Writing on City Lit

Acting classes

Last year I began taking a few acting classes, and I've been meaning to write about the experience since. Thinking about a subject for too long makes the potential writing grow over-long and over-stale; there's a lot to be said for writing something short and quick, particularly for those unfortunate enough to be faced with reading it.

First things first: why am I doing acting classes? A few reasons, in vague order of importance...

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In City Lit on 11 May 2005. 2 comments. Permalink

Lorca: A Dream of Life by Leslie Stanton

I scanned a couple of biographies of Federico Garcia Lorca to look for information about Blood Wedding, and specifically anything that might relate to the part of Bridegroom, which I'm currenly trying to get the hang of. If I had more time I should probably read the whole biography...

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In Books, City Lit on 20 May 2005. 2 comments. Permalink

The cast

Before my first acting class began I was apprehensive about my future classmates. I wondered if they'd all be overly-excitable, precious wannabes, desperate to become famous, rather than to develop any skills. I'm not sure where I acquired this image of drama students but, if it's true, maybe it only applies to youngsters at proper drama schools, because most students I've come across in City Lit classes have been ego-free and down-to-earth.

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In City Lit on 20 May 2005. Permalink

Introduction to acting

I was looking forward to performing, and the first two or three weeks of the Introduction to Acting class, in autumn 2004, didn't disappoint. Given various criteria our small groups had to come up with short scenes and perform in front of the rest of the class. It was such a thrill to do this, working closely and physically with people on something fun. It felt much more like playing rather than serious acting and, despite their nerves, most people seemed to enjoy it.

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In City Lit on 21 May 2005. 2 comments. Permalink

Acting through improvisation

I can pretty much guarantee that as soon as I've thought "Maybe I'll start writing more frequently," several weeks will zip by in a blur of work and I'll have written nothing. So another term has nearly finished and I didn't get very far with catching up on previous acting classes.

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In City Lit on 30 June 2005. Permalink

Ways Into Text

If I ever do anything with these acting classes, like spend a few evenings performing in a tiny no-budget theatre production somewhere out-of-the-way in London, then, with a whole lot of luck, perhaps even getting a paying part in something slightly bigger, leading to a role in a play people I know might even hear about which would allow me to say "I'm an actor" without feeling too embarrassed when strangers ask what I do, and I'd maybe do a few of those before dabbling in a bit of indie film-making for variety and a change of pace, while going for more endless humiliating auditions, eventually, with a following wind, getting a tiny character part in a real grown-up professional film with catering trucks and everything, and be on-screen in theatres across the UK for several entire minutes, and attend a premiere in Leicester Square that's a lot of fun but, really, is a lot of fuss about a film ignored by most of the population, but all of which helps set up a flukey moment where, because of someone who knows someone who happened to be somewhere at a particular time with someone else who knew this other person who'd seen this thing once, it leads to me getting a role in an American indie film that isn't to everyone's tastes but gets a few four-star reviews for its integrity and painful honesty, all of which just about raises my profile high enough to, standing on tippy toes, be considered for a part in a Hollywood movie that even normal people would pay to watch from behind buckets of popcorn on stadium-style seating, and, after a lengthy series of hateful auditions and interviews and phone calls and parties and promises of favours I don't even want to think about from my burned-out agent, I land the part and I can't believe it and I sing in celebration and after an interminable period of pre-production, during which I descend into a deep, deep depression, convinced it's never going to happen, I spend a couple of months filming, in the desert, in New York and, for too much of the time, in front of a huge green screen which will eventually be filled with more shiny, fast-moving and futuristic CGI contraptions than the human eye can take in, even when watching the Special Edition DVD frame-by-frame, after which I have another period of depression while the film meanders its way through post-production and seems to get lost in marketing labyrinths somewhere in LA while the production company is merged with its bitter rival who, the PR team smoothly claims, it actually has a lot in common with, not least its commitment to bringing the very best movies to cinemas around the world and, incidentally, increasing its profits thanks to the remarkable synergies and cost-savings now possible, but eventually the film, my film as I like to think of it, is released and my name is even on the poster, not at the very top, granted, but still perfectly readable if you stop and look, and I appear on talk shows with slickly-suited, self-deprecating American gentlemen to promote the film and if we, for once, cut the story short a little, I end up taking gradually more prominent parts in a few more films of diminishing worth but increasing profits, dabble with peculiar quasi-religions and have people working for me who insist they do important things for the international brand that is me, but I'm really past caring by this point and, after losing a lengthy battle to keep the flatulent and wobbling public off my perfectly golden private beach I sell up, sack everyone and retreat from public life, only to emerge ten years later in an LAPD mugshot, having been arrested while running, naked, with a long beard and curly black fingernails, from a conflagration I accidentally started in the hills while trying to build a fire in my elaborate treehouse out of rejected and increasingly inarticulate film scripts I'd been writing fuelled only by a diet of yoghurt-covered pretzels and forest creatures I'd shot with my eclectic but fearsome armoury, if that should ever happen, then the prosecutor will be able to direct the jury to the day that started it all, Saturday 8th January 2005, when I took my first Ways Into Text class at the City Lit.

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In City Lit on 14 July 2005. Permalink

Technical Voice Production

This term I've also been taking a 'Technical Voice Production' class on Monday evenings with Irene Bradshaw. My voice is one of the things I need to work on most -- although I can't easily tell what it sounds like, I at least realise it's often too quiet, it croaks out from the back of my throat and I don't feel I have enough control over it for performing.

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In City Lit on 15 July 2005. 2 comments. Permalink

My first audition

A week ago I had my first audition. Not for a part in anything, but in an attempt to get on the City Lit drama foundation course -- a one-day-per-week, one year affair. I've enjoyed the termly classes I've taken, but just when the group is beginning to gel, term finishes and you have to start all over again with a new class. It'd also be good to have some longer-term structure if I'm going to take this acting stuff any further (although I've no idea how near or far I'll end up taking it).

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In City Lit on 21 July 2005. 3 comments. Permalink

I got in

A frustrating fortnight later than promised, I've just found out that I've been accepted for the City Lit's one-day-a-week, one-year drama foundation course, which I auditioned for last month.

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In City Lit on 5 August 2005. Permalink

Back to school

You know those times when your hopefully rock-solid text editor crashes and loses the piece you'd spent half an hour typing? Yeah. Yeah. It was just here, on the screen in front of my eyes. I saw it. How come those words don't exist any more? Deep breath.

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In City Lit on 19 September 2005. 1 comment. Permalink

First week over

The first week of classes is over (apart from the singing-for-idiots which starts next week) and it went reasonably well. The toughest aspect has been working with classes of strangers, having to get to know people from scratch again. We'd be playing some complicated game, designed to help everyone bond, concentrate, and be aware of what everyone else is doing, and we'd be royally screwing it up, and I'd be thinking, "but the group I spent two solid weeks with over the summer became good at this, why are we finding it so hard now?" No doubt we'll click before long, but it's frustrating at the moment.

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In City Lit on 24 September 2005. Permalink

Three homeworks down

My body's collapsing. A phlegmy, coughy cold has been lingering for a while. My neck and a shoulder have been painfully stiff for over a week. I dropped a cast-iron pan on my foot mid-week. I'm a hobbling, bent, wheezing old man.

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In City Lit on 7 October 2005. Permalink

Too many exercises

At the induction day for the acting Foundation course, one of the warnings they gave was that we might get frustrated. There would be a lot of acting exercises to do for the first couple of terms, and while we might wish we could do something more substantial, like working from scripts, we shouldn't run before we can walk. This seemed fair enough. But I am finding it hard to keep the enthusiasm up at times, longing for some Real Acting.

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In City Lit on 21 October 2005. 3 comments. Permalink

Two interesting improvisations and feeling hot

My intention of writing shorter, more frequent, pieces isn't working. The longer I leave writing, the less I feel like writing. I'll have turned the topic over in my head too many times. If it's about acting I'll have written notes up in my notebook, maybe written a more angry version in my diary, perhaps updated friends and relatives on what I've been doing. By which point I've had enough thinking about it. But I didn't want you to think I was still frustrated with the classes.

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In City Lit on 18 November 2005. Permalink

Not being me

Last week I realised just how difficult I find it to not be me. This is going to be a problem, unless there are a lot of plays and films out there featuring characters based on me.

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In City Lit on 29 November 2005. 3 comments. Permalink

Mask class

Nearly half-way through the spring term already, and I've written nothing about acting classes so far. I've been trying to finish a programming project, but personal project deadlines have something of Zeno about them, so I should admit temporary defeat and get this written now before more weeks slip by.

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In City Lit on 12 February 2006. 1 comment. Permalink

Acting update

Last term I only managed to write about acting classes once. As Tom Coates said the other day, if you write a lot on your site you're probably not doing much. Classes have continued but it's been a combination of busy-ness and, unfortunately, a lack of enthusiasm that's kept me from writing more.

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In City Lit on 27 April 2006. Permalink

The Collection rehearsals

In all the time I've been doing acting classes I've rarely had to rehearse anything; we've never stuck with one scene or play long enough to give it any polish. This term, finally, I've got a chance to spend a few weeks on piece (a few hours a week, anyway).

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In City Lit on 5 May 2006. 2 comments. Permalink

More rehearsals

Three more hours of rehearsals for our The Collection scene. Rather than continually running through the entire scene we focused on a little bit at a time, going over and over it, trying out different moves and moods and statuses. We also introduced some props this time, which makes a big difference. It now feels more like people in a real room, rather than a glorified reciting of lines. I think we made good progress, although it's hard to tell what will work for the audience from where we are. Spending around five hours or so a week rehearsing on our own and then spending only 15-20 minutes with the "director" (our teacher) seems a little off balance.

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In City Lit on 7 May 2006. Permalink

The Collection Rehearsals part 3

Since I last wrote we've spent a few more hours on our little scene from Pinter's The Collection. Quite a bit's changed and although I was concerned we (or, at least, I) weren't getting anywhere, I think we've now made progress.

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In City Lit on 21 May 2006. Permalink

The Collection dress rehearsal

Last week was the dress rehearsal for our final performance. Nine pairs of us have been rehearsing a short scene each, from different plays, and this was the first chance we had to see them all. I hadn't realised how much of the evening's work would be logistical: putting the minimal and generic set up; sorting out props and costumes; and working out who would be changing the set and props between each scene. All made much harder by most people apparently having the tiniest of attention spans.

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In City Lit on 1 June 2006. Permalink

The Collection performance

Last night, after hours of rehearsals over the past few weeks, we had our one and only performance of our scenes. It was nothing grand -- thirty or so invited friends and relations squeezed for a couple of hours into our hot and cramped classroom to watch us perform with a very makeshift and bare set. If there had been more room I'd have invited you. Next time.

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In City Lit on 1 June 2006. 2 comments. Permalink

Foundation course final essay

The year-long two-evenings-a-week Foundation acting course I've been doing was all over a couple of weeks back. The final task was to write 1,000 words about how the acting, movement and voice classes had affected our final performance. It was asking a lot to stretch the words "not a lot" out that much, so I made the essay more general and tried to be as balanced as possible. What had been worthwhile and what had felt like a waste of time? I thought I may as well paste it all in here...

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In City Lit on 24 June 2006. 1 comment. Permalink

Summer clown school

Last week I had a holiday and spent my time at the City Lit doing a five-day course on clowning taught by Gerry Flanagan. Like me you probably think of clowns having big shoes, custard pies and cars that fall apart. You’ll be disappointed to hear that the course involved none of that and you should be thinking more of people like Laurel and Hardy and Harold Lloyd, but without as much slapstick or as many stunts as they managed. They’re ordinary people who remain relentlessly optimistic when everything they do inevitably goes horribly wrong.

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In City Lit on 21 July 2006. 1 comment. Permalink

Hands full of swords

At college we’re approaching the end of term performance, with stress and emotional levels collectively rising as Wednesday nears. Meanwhile I’ve just finished my first term of weekly stage combat classes. I signed up for a year of “Great Stage Fights”, two hours every Friday evening at the City Lit.

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In City Lit on 10 December 2007. Permalink

Fight Test

A the end of last year I wrote about the one-night-a-week stage combat course I was doing at the City Lit. A week ago we reached the end of the course and took our BASSC Fight Performance Test.

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In City Lit on 6 July 2008. Permalink