I went to see a movie at Frameline, the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival here ins San Francisco, this weekend. The movie was called Boy Culture, and was directed by the same director who had made a film thst I saw last year, called Eating Out. Eating Out was uneven, but had some marvelously funny dialogue, not to mention some very strong acting. The leading woman in it, Emily Brook Hands, was particularly strong. She was also in this movie, Boy Culture, albeit in a much smaller role, but nevertheless probably the most memorable performance. But she was there in person, and appeared in a talkback afterwards. After the talkback, I approached her, eager to enthuse about her work and ask her where she had trained. She responded that she had grown up in Kansas, and had done musical theater all her life as a kid. Then she took some classes at the University of Kansas, and then after that, she had moved to L.A.. She mentioned the names of a couple of people she had studied with there, who weren’t familiar to me, so I asked her what kind of stuff they taught in their classes. She said that they did a lot of clown work, very physical in approach. She said she also did a lot of “scene work” as well. I thought it was so interesting that she emphasized the importance of her clown work in her training, and that she had stood out so strongly. For those of you who read my earlier post, “film actors take note”, you remember that the jist of it was that another actor had stood out to me in a movie, and when I looked into his background a little bit, I discovered that he had done a lot of very intensive physical training as well.
All of this to say: actors of all stripes, GET SOME PHYSICAL TRAINING! There are lots of ways to go: yoga, T’ai-Chi, capoeira (see the resources page of utteracting.com to read about this one), Pilates, Alexander, Feldenkrais, modern dance whatever. But it’s so important to do something. I teach an approach that begins with from things like “internal” stuff, for lack of a better word, but the goal is to articulate a way of looking at our characters and scenes that activates us viscerally, at the cellular level, as a teacher of mine used to say. Everybody associates “emotion” with acting, and of course it is somehow important, but what is fundamental is that in the end acting is a mind-body trick. Think Black Mamba’s mountaintop training regimen from Kill Bill. It is this kind of training in focus and responsiveness that really makes somebody stand out as an actor. We’ve all lived and suffered, we all have those emotional wellsprings to draw on but what we need is turn-on-a-dime kind of alertness, agility and strength. There is nothing like rigrous physical training to develop this.