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Acting Class Los Angeles: Andrew Wood Acting Studio

The relevant discussion begins at about 12:00.

A couple of interesting things here.  First of all, Lacy’s insight that “the funniest thing is the truest thing.”  Someone once remarked that “comedy is serious business.”  What I take that to mean is that the humor is found through the deepest possible commitment to the given circumstances.  By taking the character’s situation to heart as seriously as possible, the actor finds the humor.  This recalls for me an earlier post I did on something Michael McKean of Better Call Saul said:

I don’t think that a comedy performance—You know, it’s essentially the same job, no matter what. You find out what your character wants and then you go for it. That’s really how to do anything. They’re just going to write more jokes for you if it’s a comedy.

Finding out what your character wants emerges from the given circumstances, so it all comes back to those.

The other thing is in reference to Lacy talking about

the honesty of someone seeing something they didn’t think they’d see and not knowing what to do and just being like– ahhhhh!

This reminds me of something I read recently in Isaac Butler’s book The Method How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act. Butler was talking about one of Stanislavsky’s associates, Vakhtangov, and the classes he taught in the wake of Stanislavsky’s creation of “the System”.  Butler says that Vakhtangov’s classes centered on “focus, relaxation, and naivete”.  The mention of naivete caught my eye.  Lacy is talking about someone encountering something surprising and being genuinely disarmed by it.  This is a challenging thing to achieve, as when we work on a script, we know what is going to happen in the scene.  Yet somehow we must be genuinely surprised by surprising developments.  I often find myself asking actors to allow themselves to be more surprised by something someone says. and I think this is because the foreknowledge that comes with having read the script is often more difficult to overcome than might be expected.  So the actor needs this naivete, this ability to “not know” what is going to happen next.  This in turn puts me in mind of the book Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind, or the teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn of the Kwan Um School of Zen, who taught the importance of cultivating what he called “don’t know” mind.  When we “know”, we close ourselves off to the reality of what is happening.  The actor needs this ability to “not know” in order to stay truly open to the moment.