Monday, November 17, 2014

The Best Lesson

I had one of those on Friday.  One of those classes where I was firing on all cylinders; the students were focused and making everything happen just as I planned.  Always a good feeling.  Makes me proud that after 23 years in front of the classroom, I can still bring it.  Here's how it went down.

I started the group with warmups.  It's always a good idea to breathe and stretch before you do anything.  Clears the mind, relaxes the body.  We did a few exercises for energy.  Passing an imaginary ball around an imaginary track.  Stealing each other's spot in the circle.  Moving in the space.  Filling the space.  Creating our own worlds.  What I'm best at.  Then we partnered up.  Had the students discuss the key elements of the lesson before a group review.  Objectives, Motivation, Obstacles, Tactics, Status, Subtext.  These are the things that make actors tick.  You gotta know what you want.  Why you want it.  Know what's in your way and how the fuck to get around it.  We did a water bottle demonstration to emphasize the point.  Blindfolded a couple of students and had them crawl around for it.  Create their own circumstances.  Who are you?  Where are you?  Why do you want what you're after?  Simple but effective.  Engaging and fun.  Especially when one of the students kept smacking the bottle away from herself.  That happens so often in life, doesn't it?  We're always pushing what we want just beyond our reach.

Then things got real.  Today, when I asked the students what their favorite part of the lesson was, that's how one girl described it.  When things got real.  I faced off the partners and told them to pursue two specific objectives.  First, get your partner to face the truth.  Then make her take a risk.  Then do both at the same time.  The trick here is to talk to your partner as if she's someone you really know.  As if she's someone you're really trying to make face the facts or take a chance.  Stepped up everyone's game.  You wouldn't believe the fucking energy in the room.  Gave me chills.  And this is a first-year acting group!  They were amazing!  Laughter, tears, silence, noise.  Every response you could ask for.

We wrapped up with a few improv games before closure.  I told them that they had given me exactly what I wanted.  Then asked what they'd learned about themselves.  Sum it up in one key word.  That's all they got.  Every student had an answer.  Perfect.  For the record, I borrowed from Stanislavski, Spolin, Meisner, Tom McNally, Hope Love, and every other acting coach I've ever had.  No one person makes this shit up.  The point is this.  If you're a teacher, use what works.  Take this fucking lesson from me!  Own it.  You need to know you can make a difference.  Fuck all the other bullshit.

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