Saturday, 26th April '03
After two sessions of "getting to know you" *hums song from the King and I* games and activites, serious acting started today. Exploring physical expression seemed to be the key focus of the exercises and we started by warming up and using emotional expressions.
The first exercise went like this. Serena gave us an emotion (say, anger) and we had to build it up from level 1 (just a teechy bit angry) to level 10 (murderous rage a la Bill Sykes) and bring it back down again. Boy, did I have love-hate relationship with this activity! On one hand it was the most emotionally draining drama activity I have every done and everyone was literally panting after each round. But on the other hand, this is the closest I have felt to real acting in a long while. I really apprciated this activity for reaccquainting me with the driving force of sincere acting - feeling. I think over the years (and because of Holy Child Speech and Drama) I have come to rely on choreography as a means of expression. Like what does an angry person do? Clench fists? Hit a wall? Grit teeth? All effectively able to tell the audience of the intended emotion, but not enough to draw them in or make them empathise. I was lucky, and I had this relvelation very early in the exercise and IMHO benefited a lot. Essentially, don't turn acting into a science and there isn't a step by step guide to it. One way of tackling the problem that I tried was to stop thinking of steretyped expressions of the emotion, and not use what I saw on tv or in the movies to depict it. Instead I relied on assigning an experience in my life to each level, recalling exactly how I felt and what I wanted to do when I was THAT intense. And I was immensely gratified when I did manage to call up shoulder-shaking rage and gut-wrenching anguish when I needed to. This method just fails if no experience is available, but that's a common problem I have highlighted before.
I have to also say I couldn't have has such a great session without the rest of the ensemble. It's gosh-awful enough to portray emotions as personal as these, but observing everyone around me completely letting go as well gave such a feeling of security and comfort that I could let loose as well. Heh, I was still sniffling when we finished with "sadness"...
Thank goodness the next activity was easy. Any four of us would make a human sculpture and in the centre of the room and everyone else would come up with relevant (and not so relevant) sounding titles. I guess this exercise helped to stretch my mind in interpreting actions beyond the norm, and exploring how a single position - not even moving - could be twisted to show a range of ideas, and how things look different angles.
We also did this detective game where the whole group had to act the part of a single person undergoing the third degree from a "detective". As the "detective" went round the group asking each of us one question, a story and a picture of the person being questioned would form based on our body language and what we said. It was a little tricky to keep builing up something like that without any idea of what the person before had in mind or what the person after you would say next, but it was one of those teamwork and chemistry exercises that can only get better with practice.
The rest of the day was devoted to pair improvisation and I think I'm getting a little (not a lot) more comfortable with doing things on the fly and adapting quickly to verbal and physical cues from a partner. Don't get me wrong, I STILL hate improv work. It's just getting slightly more bearable. Anyways, we practiced one person starting a conversation with the other, and the dialogue going back and forth until a clear relationship was established. Sometimes it was pretty evident from the beginning ("Mum's not going to like this...") and sometimes the directon was obvious ("did you bring the money?"). Other times it just had to be played out more. I particularly enjoyed Siti's and Krystal's portrayal of two people making small talk... Siti is just damn good at physial comedy and Krystal's strange comments had us all in stitches. Their body language was something I liked, like how Krystal siddled up to Siti and went "I like your hair" and Siti's face just CHANGED...
On my part, I first responded as a nervous druggie to Errol's rookie dope pusher. One thing I can say about this boy is he has very "alternative" ideas and he keeps the lesson fun. You could say he gives a very youthful perspective. I was very amused by the balance of power in this interaction (Serena reminded us to look for the character in greater control...) and it really seemed to start belonging to him. The drug lord had control because the druggie needed the drugs. But when he tried to push me something stronger, the tables were turned to a "customer and salesperson" situation. And when a policeman appeared, we both just disintegrated... haha, it was fun, I haven't played "Police and Theif" in a while. For the next interaction, I have to thank Dage Henghwa for inspiration. I approach Errol with "Hey! You're making paper flowers for Sarah! Don't bluff, I know you like her..." Very deja vu-ic and reminisent of a certain day at Downtown East. His resulting "shy boy but Sarah is pretty, isn't she?" character couldn't fend of my "kaypo jiemei" character for long. Basically I behaved like Huiyu and treated Errol like Heng. I think the relationship came across clearly and there IS truth in that "act what you know" mantra
[well, the pictures aren't going to take themselves!]