Thursday, 12 October 2017

Stories from the Summer Theatre Intensive: Sharpening Your Actor’s Tool Kit

by Michelle Cho

As a newbie, I was nervous about registering for “Sharpening Your Actor’s Tool Kit.” It was a course pitched to experienced actors and frankly, I had no ‘tool kit’ so nothing to sharpen. But after some back and forth with the lovely Rachel Kennedy, she convinced me that Tom Diamond was well-equipped to work with actors of varying levels. I was still a bit skeptical but when I learned it was going to be a small class, I decided to stick to my guns and just go for it. I'm so glad I did.

Tom asked his participants to come prepared to do a couple monologues. I admit, when I stood up to do mine I really had no clue what I was doing. I was shaking in my boots. I spewed out lines that I memorized. I didn’t know where to look…the wall, the audience? I never really thought about whom I was talking to.  What fourth wall?

By the end of Day 1, I learned that acting isn’t about memorizing lines. It’s about ideas, notions and investigating them. Asking questions like: Who am I? Where am I? What’s going on? What do I want? Or what’s my intention?

"Sharpening Your Actor's Tool Kit"
Over the course of the week, Tom helped the six of us explore those ideas through scene study work, improvisation, script analysis and working and re-working our monologues. Of course an honest day’s work didn’t begin without a good game of Twizzle (another great reason to take Tom’s course!)

It's now been more than a month since taking Tom’s workshop and I want to say that everything I learned in his class stuck with me, but I’d be lying. 

Do I always remember to act as though everything’s happening right now? No. Will I remember what I said that had my classmates laughing in an improv scene? Probably not. How ever did I pull off that southern accent while playing Mrs. Wire in Tennessee Williams’ The Lady of Larkspur Lotion? Dunno.

What has stuck and is something I find incredibly useful—not just in acting but in my every day life—is the ability to re-frame the idea of nervousness. Tom encouraged us to learn to embrace our ‘butterflies’, putting a positive spin on it. He calls this ‘life force’ and told us to make it work for you. Don't try to run from it or get rid of it. Use it. Become acquainted with that energy. Be its friend. That 'life force' can be so vibrant and alive.

The other day I could feel the butterflies starting to well up in my belly before an audition. I looked down at my stomach and said, “Oh, there you are” and smiled.

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1 comment:

  1. Well written and authentic. Glad you had a great time in Stratford and learned lots. Hope to see you next year.