We even managed to move on to level 2 (where a group is formed every time someone new leaps on) and level 3 (where contrasting emotional states are added…we totally nailed that one, yo). Really, we were packing an awful lot into this final class, and I think we done good keeping up. Maybe the OSSD should consider 3 hour classes instead of 2…
But back to the animals! After our crash course in theatrical balance, I think our scenes were a little better for it. We managed a two minute epic each, in which a human (embodying some animal quality…I chose Lion), witnesses a battle between a monkey and a chicken, then scares the chicken away.
Monkeys and chickens conquered for now, we moved onto the final bit of the class, and the semester…a solo improv, with the appropriately final title, Adieu, Bateau (or Goodbye, Boat for the Franco-challenged). The setup was simple…You realize you are late for a boat, carrying the most important person in your life. You race to the pier, but are too late. You see them leaving on the boat, in the distance, and give a single wave farewell. We started, and tore through it in about 90seconds. At which point Barry explained that Adieu, Bateau is a 20 MINUTE improv (I think he took some well-earned sadistic glee in some of our reactions to that). Now, we were near the end of class and did not HAVE 20 minutes, but on our second and final attempt managed to stretch it out to about 8 minutes. And I really felt it this time…so, apparently, did the Boss, and it was a good emotional kick to end the class off on.
And…yeah, so that was it. Barry had to beg off and pick up his wife somewhere, so just a handful of us headed out to Trio for a farewell drink. It was a nice, mellow time, and I’m hoping a few of us are coming back. Like I say, class, I’m already paid up and enrolled, don’t you dare leave me hanging! To those who are not, it was a perfect goddamn delight playing with you these last few weeks (and feel free to drop a line here every now and then, or hook up on Facebook…I’m always looking for the false validation of more friends on that thing!). And to boss Barry Karp, my Zen mystic master of Acting guru and all that..? Thanks for the time, the passion, and the lessons learned. I may not know much, but I know more now than I did ten weeks ago (shoutout to Mary Harvey, our beloved 2-time sub, as well…she was much fun indeed!). See you all in January (and hopefully SOMEone I know tonite, at the Carleton for MECHANICSVILLE MONOLOGUES II), keep on practicing those enchainements (it never stops, people!), peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)