Phil Gyford


Saturday 21 May 2005

PreviousIndexNext 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.

The classes varied from week to week in an attempt to give us a flavour of different exercises and skills. Unfortunately some of the later classes weren’t nearly as fun as the earliest ones. This was partly because some exercises were harder, partly because we spent too much time sitting around talking, and partly because many people dropped out. Toward the end of term the erratic and diminishing attendance meant the energy seeped from the group. The classes were still interesting but it was a shame that some of those temporary friends had disappeared too soon.

Whenever I started to find things too enjoyable or simple a class always arrived to remind me how little skill I had. One of the hardest exercises was to learn the words to a song, stand in front of the group and speak — not sing — the words. I looked for something with a narrative and learned The Weight by The Band.

I was confident until the moment I took my turn and stood there alone in front of the class, when the lyrics suddenly vanished from my brain. The few words I could remember sounded ridiculous as I battled to ignore the rhythm I knew too well and simply speak the song. I tried not to hurry through the stupid, stupid chorus as it came round yet again but could feel myself gabbling. Only to come to a halt when the next verse, which I’d repeated over and over at home, wasn’t there. All this with people a few feet away sitting, staring, waiting. Even though they were friends, and even though they would have to go through the same experience, this was definitely not fun.


Some time ago at the Newcastle Speakers Club someone tried to read out one of Churchills speeches. It didn't work, everyone could hear Churchill's voice in their heads and who could compete with him in terms of voice? In the same way who could not hear Levon Helm singing 'the Weight'. Faced with the same exercise I would have chosen 'Thunder Road', a song the audience have made their own.

Posted by Richard Hyett on 22 May 2005, 9:50 am | Link

To be honest, I'd bet that most people in the class had never even heard of The Band, never mind be familiar with the lyrics of any of their songs. I know I'd have been the same until a few years ago.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 10 August 2005, 10:10 pm | Link

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