What did you SEE?
What did you LEARN?
What QUESTIONS do you have?
What is your MAGICAL ACTION?
As I began to prep for my Master Class with the Lab Academy I went through all of my email history, notebooks, and memories of my second year acting class. It was the most intense and most elucidating class I took at NYU because it actually taught me how to be an actor. Knowing and understanding what it meant to be an actor solidified for me that I wanted to be a director; the life and work of an actor just isn’t for me.
I prepared a rigorous scene study class for them, borrowing scenes from George Buchner’s Woyzeck, Caridad Svich’s Steal Back Light From the Virtual, Young Jean Lee’s Lear, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, and Sarah Kane’s Blasted. The goal was to clearly define ACTION, TARGET, SEEING, MAGICAL ACTION and STORY. Often it would become a debate in class. Throughout the scene work I side-coached, which is very different from directing, and found it an incredible challenge for me. I wonder if I would be a better directing teacher than acting teacher. What makes someone a great acting teacher?
Two days in, the workload became too huge—these actors simply didn’t have the time to do the proper research on the play, the world, and their characters. They couldn’t daydream about every experience, SUTURE emotional images to their minds, TRAWL through the text to find the morsels of TRUTH. I threw the entire assignment out, and we sat in a circle to ask questions.
Why is it important to ask questions? I think it is important to continuously define one’s life philosophy. As artists we must have a clear idea of what we want to do or say with our art, even if that changes. It is our job to SEE the world and to FALL IN LOVE with everything in it so that there is no judgment or defenses against playing any character. I believe in living truthfully within imaginary circumstances—that’s the technique I promote in theatre and in life. I believe that everything is a play. The writing on the bathroom walls. The exchanges you have on your bike with the taxi driver that almost hits you. The moments you are alone drinking your coffee and listening to the wind.
This is a play.
Throughout the eight sessions, these young actors asked beautiful questions—provocative and hard and unique questions. They began to hone in on their own process and the kind of artists they are or want to be. Some were delightfully skeptical and critical of the methods and concepts I was introducing, others were profoundly eager to know more and apply these concepts to their own work. I loved every minute of teaching I think because I often felt tortured. It was SO MUCH HARDER than I ever imagined. It was emotionally draining. I felt responsible for affecting 23 minds. I felt eager to impress—eager to inspire. I wanted to give each of them something they needed and truly felt as though I had 23 kids to raise.
How did my teachers do it?
We were so emotional and so critical and our defenses often seemed indestructible?
How did they create an environment of truth and vulnerability and risk?
How do I become a better teacher?
How do I find a way to reach each individual artist rather than generalize these lessons?
These are my questions. Often my response to the Academy’s questions can be summed up in one word and it just may be that the answer to my questions is the same: