Meisner, Movement & Presence

Everything Acting and Embodied

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Audition Mistake #2

Last week I wrote about presence.  As in, Presence.  About fighting what’s true in the moment and killing any chance of being who we really are because we’re…fighting what’s true in the moment.

There is nothing more important than living in the danger of the moment.  Its uncertainty.  Its vulnerability.  Its complete unpredictability.

I’m repeating myself on purpose, because this is the crucible of acting we all seek to avoid, EVEN WHEN WE KNOW WE DON’T WANT TO AVOID IT.  And I’m repeating myself because I believe the next biggest mistake is in preparing for auditions.  And while it’s true that a surprising number of actors don’t prepare enough, it’s even more true that most of us use the wrong preparation.

What is the wrong preparation?

Deciding how to say the lines.

It’s probably better to under-prepare than to decide how every line should be said and then deliver those decisions.  My friend, Don Foley, used to do any co-star audition as an improvisation–he barely looked at the lines, let alone memorized them.  He thought it was fun to throw himself into it, using his real self, and learn the lines as he went.

He booked, a lot.

So if the wrong preparation is about line readings, what is the right preparation?

Well, that’s a class–to really talk about preparing every aspect of walking into and then taking the room.  But the start is:

1) Figure out what kind of role it is.  What does the role serve?  What is the function of the character?

2) If it’s supporting, guest star, or leading role, the next step is to really delve into how you identify with the character, and then start to replace the people and events they talk about with people and events from your life, so that everything is as real and specific as possible.

The biggest mistake actors make is in deciding how to say the lines instead of creating a world that is emotionally rich.

3) For co-star roles, the opposite is true.  To create too much for a one or two-liner means you’ll steal focus, and it also means you don’t understand what your role is for (always to support someone or something else).  For co-star roles, the prep is to not act, and just do it as you would in life in a similar situation.

And with this, and all other prep, the job is then to go in, tell the emotional truth of your body and the moment (in your tone, in your emotions, in your personality), trusting that the understanding you’ve developed will filter in as it should.

Like I said, a start.  Presence is dependent on truth, and that means allowing yourself to experience your nervousness or any other feeling.  Preparation is about bringing yourself into the role…either by not acting, or by the most profound identification you can find.

Go forth and act!

And if you want to learn more, Uplevel Your Auditions is coming this fall.  Email if you’d like to get on the email list.


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The Blacklist–Season Finale


I watch every episode of The Blacklist because I am a huge James Spader fan and have been since “Sex, Lies and Videotape.”  For me, the tv series is all about him, and how incredibly complicated Reddington (his character) is as he ruthlessly murders and tenderly protects people around him.  He’s just so INTERESTING.

The show turns around Reddington’s relationship with Elizabeth Keen, an FBI agent.  Megan Boone, who plays Keen, is not a very strong actor–overplays emotions, a pet peeve of mine–but their chemistry isn’t bad, so Spader saves it when they have scenes together.

But I am here to *cough* complain about the season finale.  I like complaining about season finales in general, but usually it’s like, OMG, can Shonda Rhimes and crew kill, injure, create acts of God (nature) or come up with any more ludicrous cliff hangers than they did last year?  My usual complaint is that the drama reaches ridiculous levels in trying to create enough suspense to keep you waiting for the next season’s first episode (this year, BTW, Sandra Oh is leaving Grey’s Anatomy, which might be the kiss of death for Grey’s Anatomy).

The season finale of The Blacklist actually failed to deliver on ridiculous cliff hanger.  Unfortunately, it failed to deliver on suspense at all.  Mind you, I’ve liked the writing on the show, loved everything they gave Spader, from humor to grief and and torture, and also felt that the casting sometimes helped create intrigue in figuring out whether a character was a good guy, bad guy or both.  That’s always the real suspense for me–who are the characters to each other?  What will they do to each other?

So in the Reddington/Lizzy (as Reddington calls her) relationship, with its growing tones of intimacy, it’s always been a question of whether Reddington was Lizzy’s long lost father.  And some amazing writing choices–it seems that he must be.  But he says that he isn’t, and then he tells her he never lies to her, and then he tells the truth about murdering her adoptive father, a fact to lie about if there ever was any.  Which makes you think that okay, even though his single-minded focus on her can only be explained by the familial relationship, maybe he’s NOT her father.  Then he lies to her about something much less important, and you have to question again.  I LOVE ALL THIS.

Then they ruined it.  Lizzy’s family was killed in a fire, and the last image they show in the season finale is of Reddington’s scarred back–scarred, it is clear, by fire.

COME ON!  I wanted to keep wondering!  And there’s no real cliff-hanger with Reddington’s arch-enemy being identified either.  His smoky unidentified presence in the show was way better than the actual character with its mirror father/daughter motivation.  It’s like, okay, now I know it’s a battle to the death with more of the same coming our way next season, and while the mirror aspect might hold complications to be mined, it’s still way too expected–or that’s the way it looks.

I’ve seen this before in series–once they reveal the secret at the center of the show, the writing just tanks and it goes off the air.  And clue, don’t reveal a secret in a season finale!  Once I have an answer, I’m not motivated to watch.  (Some reviewers seem to think there’s still a question, but really?  I disagree.)

I’m surprised, actually, because though The Blacklist has occasionally descended into the world of serial killers and their twisted psychology, mostly it has focused on underworld people of wild ruthlessness and determined purpose.  I hope they correct this misstep and give us the unanswered with all its complications next season.  Because against my will, I got truly hooked on this show.