Monthly archives "April 2013"

ACTING ELEMENTS – ZOOM IN: WHAT CAN I LEARN FROM ACTING IN A CLOSE UP

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By Gayla Goehl

Let’s talk about why it’s so important that The Playground Professional classes have scene work shot on camera while framed in a Close Up. First two definitions.

Close-up: (CU) Camera term for a tight shot of the shoulder and face of the actor.

Sub-Text: The personal thoughts of the character that the actor is thinking.

In this picture you can see that the young girl playing the role of ‘Alex’ is sitting on her mark on the couch and that she is framed in a close up. She is talking to two fellow students who are playing the roles of her parents. You will also see that the other students are able to watch the entire scene on the TV monitor in the classroom. The scenario for the scene is that her parents are telling her that they are getting a divorce and the Father is moving out tonight.

ZoomIn

Every student in class that day had the opportunity to play the role of ‘Alex’. They made an entrance, hit their mark, and said their lines. However, it was the thinking and emotional responses of the actor portraying ‘Alex’ that I am looking for.

In a close up, we are so tight on the actors face that if the actor is thinking thoughts that the character of ‘Alex’ would be thinking, then we will be able to see it on the monitor. These thoughts are called Sub-text. Thoughts such as: What is happening? Why is Mom crying? Did Dad just say they are getting a divorce? Where am I going to live? However, if the actor is thinking his or her own personal thoughts such as: What’s my next line? We will be able to see that on the monitor as well. Acting isn’t just saying lines; it is when we are able to see the personal inner thoughts of the character as well.

So in class, everyone get a chance to act out the role. We shoot the performances all in a tight Close-Up. Then we watched them all back. Each student got to really see ‘up close’ how his or her thoughts traveled through the camera lens. As if we could almost hear their thoughts. It’s an awesome exercise.

ARTICLE: It’s the Last Day of Class. What’s Next?

It’s the Last Day of Class. What’s Next? – By Gayla Goehl

Posted on 

or …

“But Ms. Gayla, why can’t I take class here every Saturday for the rest of my life?”

or…

“Ms. Gayla, I’ll ask my parents if I can take class here every Saturday for the rest of my life?”

Gayla Goehl  – Assistant Director, Gary Spatz’s The Playground

Excitement! Anticipation! Sheer Giddiness! Followed by jumping for joy! Screams of  happiness! Hugs!

Last Day of Professional Pre-Teen Class - Dec 2010
However, this wasn’t caused by getting holiday presents, spreading yuletide cheer or even ringing in the New Year. This was the atmosphere of the very last day of our  Professional Preteen acting class on Saturday December 17th. The class was a  combination of two preteen classes that uncharacteristically merged together. They had been in class  together every Saturday for a long time, and at The Playground even longer. Today was their very last class.

Over the course of the year, we literally watch these young students grow up. Coming  into the Professional course is different than advanced and beginning classes. We call the  course Professional because we run the classroom as close to a working  professional set as possible. With four teachers, Sarah Holstrom, Danielle Hobert,  Darcy Martin and myself we were able to find new ways of grouping the kids to  make sure that each student was working on what they had prepared. Often  breaking off into four groups so each child got much more individual working time.  Over the course of a year the students have learned everything from becoming more  open and free while doing improvisation to really believing they are experiencing  the situation and emotions of their scene work and monologues. They memorized  thousands of words. Did hundreds of tongue twisters.

(You try to do these three times in a row)

  • A box of biscuits, a box of mixed biscuits and a biscuit mixer.
  • Some shun sunshine, do you shun sunshine?
  • Licorice wristwatch.

Did improvisation. Learned to focus. Learned to relax. Learned to commit before  they began. They learned to ‘Breakdown’ a script and asked themselves questions  like: What genre is this? What is the atmosphere? What is my Relationship with  the person I am talking to? What is the Antecedent or what just happened before  this? What is my Opening Emotion? What is my Intention? Reason? What is the  Conflict going on? Do I have a secret? Am I lying or telling the truth? What is my Sub-  Text (the stuff I’m thinking but not saying)?

They learned how to listen for cues. Hit their marks. Listen to their scene partners.  Take re-direction and emotional adjustments. They improved. They learned to act.  And we had SO much fun learning.

Daniela N., a spirited young girl who recently got her braces off said

“I think acting is  a fun way to express yourself and it teaches you a lot of new things!” then added “I  thought acting was going to be easy and simple but now I can see that acting takes a  lot of hard work and you must fully commit.”

Rose E., a bright, shy young girl told me

“I liked that the class wasn’t pressured at all  and it was fun. I learned that acting wasn’t as easy as I thought it was and I learned  to gain confidence. Acting was something that was fun because you could be  someone else, someone you weren’t and toy with that idea. On the first day, I felt  nervous because I had very little confidence, but on my last day I felt confident  because my teacher taught me so much and I felt like I could really express who I  was now.”

Then it hit them, all, almost at the same time. This was their last class. This group  would never be together again. And then it happened. The screams got louder. The  hugs got tighter. Everyone started exchanging emails and cell phone numbers. And  suddenly the happiness turned to tears. (Me included)

Along the way many students got agents. A dozen booked commercials. And every single one found friends for life.

 

WHAT’S NEXT?

Graduation – Early this Spring those students whose Professional classes have  ended this year will be having a graduation ceremony. The Playground rents out a  theater at the Century City AMC theater. There is a huge red-carpet event. Last year  it was hosted by The Playground’s very own (and I still coach her) Ashley Argota  from True Jackson V.P. and now Nickelodeon’s new show Skinner & Bucket’s Epic  Adventure. (Also starring Tiffany Espensen who just recently had her last day and  will be at graduation this year)
What’s after that?

Junior Varsity/Varsity – Due to the demand to continue classes here at The  Playground we created both a Junior Varsity and Varsity Acting classes (which I will teach).  Junior Varsity combines both preteen and children graduates and Varsity is for  teens, fourteen and over, who have finished the two year program. Both classes  focus on audition techniques, more complex and harder emotional challenges, more  layered comedy techniques, harder scripts, longer memorization, more advanced  skills.

Epilogue…

Matthew Kramer, a Tom Sawyer-esque preteen with energy to spare just instant  messaged me on my Facebook page as I was writing this.

6:29pm
Hi Gayla!

6:29pm
Hey Matt!
I’m writing an article for the website about the class you were just in. Want to  have a quote in it?

6:30pm
Sure

6:30pm
What is something that you learned? Loved? or thought was going to be easy but  was much more difficult? What will you miss?

6:32pm
I will miss ALL my teacher’s! But mostly my favorite teacher of all Gayla because  she is SO nice and made acting class really easy for me!

6:32pm
Ah thanks. But HOW or WHY did I make it easy for you? How did you learn stuff  from me?

6:34pm
I learned from you because I payed attention. And you made it easy for me  because you Urn treated me nice and didn’t make me feel embaressed  in front of the whole class!
Haha  embarrassed

After this eschange he proceeded to tell me that twenty minutes earlier he and his Father were in  a car accident where their car spun around seven times. However, even though he  was shaken up, he had noticed I was online and had just wanted to say “hi” because he  missed class so much. The he wanted to know when his Dad could call me about joining  Junior Varsity.

I’m going to really miss this wonderful group of kids.

After each class ends I always ask myself the same question. What did I learn from  them? For me as a teacher? I learned that every single student dreams of doing  their best work when they come into class. Even if they don’t, they do want to.  Teaching them to be free enough to at least try to do their best work is more  important then if they did.