Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: actors

Improv for Actors

Dear Cape Town actors, I am seriously considering running once a week masterclasses in improv, specifically for actors, but I need to ask you outright whether you would come, and whether you would make it a regular thing? Is this something you think you need, or would benefit from?

My vision is that we would work in monthly modules. For example, we would do four sessions on being present, four sessions on improvising a character and character work, four sessions on status and relationships, and so on, pretty much ad infinitum.

I am also open to the possibility of focussing on what you as actors need from these sessions. I know that there is always a request for improv as an audition tool.

Improv is my big love, and I have seen how it has helped me, both on and off stage. Aside from the delight of performing improv, I also adore sharing the love as a facilitator and improv teacher.

Who is keen? Be honest here, is there a need? Would you come? Should I find a venue and propose a time? I would try and make attendance at these classes really cheap and accessible, so what would be an affordable price? What would be a good day (or evening, or morning)? How much would you spend on weekly classes? How long should a class be?

I would love to get your feedback before I source a venue and put in the work. Let me know by sending me your contact details in an email at megan@improvision.co.za

 

Why they say actors are like herding cats

220px-Sarah_Bernhardt_as_Theodora_by_NadarI think actors have only two states in their real lives, when they aren’t pretending to be someone else. One is a state of arrogance. This is when an actor has a job. It doesn’t really matter what the job is, only that they have it, and one better, that they took it away from somebody else. This arrogance gives them the right to take on other work at the exact same time, mess the director/producer around with dates, be demanding about everything to do with the job, ask the other actors on the job how much they are getting, and generally behave like the most indispensable commodity in the world.

The second state is the opposite. It is desperation. Most actors try and hide that they are in this state. It is the state just before the job, when the job is the most badly wanted thing. Suddenly the actor is polite, on time, has airtime to phone you and confirm things, makes a plan, reads the brief, asks questions, says yes to shit money, and shares with you how long they have waited to work with you. This state either continues, when the actor doesn’t get the job, or immediately flips into arrogance when the actor does get the job.

This is why SAGA (the actors’ union in SA) struggles for membership. Actors in their desperate state don’t have money for subs. Actors in their arrogant state feel invincible. Nothing will go wrong for them! Actors will criticise a producer and swear never to work for them and their shit money, all the way to the audition, and then agree to to the shit money and take the job when others before them swore that nobody would work for that money and those conditions. Actors will take jobs away from others by accepting less pay, and then be so hurt when the scumbags take them for a ride. Actors will cry foul after accepting shit work and shit money and won’t understand why they can’t get the support from others in the industry, even when they aren’t union members, and even when others have warned them that they have been there before, and the guy employing is a psycho and a cheat. Actors always complain bitterly when the job falls through, and call you to commiserate, even though you could have warned them, after they accepted the job that you walked away from, that it wasn’t going to work.

Actors are either or. And they have absolutely no loyalty, yet demand it from everyone around them. Imagine a producer or director offering a job to someone and then suddenly changing their mind and dropping the one and choosing someone else. I have never seen that happen. On the other hand, I have seen many actors accept work with enormous gratitude, only to turn it down days before it happens because something better came along, leaving the entire production in the lurch.

Actors. Can’t live with them, can’t kill them and get away with it.

*I write this from the perspective of trying to secure a cast for a project. When I am an actor I will behave in the exact manner described above.

A weekend of Theatre

A cat stomping on my head is what forced me awake this morning when I should still be sleeping. I got home late (for me) last night and today is the final day of Directors and Directing. Yesterday was long, intense and crazy, with that heightened reality of Grahamstown festival about it. First was the panel discussion of directors about their ‘signature’. Then it was ‘From the Trenches’, a panel discussion by actors about directors. What was very interesting for me is that, in general, I’d rather see the work directors and actors make than listen to them talk about it. Directors are mostly convoluted and obscure when trying to explain what it is that they do, and actors are mostly inarticulate without a character and direction.

The rest of the day was dedicated to the watching of plays. Three of them. We watched The Mechanicals Lie of the Mind first. Then, we went on huge Jammie Shuttle busses to The Theatre Arts Admin Collective for Capturing Sanity, which is the emerging director’s bursary production directed by Pusetso Thibedi, and then it was back on the bus to The Fugard for Fred Abrahamse’s R & J.

The most interesting part of yesterday happened in the conversations I had in the corridors, foyers, parking lots and stairwells. I spoke to playwrights, critics, directors, actors, teachers and friends. Everybody had a passionate point of view. Everybody was excited or exploding about one thing or another. And that’s the whole point.

I am grateful that today has a bit of a later start. My head is crashingly full, and I need to walk the dog with Big Friendly. I need a moment of real life perspective before the world of theatre takes me in.

Jay Pather has managed to turn a monster three day theatre event into a delicious, well oiled learning machine.

Inspiration and admiration

A chance meeting with a talented Cape Town actor at my fave Gardens Centre has filled me with inspiration, admiration and maximum respect. I don’t know if he would want me to name him here (I’ll wait to see if he gives me that permission) so we’ll call him Actor. He was looking gorgeous; sparkling, clean shaven, and full of beans and I asked him what he was up to. He told me that tomorrow he would be graduating from Butler school. He has been in intensive training for eight weeks. I found this totally extraordinary.

Most actors are totally ego driven and pre-occupied; it goes with the territory. Puppeteers experience things very differently because they have to forget about themselves and invest everything in their inanimate creation, giving it life. Improvisers also have to let go of their ego and agendas because they have to work with each other. But being a butler is the ultimate in service and ego free work. Everything you do is for someone else. And I can’t imagine what an unbelievable experience it must be to do that.

I think Actor has made a brave, humbling, interesting choice. But more importantly, he has gotten off his bum, put big money where other normal out-of-work actor moaning would be, and he has embarked on another really interesting work-creating journey. Of course, the director in me is already thinking of the one-man play this experience could spawn. And I can’t wait.

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