Monday, September 20, 2010

"The Most Fascinating Actor On Stage"

Now that things have finally slowed down for me with regards to stage and film auditons, James Barbour and I have decided to go forth with our two-day, intensive workshop on November 6 and 7.  We'll only have room for about 20 to 25 students as it turns out.  A lot of actors have already contacted me about it.  So today I'll be putting together an hour by hour syllabus for that weekend (it's a Saturday and Sunday).

Our first thought, when we started tossing this idea around, was to bring some casting directors and agents and producers and playwrights and directors to see a finished scene at the end of the two-day workshop.  But everyone does that.  Also, it's a little cheap, I think.  Not cheap as in financially, but cheap as in holding that out as a carrot on a stick.  It sort of implies that if you take this workshop you just MIGHT get cast in a film or play or commercial or something.  Maybe even garner a new agent out of the deal.  I think, ultimately, that is A) misleading and B) not what should be the driving impetus behind the work.  Although, frankly, that's what everyone does out here when offering a 'workshop.'

We decided instead to be a bit purist about the whole thing.  How about offering the workshop and make it all about the work?  Now there's a novel idea.  Often times actors in LA don't really want the 'work' aspect of a workshop.  What they really want is a connection with someone that can do something for them.  Which is entirely understandable.  This city, even more than Chicago or NY, really is all about who you know rather than what you know.  It's just a simple fact of the business.  In that way, it's like any other business, be it restaraunt work or temping or construction or whatever.  People would rather hire someone they know.  It's human nature.  So I certainly don't hold that against anyone.  I, myself, have been temtped now and again to take a class not because I needed the class but because John Doe of John Doe's A Level Casting will be in attendance.  It's not a bad thing, it just sort of underminds the reason for holding the class in the first place.

So we're going out on a limb here and advertising the class as being entirely about the craft of acting and expecting nothing in return in the way of job-hunting.  A lot of my students have already verbally committed.  After all, it's a hell of a lot cheaper than working with me one on one.  I charge $100 an hour to work with students privately.  The class will be six hours long, spread over two days, for only $300 total.  So a number of my students have jumped at that alone.

The theme I'm using is one I often hammer home to my private students.  And that is, "How do I become the most fascinating actor on stage?" Because in the final analysis that's what it's all about.  Too often the work becomes masterbatory and it's all about how the actor feels at any given time rather than the audience (thank you Mr. Strasberg, Mr. Meisner, Mr. Lewis, Miss Adler and Miss Hagen.).  For many years I've thought this all a bunch of futile if not outright selfish work.

The bottom line is no one gives a good rat's ass how the actor feels about his own work while he's 'in the moment.'  This is a gargantuan myth started by the early Method teachers and perpetrated over the past five decades by thousands of substandard teachers in academia.  The first few months I was in LA I attended a class (actually it was called a 'meeting' so as not to, I suppose, offend the actor in any way) in NoHo and at the end of every scene or monologue or whatever, all the 'facilitator' asked was, "How did that feel?"  Who cares how it felt?  The question should have been, "Did that work?"

Moriarty, when he was at the top of his game as a teacher, was wonderful in this regard.  Michael was always a positive reinforcer, which I completely adhere to as a teacher myself.  Upon finishing a new piece of work or a scene or an original piece of writing, Michael would often start with saying, "Let me tell you what worked for me" and then go on to say exactly that.  And coming from an actor who had made his bones like Michael already had, the comments carried a ton of weight.  Then, in a variety of phrasing, Michael would gently move into what didn't work for him.  There was never a sense of condescension on his part.  One would often hear phrases like, "Suppose you did it this way, let's see what would happen then..."  I remember one night Michael saying, "My opinion is no more valid than your opinion.  This may not be the only or best way to do this." Never once did I ever hear Michael refer to his room full of Tonys, Emmys, Golden Globes, SAG Awards, NY Film Critic Awards, LA Film Critic Awards or Obie Awards.  Not to mention his dozens of nominations for said awards.  He was a classy teacher.  I remember one of the first nights I attended his class and afterwards I approached him and said, "You know, I've been a fan of yours since I saw a move a long time ago called Summer Without Boys on televison."  Michael said, "Oh, wow, I haven't thought about that one for ten years or so.  I'd almost forgotten I made it."  Like I said, classy guy.

So Jim and I have this hare-brained idea of making the workshop about THE WORK.  The e-flyers actually say that, in fact.  Here is a part of one:


“The Most Fascinating Actor on Stage.”

A two-day, intensive workshop, 10am – 1:00pm, Saturday and Sunday.

November 6 and 7, 2010.

Screenland Studios, Burbank, California.

Master Class Teacher, award-winning playwright and Chicago Jeff Award winner Clifford Morts in association with veteran Broadway actor and Drama Desk, Drama League and Outer Critics nominee James Barbour will be holding a comprehensive, “nuts and bolts,” two-day-only workshop.

Limited enrollment, ten spots still available.

Cost: $300, two back-to-back, three hour classes. November 6 and 7, 2010.

Call 818 --- ---- to enroll now.

“This workshop is a throwback to my days as a private acting coach for a decade in Chicago. It’s about learning the nuts and bolts of a unique approach to the craft of acting. Let’s face it, there are thousands of really fine actors in the city of Los Angeles. And they all look exactly like you do, figuratively speaking. So what makes you the more interesting actor? It’s not complicated. It’s not about finding a more powerful truth than the next guy. It’s not about possessing a ‘secret trick.’ Sometimes, it is, granted, about looking exactly like what the director has in mind. But there’s nothing anyone can do about that, anyway. What it is about is being the most fascinating actor on stage. And that is far more attainable than one might think. Fascination is the key. And that’s what these two days are going to be about: making you the most fascinating actor on stage. I can guarantee these two days will change the way you view the craft of acting.

Although my colleague, James Barbour, is known for his work as a musical theatre artist, he has never approached musical theatre as such. He approaches each role, each song, each moment as an actor first. He treats every song as a short play, a monologue. His insight into musical theatre interpretation is second to no one working in this country today and his singular approach to the craft of acting has served him uncommonly well. It is hard to argue with success. And James is one of a handful of the most sought after Broadway leading performers today.

If you’re looking for pithy audition tips, what colors work best for you in an interview, what songs to sing to show off your range, what headshots to send to what agents…this is probably not a workshop in which you’d be interested. But if you want to discover something entirely new when approaching this craft, if you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and really work, this workshop might very well change your life.”

Clifford Morts and Tara Lynn Orr in PRAYING SMALL, NoHo Arts, Los Angeles

James Barbour on Broadway in A TALE OF TWO CITIES, New York
**********************************************************************************We're hoping for somewhere between twenty and twenty five students for the workshop.  Any more than that would make it too difficult to offer the necessary attention.

The emails will go out later this week and we will see what we will see.

A while back I stopped teaching larger classes.  I was in Chicago then and had my own private studio and after a bit simply decided I couldn't give enough one-on-one time to students in a large class environment.  I enjoyed doing it for the most part but I began to suspect students were feeling short-changed.  So I stopped.  When I teach I tend to get very passionate and focused.  I have difficulty letting something go until it's just right, until it's fascinating and eccentric and unpredictable and full of unexpected choices.  And that sometimes takes a while to do.  So many times in a large class situation I would find myself concentrating solely on one scene or one monologue for far too much time.  I couldn't help myself.  And that, eventually, led to my only working privately with students.  So this will be my first actual large class foray in about three years.  I'm looking forward to it.

A thousand errands to run today, a written syllabus for the workshop, choosing scenes for the students, the mandatory call to my agents and a long walk with the old ball and chain (smiling, smiling) and Franny and Zooey.  Another good day.  They're all good days.  All of them.  We make them good days.  We drive the boat.  That's a good lesson to learn in life AND on stage.

See you tomorrow.



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