It really is sort of amazing how much facial hair and hairstyles can completely change how you look. Also, he's an actor, so I think he just naturally has that "chameleon" thing that so many actors do. In any event, this was the fellow who was teaching the class.
Now, generally, when I hear the word "improv" I start grinding my teeth and looking for the nearest exit. Improv, it always seemed to me, attracted the most attention seeking "LOOK AT ME!!!" kind of thespians. Those that are the most in need of being in the spotlight. The show-offs, right? Like that show Whose Line Is It Anyways? I would rather swallow a handful of thumbtacks than watch that show. When I lived in Los Angeles people were always enthusing over The Groundlings. "Oh, The Groundlings, this" and "The Groundlings that" and "Oh, have you auditioned for The Groundlings?" "They don't let just anyone in you know!" The Groundlings could go eat my--shorts, as far as I was concerned.
Needless to say, I was never in an improv class. Until yesterday that is. And I didn't want to do it. Really. I really didn't. But I'm glad I did.
And I'll tell you why...
So, I have a bit of a reputation for being late. I know it's not cool. I know other actors frown upon it. "You're being late to rehearsal is a sign of disrespect for everyone else! You're sending the message that your time is more important..." And so on and so on. I'm never really more than fifteen minutes late. And it's not always. But once I'm there I will rehearse my ass off for you. I will give you my all. I will know my lines (by opening night, anyways) and I will work with other actors. Even actors who think they're better; the ones who may even be openly antagonistic or passive/aggressive. Those types fascinate me. They also make me a better actor. Sometimes you have to act around those people: it's a challenge. Those people, ironically, bring out my milk of human kindness (ewww).
So, when I first met the director, Nancy, at her house at the lake, I literally ended up at the lakeside. The road I was on finally ran out.
So, when I finally arrived, I was escorted down to the basement of the house. It was quite a large space and I believe it's going to be where most of the rehearsal are taking place. Matt was seated on a sofa facing the cast who were seated in a semi-circle. It was a, shall we say, mature cast, as I had expected it would be. But then, I'm no Spring chicken. I'm 56 and most of the rest of the players skewed about ten years older than me. One person is probably half my age. Wendy, who is playing my wife in the play is about the same age as me, as is (I'm guessing) Matt.
As I entered and sat down the class was in progress and Matt was going over some of the basic tenets of improv and acting in general. With a focus on Meisner techniques: e.g. repetition and improvisation.
So, we finally moved on to actual, classic improv scenes, where Matt provided the suggestion and then pairs of actors took it from there. It was fascinating to watch. Really interesting to see who excelled at it and who sort of had The Cinderella Complex. One of the suggestions was: "You're the CEO of a TV news station and you're firing your anchor because she slept with your son...and go..." So, the gentleman playing the CEO was a natural. He immediately started spinning this elaborate scenario of what happened between his son and the anchorwoman. It was also hilarious. During the initial exercises, however, he had been having the most problems and seemed the most closed off. Which kind of made me think about the idea of teaching acting. Is it really something that can be taught? Or do you just either have the talent or you don't? And things like Meisner and The Method and Improvisation are really just pointers?
So, I was paired with a woman (not "Monica" this time!) and Matt took me aside and whispered the prompt. "You can't contain you guilt any longer and confess to her that you were the one that stabbed her cat..."
So, I walked over and told her that I'd killed her cat and then she demanded to know why I did it. And it spiraled out from there. I hated cats, you see, I was compelled to stab the cat and leave it on the driveway. She was going to call the police and I told her that she couldn't. She wanted to know why. "Because I'm your son!" I cried. And then I started wondering to myself, being a cat lover, why I would ever stab a cat. Because they haunt my dreams, you see, like some demon cat from a Poe story. One that keeps meowing and meowing! That devil cat that must be silenced!!!
Anyways, I play much of the show not being able to hear anything, so there's a lot of misunderstanding what people are saying bits. There is also a two-page speech towards the end of the show, which, thankfully, I do not have to deliver.
So, tonight we're blocking the first scene. I hate blocking right out of the gate. I have a terrible short term memory. Oh well.
I'll keep you posted with further developments.
Ciao for now.