We had a snow day last week. Ordinarily, when your school gets closed from a blizzard, it’s cause for joyous celebration and wild, toboggan-fuelled orgies. Not so, however, when you actually LOVE your schoolwork, as if you take an acting class, you probably do. So I was a bit bummed out when we got the word last week that the doors would be dark, and we would all have to find something productive to do with our lives for one night.
Well, fuck that. Thank God we’re back this week, last Wednesday SUCKED. This one, however…this one kicked all sorts of ass. Check it out…after the good times at IPHEGENIE EN TAURIDE the previous night (seen it yet? You really should), I got to have a coffee date Wednesday lunch with the wondrous Natalie Joy, Fringe Mastermind and all-around supergal. We had swell palaver, about theatre and Buffy comic books and other important things, AND a super-special secret something coming up that I, in Natalie’s infinite graciousness, get to partake in. No details from me yet, but I’m so excited I could power a small fictional city.
With that pep under my belt, I practically sprinted back to the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama for the return of classes, and was rewarded for my enthusiasm with coach Brie Barker greeting us all in full-on formal wear, because that’s how the big cheese ROLLS, yo. Pretty much a full compliment of students tonite, the mythical ‘Steve’ on the roll notwithstanding. We each answered the headcount with our spiffy new spy names (I chose Scooby, because I’m a little kid apparently), then formed a circle and began walking in place. Brie would ask us where we were headed, and we had to think something up pdq. And again, and AGAIN…today, as Brie explained to us with a gentlemanly grin, was all about impulses.
We then settled into an improv challenge, two of us at a time with the rest of the class watching, and given a very sparse character/scenario setup. The big trick was…it wasn’t supposed to be funny. Everyone always thinks of Improv as something that’s necessarily supposed to be a laugh riot no matter what…it’s just sort of burned into our popular consciousness. Personally, I blame these guys.
Brie urged us not to worry about trying to sneak in the jokey twist or what not…he literally gave us permission to be dull. And as odd as that sounds, it really felt like it helped me a lot. Many times now, when given a choice up there, I’ve opted for the somewhat loud, wacky approach. I think it feel safer, somehow…like, if there’s a chance you’re going to get laughed at, you might as well be trying to be funny, right?
But once we got the greenlight to just…BE, it was wonderful. I did about four mini-scenes over the class, and at least three of them I felt really good about. Me and Catherine played out a Mother and Son on an awkward train voyage…we tried it once from ourselves, then got restarted with instructions to swap physicalities with one another. ie, my loose, sprawled out slacker son had to switch with Catherine’s proper, upright Mom. And suddenly, even with the exact same dialogue (more or less), it’s a hippy-dippy, free-spirit earth Mother and her son, Rain Man. Kinda mind blowing how little it took to totally change the scene.
We had a small break, chatted amongst ourselves, and then dove right back into it with a walking exercize. We had to decide what kind of walker we were…the kind who ‘plowed’ through the air, the kind who more ‘floated’, or one who simply ‘flies’. Oddly, I was the lone person who chose flying as their default.
We then had to switch to one of the other options, and add that to our slowly growing character repertoire. I picked ‘plowing’, and was immediately struck with a very heavy sense of gravity. That really informed the rest of the mini-improvs we did that class, from a somewhat comical tale of two competing divers trying to outboast one another, to me and the big cheese himself as a patient and therapist. The extra gravity I was feeling just made my characters feel extra serious, sombre even. I couldn’t help it.
I had a great time in this class, maybe my fav’rit Brie class so far (my fav’rit Barry Karp class was when we got to do the seven stages of movement with the masks on…fuckin’ magic, mon). And my fav’rit part OF this great class..?
Actors. When Brie called us up to perform, he didn’t ask for ‘students’. He called for actors. He meant US. And I loved it. I think I want more people to call me that someday. Yes. Yes, I sincerely do.
Well, shit. Now I’m screwed. Peace, love and soul, you lot,
The Visitor (and Winston)
PS: Hope to see some of you out at Evolution Theatre‘s LITTLE MARTYRS tonight at Arts Courts. It’s gonna be faboo!