Andrew Wood, MFA, Yale School of Drama • Call Today To Schedule a Free Informational Session With Andrew Wood! (323) 836-2176

putting points on the board

AWAS alumni have been doing some incredible things lately.  Here are some of them:

drawing the bow

luczniczka-904030_640I was meeting a prospective student for coffee the other day, like I do, and I was describing how the scene study portion of the class works.  I was explaining that the first time a pair puts a scene up, I ask each actor a lot of questions, to prompt them to speak from the character’s point of view about the charater’s situation in the scene.  I do this to hear the actor talk about how she has framed the scene for herself, so that I can help them see how framing the scene in another way could be a stronger way of approaching it.  It’s an absolutely vital part of the process.  In the course of this dialogue, things like judgments about the character that the actor may be harboring come to light, judgments which interfere with the actor’s ability to fully enter the character’s situation and fight her fight for keeps.

The prospective student was nodding his head, and then he said something.

“Drawing the bow.”

I looked at him blankly.  I hadn’t even understood the words that he had uttered, let alone what they could mean.

“What?”

“It’s like drawing the bow.”

I stared at him blankly.  What on earth could he be saying?

Then he made a gesture like he was pulling back the string of a bow, preparing to fire an arrow.  In a flash, I knew what he meant.  And I knew that he knew what I meant.

Getting a clear understanding of the circumstances that brought a character to a certain situation (the scene), and what the character wants to see happen in the scene, are integral to being able to play the scene effectively.   In the questioning process I described in class, it often is revealed that the actor has only a superficial grasp of these things.

But even beyond the circumstances themselves, there is the question of whether the actor has found a way to view those circumstances in a way that is urgent or “hot”, as we say in the class.  This urgency is vital for going all in on fighting the character’s fight, and getting his visceral need met.  If you see the situation as a ho-hum, everyday situation, you’re not going to be bringing much passion, or much core vulnerability, to his fight.

In the Essentials Workshop, I teach a framework called the Five Questions that is invaluable in focusing this process of extracting information about a character from the script and framing it so that the fight seems like one that urgently needs to be fought.

This whole process is about getting calibrated appropriately, so that your acting energies are aiming at the right things, and you’re not wasting your mojo and spinning your wheels.  And since it’s about aiming at the right things, “drawing the bow” is a perfect metaphor for this process.  It’s the action of pulling the bow back that makes the momentum and the flight of the arrow possible.  So while this process of working through the circumstances and arriving at clear, compelling framing takes a lot of challenging thinking, and can feel laborious at times, it’s work that is well worth the effort, so that you’re not giving away your shot.

This prospective student ended up signing up.  It’s wonderful to have such insightful students.

FAQ: Do you teach audition technique?

New to the AWAS FAQ:

Do you teach audition technique?

 

Can you imagine an athlete trying out for a team and using a special “audition technique” during the try-out? What about a musician trying out for a band or an orchestra? Would they use an “audition technique”? Of course not. Audition technique is hogwash. An audition is an opportunity to show off your chops as an actor, not as an auditioner. The way to be a strong auditioner is to become a confident, skilled actor. So-called “audition technique” classes are chock full of cliched sage pronouncements like “Own your audition!” and “Make strong choices!” and “Show your range!” The projects you want to be a part of are the ones where the gatekeepers actually have a discerning eye for what good acting is, because those are the projects that will be successful, by and large. They are not going to be fooled by any “audition technique”. They want to see the real deal. Which is why you want to be in the class that will help you develop real skill. Like this one.

faq: what else should I know?

I just recently added the following to the FAQ page of my web site. Thought you’d want to know.

What else should I know?

This is a class that takes you and your potential seriously. VERY seriously. It’s not a class full of preliminary exercises about getting in touch with yourself or feeling less inhibited. It’s a class that teaches a framework for becoming a true student of a script, for patiently discovering and extracting the details that will place you in touch with the pulsing heart of the role. And it teaches you a process and a set of tools and distinctions to support you in translating what you learn as a student of the script into action in a scene.

The class presents a COMPREHENSIVE approach. It’s not one class in a sequence of four, all of which you need to be able to act. The whole appraoch is laid out in ten weeks. But this means that the course is dense: a lot of material is presented every week, and it’s important that you take responsibility for making sure that the informaation offered to you becomes knowledge and understanding. So this will mean STUDYING. It will mean WORKING. It will mean accepting structure. It will mean APPLYING YOURSELF. It will mean PATIENCE with not understanding everything immediately. It will mean accepting and ultimately embracing COMPLEXITY (telling stories is principally a way of contending with the complexity of life). It will mean forging resolve and staying true to a purpose. It will mean continuing to work when you no longer feel like it. It will mean getting to class when you’d rather take a night off. It will mean coming through for your scene partner. It will mean being held accountable. It will require GRIT.

Best of this Blog: 2014

This is ordinarily the kind of thing I would publish at the beginning of the year. But I got sucked into…something.

So, better late than never. Actually, there was quite a lot of good content in 2014. (Which means I’d better get cracking for this year!) But here, in my humble opinion, are the highlights from last year:

fan mail

Andrew,

thank you so much, I sincerely appreciate this feedback, especially when it’s written out like this. Sorry for the slow reply; I actually saw this email the other day and worked on some of the notes last nite in rehearsal with Lauren.

I was also auditioning today and after a couple takes, the director asked if I could maintain eye contact with my scene partner during a certain portion, which wasn’t getting a laugh previously. Then when I did, it got a big laugh, and it made me think of the scene and the notes you’d given me in class last week about committing to receiving off my partner. In general, I feel like I can decipher director’s notes much more quickly after having studied with you now, and it’s absolutely paid off. It felt great, it’s just very satisfying to see so many things you teach pop up in those moments, and how they help facilitate both the understanding of what’s being asked, and then how to execute it. Anyhow, I just wanted to say thank you again, I really feel like you’ve helped me so much in the short time I’ve been with you!

Steve

this is a test

Are you ready?

Are you ready to learn that being excited about getting up in front of people does not, by itself, make you interesting to watch?

Are you ready to read all assignments for the dates when they are assigned, and read them not just once, but until you feel that you have an understanding of what they say? Are you willing to take responsibility for finding all the texts in question, even when it takes some work to do so?

Are you ready to listen to lectures?

Are you ready to learn a framework for studying a script, a robust framework, a framework that is not a set of blanks to be filled in, like a tax form, but a series of prompts for imaginative exploration?

Are you ready to learn about objectives? Underlying objectives and plot objectives? Physical plot objectives and psychological plot objectives and psychophysical plot objectives, and what the differences are? Not just to hear these distinctions once, but to study them, master them, so that you understand the criteria involved, are FLUENT in the criteria involved, so that you can actually use them in your work, they are not just some words you wrote in your notebook one time?

Are you ready study a script fastidiously, obsessively, extracting information about your character and her world, rearranging that information so that you can view it from a first person perspective, filling in the the gaps left by the script, so that you can genuinely feel that you have some sense of who the person is you purport to be playing?

Are you ready to have the holes in your preparation exposed in front of the class?

(more…)

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