Phil Gyford


Friday 21 October 2005

PreviousIndexNext 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.

I seem to spend a large amount of each week “warming up”. All of the five classes I’m taking this term begin with some kind of warm up, whether it’s physical, vocal, or some more fun game of group concentration. It does get repetetive — how many times in a term am I going to roll my spine slowly down and up again, and how much time will I spend humming to get the voice resonating?

I wasn’t sure what to expect of the Foundation movement classes, and unfortunately I’m finding them hard going. The first part is usually like some combination of yoga, aerobics and dance classes, and I’m not a fan of group exercise. It all feels a bit too much like enforced fun. Holiday camps. Linedancing.

Aside from this reaction, there are two other conflicting frustrations. First, the exercises I can do feel like a waste of time — most days I go to the gym or have a swim, so why am I spending an evening at this regimented class?

Second, there are the exercises I can’t do. I’m reasonably fit, but horrendously inflexible. Can you sit on the floor, legs in front of you, without using your hands for support? Can you sit cross-legged? More than I can do. Right now I’m sitting on the floor with my back against the sofa, attempting to stretch these hamstrings. (Actually, I can no longer feel my left foot, so I should probably get up.) These impossible bendings bring back the traumas of gym classes at school. The worst classes of all. Classes that reduced me to tears in front of everyone. Two decades on, Wednesdays, for me, still carry the unwelcome taint of gym class and I hate being so far away from managing what other people seem to find so simple.

The three hours of acting class are more fun, but I do find myself desperate to, well, do some acting. With twenty people, who all need to perform their solo exercises to the class in turn, there are several weeks at a time where one’s doing a lot of watching. Yes, it’s still a chance to learn, but no one takes acting classes to be an audience. We do get a chance to do a brief improvisation each week, in groups, but by their nature these vary in quality. If I feel like I blew that chance — if things didn’t quite click — it feels like an unsatisfactory week.

Yes, it’s been a frustrating couple of weeks, but it’s not all bad. Last week for example, we had an unpromising exercise in pairs: one of us could only say “please”, the other only “no”. That’s it, go. I didn’t expect much, but I was amazed how affecting this could be, how an emotional narrative could emerge so easily between two people. What with swapping roles and trying variations (more sensitivity, more passion, more pauses, etc.) I could have happily continued the exercise all evening.

This Foundation acting class is on Wednesday evenings, and going straight into my extra Stanislavski course on Thursday mornings has proved more of an effort than I expected. But it’s a welcome second chance to act, and it feels more in-depth than the Foundation does at the moment. Although the past fortnight I haven’t had a chance to do much unfortunately.

Finally, the Find Your Voice singing class has got past the theory, so I’m starting to enjoy that more. I’m not exactly going to star in musicals but I’m already feeling less wary about opening my mouth.

So thankfully I’m doing enough classes that there’s usually something to make a week worthwhile, just about, and hopefully this has just been a slow period.


Well I hope you feel that things start to become more enjoyable.

It's been interesting to follow your experiences through these classes, they all sound like a lot of hard work but also that they might be immensely rewarding.

Posted by Frankie Roberto on 23 October 2005, 9:54 pm | Link

you think you've got it bad? at least you got to say `no' and `please' - we're still doing silent improv.

Posted by Isabel on 28 October 2005, 2:09 pm | Link

I have done Introduction to Acting class at the City Lit and will be doing Acting throught the Text Part One in Sepetember.
I was interested to read you talk about painful memories of gym work at school and finding things difficult that othe people find easy.
I am in the same position and just recently been assesed at being Dysraxic, a hidden disability which affects co-ordination, balance, manual dextrity etc and also dyslexic.
Wonder if you have some?
I have to say one thing that worries me about acting classes easy being humiliated due to my poor co-ordination but not happened so far.

Posted by John Scovell on 25 August 2006, 1:16 pm | Link

Commenting is disabled on posts once they’re 30 days old.