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Adventures In Acting - Play!

Updated: Dec 18, 2023


This month's collection of acting-related thoughts and feelings:

 

Connect 4 anyone?
BTS pic from slaher/thriller/comedy short "Festevil"

"FestEvil" was an official selection of the BFI London Film Festival.


 

"Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions."

Mark Twain - Writer of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer"


 

Play - In Acting:


To "Play"?!


How important is is to play as an (adult) actor?

Isn't play just for kids?


But in the theatre, the actors perform a "play".


Shakespeare (my 12x great uncle) says:

"All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players"

(Jaques - As you like it")


So we are "Players" on life's "stage"?

What is it we are playing?.


Playing around?.

Playing about?.

Playing the fool?.


What does the dictionary say about play?....


"engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.

"the children were playing by a pool"


"How does any of this relate to acting"?, you may ask.

"A great question", i would say.


Very, very occasionally in acting it's enough to just play, like in a work shopping phase of a project or a completely improvised scene, although even then it works better when there are clear parameters in place, however basic.


So we need some boundaries, rules if you will


When kids play, one kid usually makes the terms of engagement clear quite quickly..

"This is our home base and that's yours"

"You have to lay down and be asleep and we will come and wake you up"

"Everyone has to chase me until i turn round then you stop"


To play well with others we require something to aim at, some purpose where the chaos of play is safely structured and cushioned by some sense of order.


Maybe on a film set "And Action" should be replaced with "And Play"? .......hmmmmm


For sure we can get better at playing but we must also get better at practising and preparing.

Now how we do that in our own unique and individual way is the eternal quest for any curious and courageous actor.


Good luck brave adventurer!

Let's play!


Bonus content

Here's my little play poem, a ploem if you will:


Playing in a playful way

Full of freedom full of play

Always yes, never no

Just be silly, let it go



 

What's my motivation?


This month's scene is chosen by BAFTA nominee and Director of "Festevil" Paul Taylor.


Paul says about this scene:


"I love a great villain. And I can’t think of a better horror villain than Minnie - cause there is so much going on. She makes an onion look lacking in layers.

She’s endearing while also vile. Cunning, and manipulating, but has heart. You hate her, but find yourself so excited for her next onscreen appearance."


Notes:

This scene is from the classic psychological horror film "Rosemary's Baby" directed by Roman Polanski, the scene is when we first meet Minnie Castevet.

Minnie Castevet is played by actress Ruth Gordon in the film "Rosemary's Baby."

Ruth Gordon's performance in the role earned her critical acclaim and she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Click on the video link below and then check my short interpretation underneath


The performance from Ruth Gordon in this scene proves to me that screen acting isn't always "small and still", as long as there is detail and truth the camera loves a heightened character.

Yes this is a certain style and genre of film but the truth is the truth is the truth....


I will just look at what Ruth Gordon is doing in this scene as Mia Farrows character (Rosemary) is more reactionary and quite frankly less interesting here.

I'll refer to her as Ruth below, as if we are old friends.


Firstly the introduction of Ruth is very clever, for the actor to be seen first through the peep hole in a private moment with a moody stare then a warm friendly manner once the door is open tells us plenty about the character before she has uttered a word, fun to play with as the actor too.


Immediately Ruth is on the charm offensive, playing the grateful subservient neighbour with expert precision, finding moments to be tactile and overly friendly.

Within seconds she has mentioned birth, death and a compliment she received from the ex neighbour before inviting herself in to inspect the apartment.


After a quick and dramatic look at the Kitchen ("Oh my nice paint job!)"Ruth is keen to explore more.

A quick over familiar question to establish if Rosemary is pregnant then on with the unsolicited tour.


The details I love here are the way she sniffs and licks the air, almost to get an animalistic sense of who exactly these new people are, it's almost lizard like in the movement and actions.


Into the lounge...


Now how often do you personally enter a room and throw your hands up in the air with surprised glee?

Never?

Well Ruth does when inviting herself into the lounge.

Why might someone react like that to a fairly standard room?

Well, if you wanted someone to have a good impression of you maybe.

That seems to be the motivation here, an all out friendly fire bomb of pure power play.


Again the small details of how she rearranges the cushions on the chair and scratches at the material, testing the quality of the fabric, pretty full on for a relative stranger.


Back in the kitchen and somehow now kind of drunk seeming.


This is now the behaviour of that Aunt who gives wet kisses at family gatherings.


Suddenly she's inspecting the cans on the table before inviting them over for a steak dinner, she gets upset when the offer is turned down but knows how to get what she wants.

Ruth acts sad and lonely and plays the pity card like a pro which does the job, order is restored and Ruth leaves in a hurry after getting exactly what she wanted, not before picking up and inspecting and judging the mail on the doorstep.


I love this scene, it's such a joy to watch, Ruth knows exactly what she doing in this scene and it seems she is having a blast doing it.

What a gift as an actor to have that subtext and journey and how she fleshes out all the little details is truly full of play.


Have a short scene you want to see simply analysed?

Click below to send link to scene:




 

Earlier this month me and 8 great actors got together for the first "Cold read on camera" workshop in the Mixing Networks studio in East London.


The class was a huge success, if the aim was to test the format and have fun (which it was) so the next step is making it a regular/on-going class.



Thank you to Jess and Leonie for capturing the class from every angle, both flattering and unflattering.

Russ who has helped get the class up and running in many ways.

The students who showed up on one of the hottest days of the year, Elisha, Michelle, Rebecca, Harry, Janet, Nnamdi, Carly and Jacek.


More on class details when all ducks are in a row, potentially starting in August.

 

Any acting related news or questions email me:


Thanks for your attention - and stay in touch.

Tom


 

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