Wednesday, June 25, 2008

more from the book

This is a long-ass post.

More from my acting textbook, Acting Like an Adult, or Lessons Learned, or Madame Bovary, unless someone's already used that title.

(thanks to Brian Parks for the Madame Bovary joke)


A performer has to be quicker, stronger and much more focused than a civilian. She has to be able to think on her feet. He needs to have a strong physical base and not say anything unnecessary. Sometimes he needs to become invisible while standing right there. She needs to know how to charm people without looking like she’s trying to do anything.

These are skills that can save your life out in the real world when you find yourselves alone with dangerous people. These are skills that will get you promoted when you find yourselves in some corporate culture where everyone else is learning how to be a master or a slave. These are skills that will get you laid when you’re out on the town and feeling lonely.

These are skills that anyone can learn. It takes time and discipline and desire. That’s it. Takes no talent, takes no luck.

If you read this book and do the exercises, all of them, and then read the book again, you’ll have a good chance to work in the theater or get a better job or survive a night in a holding cell. Or pick up that good-looking man who just walked in.

Good luck.


I’ve worked for about twenty years in theater in New York City as an actor, director, writer, producer and presenter. I was involved with Present Company, a non-profit off-off independent company and was one of the Founding Artistic Directors for The New York International Fringe Festival. Along with a small cadre of artists and administrators I renovated two spaces in Manhattan, turning them into performance and office spaces. I’ve been very lucky to work in many different areas of the theater for a little time now, so that’s why this book is worth buying. If you’re just borrowing this book or reading it in the library, then fuck you, you owe me sixteen bucks.

(Then it goes into the stuff I posted a few days ago, A Simple Test, The Audience Already Speaks English, etc. Then this part:

How to Think Quicker

Read everything. Read something new every day. Read non-fiction. Read The New York Times or the Guardian. Every day. Know the history of wherever it is you live and wherever you travel. It’s all been written down. And then ask an older person if what you’ve read is true. It’s usually close, but never completely accurate.
Then put yourself in difficult circumstances. Surround yourself with strangers and don’t advertise with your clothes or your language or your expensive watch that you’re just day-trippping. Play the anthropologist wherever you are. Study the customs, habits and behavior of people at the grocery store, people on the bus, people at a different church than the one you went to as a child.

How to Get Stronger

Exercise, you moron.

Strength is mostly just being flexible, so that’s just yoga. Look at how an old Vietnamese woman can move. That’s the ideal. Look at Irene Ryan as Granny in The Beverly Hillbillies. That’s a life in the theater moving around, pretending to be an old lady.

Actual Time, Actual Place

No character is more interesting than you, as you have the advantage of actually existing.

No moment you create in your head is going to be more compelling than the actual moment happening in the room, as it has the advantage of being shared by all.

Your job is to bring us into the actual moment and keep us there as long as you can. The only way to do this is for you to be in the actual moment, paying attention to it, listening to it, asking it what it is.

That’s your job.

Your job is not to pretend to be someone else.

Your job is to listen to the moment, intently and openly. It’s a much harder, much more interesting job than pretending to be somebody else.

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