AdlerImprov & the Power of Games

AdlerImprov & the Power of Games

Hold choices like a feather.

-Rob Adler

The Tuesday before last, we worked moment to moment for each scene in AdlerImprov’s Scene Study class (make well prepared scenes look improvised), including the scene I’ve been working on, “Death of a Salesman.” I saw/experienced how easily you can get locked into rehearsal choices and the power of games/focus in creating new, inspired and spontaneous choices for each take. Some takeaways:

  • A pair of first time lovers in David Mamet’s “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.” The game – touch your scene partner in a different way each time you say a line of dialogue. The result – a post-sex-for-the-first-time-couple acting completely awkward, yet intimate, with each other. And completely honest and real.
  • Two brothers in Sam Shepard’s “True West.” The game – make fart noises after each line. The result – two guys who were both annoyed and amused with each other. Just like two estranged brothers would be toward each other.
  • And my scene – two brothers in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.” The game – wrestle. And we did. Not play wrestling, but full on take downs and escapes. And then pass a roll of duct tape back and forth between each line. The result – a brotherly bond, an untapped and released anger and an increased energy pushing through my monologue.

Can’t wait to see what this Tuesday brings.

Focus on the process – Streamy Awards

Focus on the process – Streamy Awards

Platoon of Power Squadron among Indie Streamy Award nominees.

Focus on the process. That’s the theme Jake Jarvi and I kept coming back to this weekend.

Jake is the writer, director, actor and producer of Platoon of Power Squadron (PoPS). He spent the weekend in Los Angeles because his webseries was among the five nominees for top Indie in this year’s Streamy Awards. The Streamy Awards honor the best in online video (particularly YouTube) and the creators behind it. Jake also directed Jack, which won Wes Craven’s Studio 360 Scary Short Film Fest.

I had the pleasure of working with Jake in episodes 7 Catalyst and 8 Fight of PoPS playing Riley, an eager-to- please suit who’s part of Damon’s evil gang. If you recall from my previous post, Jake wrote ep 8 just before I was set to leave for Los Angeles. He gave me the option of writing Riley out of the script. I postponed my trip for two weeks to shoot the episode. And I’m glad I did. The response to Riley and his demise has been fantastic and overwhelmingly positive.

PoPS unfortunately didn’t take home Streamy gold. But that’s not why Jake created the show. In his own words:

“When I was auditioning in L.A., I basically got called in for three character types: Stoners, geeks, or pedophiles on cop shows. The third one only happened a few times, but the fact that it happened more than once was an eyebrow raiser. I started acting because I wanted to be a plucky hero or a dangerous antihero. Nobody gets into acting because they’re dying to be a pedophile brought in for questioning on the way toward meeting a more interesting criminal. But I cheated. I started my own internet series. Terrible quality at first, but better by leaps and bounds with every episode. It became good enough to get a really [awesome] audience going. Now, I’m my own antihero, the kind of character I’ve always wanted to play, a sarcastic wise guy with unspeakable power and a dark past.”

PoPs is a labor of love. And a lot of work. Each episode takes about eight to 12 months from initial script to final uploaded production. Jake handles most of the special effects. To maintain audience interest, he produces both a written blog and a video blog each week informing subscribers of his progress. He also creates indiegogo campaigns to raise the funds to pay for actors, food, location, props, etc. and distributes the appropriate crowdfunding campaign rewards. The awards are nice, but it’s icing on the cake. The show, the creative process, the ensemble work and the audience that watches, waits for and comments on each episode is the reward.

If I’ve learned anything in my soon to be one year in Hollywood, it’s focus on the process. Jake and I discussed in greater detail here. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the glitz and glamor of Hollywood because there are so many opportunities here and the “right place, right time” stories abound, but once you dig deeper, you realize it’s a process of attrition. Build the relationships, meet the right people, do the work and let the cosmic tumblers fall where they may.

Mike Myers of SNL, Austin Powers and Shrek fame said something similar during his WTF podcast interview with Marc Maron. “Don’t chase the high, follow the heart.” Ironically, Jake and I saw Mike walking up Sunset Blvd. as we enjoyed some eats at Carney’s Restaurant (train car diner).

Focus on the process. Do what you love. And enjoy a Chicago dog and sweet potato fries every now and again too.

Happy Playing Biff – Death of a Salesman

Happy Playing Biff – Death of a Salesman

Years ago, I took Meisner level 4 at Act One Studios in Chicago with Ted Hoerl. Ted assigned me the role of Biff in Arthur Miller’s classic, Death of a Salesman. It’s the second scene just after Biff returns home and he and Happy reminisce about days long past and discuss their current state of affairs. It’s a rough one. After several weeks of reworking the scene and digging into the specifics, Ted said it was one of the best performances of that scene he’d ever seen. Ted also said I had the opportunity to be a working actor. Sometimes it takes one person to tell you the thing you want to hear to slingshot you into a deeper sense of action and purpose. I’ve been sprinting toward that goal ever since.

I started AdlerImprov’s On Camera Scene Study class this past Tuesday night. I asked Rob for a scene recommendation. Death of a Salesman. Same scene. And I can already tell I’m going to give a richer, deeper performance because of my life experience. Happy to be playing Biff again. And excited to watch the AdlerImprov community deliver the goods and share in the experience.

UCB 301 With Julie Brister

UCB 301 With Julie Brister

I started UCB 301 with Julie Brister last eve. It’s always interesting hearing other people’s backstories. We have a lot of East Coasters, some Midwesterners and one LA unicorn and most have moved to LA within the past five years or so.

We did an exercise where we walked around and would stop when someone shared a brief factoid or anecdote. Topics included car problems, car crashes, Vegas, pets, celebrity encounters, Halloween, bosses.

Some highlights:

  • I had a date, but no car. So I walked into a Honda dealership and walked out with a new car. I’m now paying $350 per month for the next six years.
  • I was listening to the WTF podcast. I left my front room and kept hearing Marc Maron’s voice. I looked out my window and he was hosting a barbecue next door.
  • My gerbil had 17 babies. And then ate them all.
  • I broke my arm because I fell asleep while riding my bike.
  • I got into two accidents. The second one happened as I was after leaving physical therapy from the first accident.
  • My favorite part of Halloween in college was waking up early the next day to see who was walking home in their costume from the night before.
  • Me and my friends went to Vegas. I was the only one that was 21, so my friends would give me money and I would walk down to the floor to bet on roulette. I lost their money.

Then we separated into two groups and did a short show – three monologues and four two person scenes with three beats per.

It’s going to be a fun class. Some really smart, fun performances just in the first class. And Julie is extremely concise in her notes and very supportive.