Los Angeles vs. New York Acting Classes
I was early for my plane! Please applaud, as I can’t remember the last time that happened!
Then I took the wrong bus from LAX and ended up going almost all the way to UCLA. On the upside, I found a new, free museum, the Hammer, with graffiti and swivel top chairs. I couldn’t take proper picture of them, but they were amusing.
On the downside, I was slightly late for my Meetup acting class with Peter Valentino at 2 p.m., but all it meant that I didn’t really know what I was doing when we started off with an improv exercise called, “Yes, and…” You take turns talking, and adding and building on whatever the previous person said. Bryce ended up telling me I was a drug addict and alcoholic in our scene. I said, “Yes, and you must be mistaking me for somebody else,” which turns out against the rules. You’re not allowed to contradict the other person. Who knew?
Peter handed me a binder full of female-female scripts, and I got to choose which script to do with a funny, charming actor named Tina, which was awesome. I liked the comedy of Bridesmaids, but ended up choosing Sense and Sensibility, to challenge us. Peter advised us to lower our voices and stop declaiming, because he was teaching for film, not theatre. He wanted us to add more emotion, because the language is formal, but the emotions are universal. It was harder than I thought.
Later, I acted with a French former dancer/choreographer named Christine, a scene where she had a crush on a radio DJ, but I was the sister who had slept with him. Peter asked me to make it more sexual, so I loosened up my body language and played with my hair. “Oh, Melissa!” called one of the actors watching.
I enjoyed watching the other actors, especially when they showed off their versatility. Emmanuel Fortune played Jerry Seinfeld, then an affectionate boyfriend, then a businessman. Joe Allyn Fick and Bryce Harrison swapped roles in one scene, which I’d secretly wanted them to do, and I learned from how they interpreted and re-interpreted their roles. Cade called himself a screenwriter instead of an actor, but he definitely held his own. I wanted to get to know Tina better, both as an actor and as a person, but she left early.
Peter and I talked afterward, practicing reading my short story, “Because” and playing “Yes, and…” He said he could tell I was intelligent (and that was before I’d mentioned I was a doctor!), so we could work on bringing up my emotion. I already have the imagination, and I take direction well.
It was funny, because I’ve only ever worked with one other acting teacher, but I saw a difference between the two coasts in my sample size of two. I don’t know if it’s an East Coast/West Coast thing, but
NYC: cold reading with three pairs doing one run-through each. At the end, the theatre had to vote on their favourite actor. Guess who got zero votes?
LA: everyone acted several times. No votes. Peter said, “I build a collaborative environment. Competition will happen on its own, especially between actors of the same sex.”
NYC: free the first time, but then it was $300 per month or $75 per class (4.5 hour weekly class)
LA: $10 first class, $30 afterward (3 h class)
NYC: language is king. Don’t change a word of the script or Edward Albee’s ghost will swoop down to haunt you.
LA: Peter: did you add the F word in there?
Bryce: Yeah. It helped me get more into the role.
NYC: project your voice to the back of the theatre. Otherwise, no one can hear you.
LA: film is life. Look at the person you’re talking to, and lower your volume.
NYC: hustle or die
LA: busy but a more relaxed vibe. They were happy that I was a finalist for the Roswell award and surprised that I wasn’t an actor who’d moved here (“But you’re so good!” said Bryce). Joe and Emmanuel are coming to the ceremony, along with me and John and Kevin. (I know, I’m surrounded by guys. Just worked out that way.)
I should add that people in NYC are also surprisingly friendly, but you know they’re constantly working. Elizabeth Gilbert said that NYC can be summed up as ACHIEVE and LA is SUCCEED. I always thought I was more NYC, but LA is growing on me.
I feel good in art towns with tons to do every day and night. It’s just too bad that I’m drawn to some of the most expensive places on earth.
At 8 p.m., I headed to the Acme theatre for Program A of Sci-Fest LA. David Dean Bottrell greeted me at the door. I recognized Baby, the monster hanging over the red carpet. I recognized two more actors and the theatre owner. It’s amazing how fast you can start building a community—not that I’m suddenly BFF with a monster costume, but it’s cool. I’ll talk more about the Sci-Fest LA tomorrow. I’m about to head down for Program B!