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Putting On My Mask @ South Coast Rep’s Acting Program

It has been 30 years since my last acting class.  Decades ago I was moving up in the acting community, but when kids came into the picture my priorities changed.  Over the years I’ve been asked to perform, but as a divorced mom it didn’t feel right to take that much time away from my young family.  Now, while I still feel family comes first, there comes a time when a parent must take care of themselves in order to be the best parent possible….kind of like putting the oxygen mask on first, then helping your child.  Lately I’ve been feeling like it’s time to put on my own oxygen mask and do a little something that’ll make me a happier, more fulfilled person, and ultimately a better parent.  So for one night a week I’ve decided to return to the acting classroom and immerse myself in the art of  Advanced Scene Study at South Coast Repertory, where there’s a treasure trove of theater classes for children and adults right at our finger tips.

Scene One

I walked into the classroom across the wooden floor and took a seat. In college I’d sit up front – eager and wide eyed, anticipating the chance to jump up and show off participate. Now I sit in the back, observing the chemistry of the room. Filled with students of all ages, they talk with their assigned scene partners as class gets ready to start.  I joined the 8 week class a week late, so some are ready to go up and start working.

The thing about a good acting class is even if you’re not on stage you’re still actively learning by observing what’s happening on stage and listening to the advice of the instructor.  Taught by Matthew Arkin, who instructs using the principals he learned from theater legend Uta Hagen at the HB Studio in New York, the eight week program is designed to help the student let go of acting habits and start fresh, considering other choices.  The first rule of fight club acting class is to not jump in all gung-ho like Walker, Texas Ranger, making big choices right off the bat.  The first exercise is to read the script. Just that.  The playwright chose those words, agonized over those words, revising and improving them for the perfect effect.   The actor’s job is to bring those words to life.

Just sitting and observing the first class was a powerful evening.  Watching fellow actors create and a passionate teacher guide was a motivating experience and I knew I’d get a workout when my scene went up.

While preparing the scene the actor’s goal is to let go of pretending to be somebody else.  Don’t show the acting. Just say the words – be the character, alive in that moment. It’s hard, but revealing that life on stage is the ultimate experience.

Let me tell you, this is not an easy task.  I was assigned a scene from the play Two Rooms by Lee Bessing. The story of a man kidnapped in Beirut and his wife who holds vigil back home.  I was cast as the government official who tries to convince the wife to keep quiet about her husband’s kidnapping.  At times I felt I was able to let go and allow the character to be revealed. Other times I caught myself falling back on old habits.  Arkin encouraged us to settle in and allow the spoken words to reveal the character.  When I succeed, the scene was much more powerful. Looking back, I can see where my best portrayal happened in the hallway during a final rehearsal rather than in front of the class.  I was relaxed and focused.

I will use this new found insight as I start working on my second scene. Lesson learned.  The other lesson learned?  It’s good to put my oxygen mask on first.


Coming soon….(Advanced Scene Study, Scene Two)

 For more information or to enroll in classes at SCR, please call at 714-708-5577

Adult Acting Classes:

Fundamentals of Acting: Act I Basic Skills
Mondays, 7 – 10pm, September 17 – November 5, 2012
Tuesdays, 7-10pm, September 18 – November 6, 2012

Fundamentals of Acting: Act II Scene Study
Tuesdays, 7 – 10pm, September 18 – November 6, 2012

Fundamentals of Acting: Act III Advanced Scene Study
Tuesdays, 7-10pm, September 18 – November 6, 2012

Actors Workshop
Mondays, 7-10pm, September 17 – November 5, 2012

Improvisation I
Tuesdays, 7-10pm, September 18 – November 6, 2012

Advanced Improvisation
Wednesdays, 7-10pm, September 19 – November 7, 2012

Musical Theatre
Mondays, 7-10pm, September 17 – November 5, 2012.

Children’s Acting Classes:

Session One
Monday, July 30, to Saturday, August 11, 2012
9am – 12pm or 1pm – 4pm
(5-6 grade from 1-4pm in Session I is full)

Session Two
Monday, August 13, to Saturday, August 25, 2012
9am – 12pm or 1pm – 4pm

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