5/9/2018 Advanced Class Recap: Getting the Ball Rolling

And we’re off and running! How quaint – a little bit of horse clipart, to set the tone!

So we had our first Advanced Acting Class together, and I had a wonderful time, as I hope you did as well. 

After making my way through my backstory, we talked about my decision to, in short, teach the type of class I’d always wished I could have found somewhere. I’d tried Method, Meisner and Spolin at length, and dabbled in a couple of others at various workshops and events, but many others were a complete mystery to me, and I’d often wondered what they all were, and how they differed, and what each approach brought to the table, as far as craft. In preparing to teach this class with you all, I discovered that they were all fascinating to me — especially Konstantin Stanislavski himself, and the impact he had on the landscape of Western Theater.

I decided we’d learn about them all: Stanislavsky, Chekov, Adler, Meisner, Strassberg, Hagen, Spolin, Mamet and Chubbuck, to name the major ones. We’ll discuss them all and dabble with the exercises that each of the methods endorse, in an effort to discover which work best for each of you, whether stage or screen.

They all try to address the same issue: How to give an effective performance. And at the heart of each approach seems to be the issue of “What to do with YOU.” As in you, the person you are in your day-to-day life. How much of YOU should you bring into your character work? Strassberg says ALL OF IT, while Adler says NONE OF IT. Others advocate places in between.

I happen to believe that YOU are a character you’ve been working on for your entire life, and that you’d be foolish to set yourself aside and start every character from scratch — especially at this comparatively-early stage in your careers. I say that, for now, you should start every character as YOU, and tweak and modify it until it fits what the script and the director require. This will ensure that the foundation of your character is ALIVE and ACTIVE, and that you aren’t trying to layer a character over an empty core.

Stanislavsky advocated a balance between the INNER work an actor must do, and the OUTER work. Swinging too far into either direction will cause problems, which will undermine (or even thwart altogether) your performance.


We passed out random monologues from my exhaustive monologue collection, with instructions to learn them without any “work” done to them, so you can come in and perform them as yourself. Again, this is not to say that each of your monologues will work best as yourself – it’s merely the foundational step, to ensure that as we layer work on top of the piece, it is added to a living foundation.

I then had you each sit in a chair, and I recorded you chatting about something that happened to you recently, with instructions to ignore everyone else in the room, and ignore the camera and just talk. The purpose was to let you see yourself as close to YOU as possible, with all of the wonderful little nuances and expressions that your face makes when you’re relaxed and not “performing”.

Unfortunately, the final footage was too blurry and low-res to be of any real use, so I had to scrap my plan to get the footage to you. I have another approach planned, which I will discuss with you all next class.

We then watched this Nerdwriter video essay on Sir Anthony Hopkins’ work in Westworld…

There’s so much good craft stuff online, I can’t wait to share it with you all, either in class or here on the blog.

We then received scenes from the 2012 independent film Frances Ha (dir. Noah Baumbach) and had a little time to work on them with our partners, with the focus being relaxed discussion, slipping the lines in as we chat. The goal being pleasant, relaxed conversation, with someone else’s lines delivered as YOU.

My “Rules”:

1. Relax
2. Have Fun
3. Be Yourself
4. Do the Work

The class ended with a reading of the Coach’s Notes, and a rather tense discussion on the concept of actors working for free. I may have to clarify a few things on this topic again in the near future, since I believe my opinions on the issue were colored by my own experiences, and therefore might have caused unnecessary confusion.


Our Next Class on 5/16 – SNEAK PEEK

  • Talk in more detail about what to do if you’re onstage and you stumble.
  • Group Game: Find the Leader (Viola Spolin)
  • Video Study: Several clips contrasting actor’s styles within the same clips (Game of Thrones, Inglourious Basterds, etc)
  • Monologues “as you”, which we will tape, and add a choice for next week.
  • Brief Discussion on Objectives.
  • Intro to Konstantin Stanislavsky and the formation of the Group Theater.
  • Chekov “Presence” Exercises (if time permits)
  • Scene work on Frances Ha

Depending on how the Frances Ha scenes go, we may keep them and build upon them (as with the monologues), or I’ll give you new scenes and partners.

Hope to see you all there!

David Wagner
AWS Staff

Here’s another Nerdwriter video essay on delivering dialog…

By |2018-06-07T10:28:02-07:00May 10th, 2018|Advanced Acting Blog|