OUTLINE OF BASIC ACTING COURSE
WINTER QUARTER (1960-1961)
1. To acquaint students with the nature of Imagination; to show them how Imagination may be stimulated and developed and used in Acting; to begin mastery of the use of Imagination. Principle teaching device: the Fantasy Exercise based on three words, to be found in Modern Acting: A Manual.
2. To acquaint students with concepts of Thought Between Lines (Sub-text); Multi-level Awareness and Response; Interplay; Transfer of Thought and Emotion; Playing from Moment to Moment; Recognizing Climaxes (the exact moment of transfer or change) in Scenes; Realizations; the Use of Metaphors in Acting. To develop skill in the use of this knowledge.
3. To acquaint students with the nature of the Vicarious Experience; to show them how vicarious experiences derived from reading and observation may be utilized in acting. Principal teaching device: The semester-long study by each student of a character from a good novel of character, and the presentation by the students of a series of improvisations and situations from the novel. The students’ objectives in this work are (1) to make the audience believe he is the character and (2) to love himself in the role. The written Journal and weekly laboratory exercises continue to supplement the classwork.
1. To continue the work of the first quarter, the comprehension and use of Concentration, Observation, the Visual Sense, the Auditory Sense, the Taste and Gustatory Senses, the Kinesthetic Sense; of Sense Memory; of Memory for Experience; on insight into the reasons for human behavior; of insight into the nature of what is “dramatic” and “theatrical;” the use of body and voice in acting; of improvisational techniques; of the discipline and ethics required of theatre workers; of insight into play construction; of Truth in Acting; of the influence of environment on people; of how to show Reality onstage; of how to communicate with audiences and control one’s work; on allowing analysis to move into the realm of action; of theatre and acting terminology.
SOME CONCEPTS TO EMERGE FROM THE CLASSWORK:
1. Imagination is the actor’s creative faculty; it involves using what the actor has observed, knows of himself and others, and has experienced -- is the faculty which selects, recombines, intensifies what we have in us to work with.
2. Belief in whatever is created by the actor as truth also stems from the imagination.
3. The ability to visualize completely the appearance of a character comes from the use of the imagination.
4. Fantasy exercises get the imagination going; fantasy takes up where experience leaves off.
5. There must be continuity in acting, as there is in life; bad theatrical performances have “gaps” in them.
6. It is possible to analyze inanimate objects (like the lectern in the auditorium, or a brace of pistols, or a Greek column) to see what qualities these objects possess -- qualities which could be carried over into a person if that person were “like” the object; this is how metaphors are used in acting. The kinesthetic observation of objects can be done without even having to think.
7. An audience must never be in the dark about what you are doing onstage; give one positive cue after another that will add up to meaning.
8. You establish an environment (in a fantasy, say) by doing single things; there has to be an arrest, a focus, on the first significant thing you do; when you sense that the audience begins to “see,” you add the new cue on top of the old one; the first thing you do onstage is especially important; acting is a process of supplying details that will “add up” for the audience -- it is a process of funding.
9. There must be no vagueness onstage; in performing a fantasy, tell your audience when the “curtain” is going up; every movement must have a beginning, middle, end.
10. If, in a fantasy, you are going to twinkle like a star, first you must find the way to establish the idea of your being a star in space before you twinkle; if the star is to “turn human,” the audience has to be able to watch the evolution from object to being. Never assume that an audience can read your mind; give them what they need to know to comprehend.
11. Along with doing things one at a time, each detail must be sustained long enough for the audience to focus on it; often an actor can create suspense: we may not know at first what he is or what he is doing, but it will be done with such intensity that it will compel our attention and make us watch intently for the cue that will tell us.
12. When an audience becomes aware of an incongruity (say between an intense body position of a performer and his wide-open, innocent eyes) it may laugh. Comedy depends upon the dramatization of such “opposites.”
13. To help carry off a Transfer, the players must concentrate on their characters’ purposes, must have goals to play toward.
14. Playing together results in a scene which seems natural, true, inevitable in its development; too many actors try to manipulate situations, scenes. Response to one another, to what you see and hear, makes for interplay.
15. Onstage, the flow of thought continues all the time; when it comes up against a problem, words may stop for a moment, but not the drama of the situation.
16. In rehearsal, use the most real props you can; the handling of them has something to do with the truthfulness of responses.
[THERE’S A MISSING PAGE HERE. I’LL SEE IF I CAN TRACE IT. I'm not entirely sure whether this is from the Van Meter notes or the Bleiler notes or even possibly something that AK composed for the administration. But it rings true.]
31. Sample questions asked of students working on characters from novels, questions designed to steer their thinking and to touch off visualizations, the use of their imagination, etc.; What kind of tables are going to be in her (Emma Bovary) life? What does she want? Where do we want things? Why does the author call her Emma Bovary? . . . Anna Karenina sits on a “settee.” We should begin to sense the road she will travel the moment we see her . . . “Emma!” What does she hear when her husband calls her? . . . Kathy is outside? Think of the title: Wuthering Heights; What kind of heights? What’s the word? Shout it! Name should tear her in the vitals. What’s the wind like? Show us! Too much face; how do you walk against the wind? Heights: it’s on top; barren; stark; covered with mist; you can see valleys below; a particular place for her is a crag; get the joy of conquering; etc.
32. Surround your character with the little things that make up his world; it’s our responses to our environment which makes us what we are.
33. Test for how well performer may be doing with his improvisation of a character from a novel: do you begin to see the character, rather than the actor? An hour from now will you remember the character? Have people onstage begun to change? To what extent have they changed? Has your thinking changed? Have you done something different physically? Everything around you -- objects, noises, aromas, etc. -- part of your new subtext.
34. “If --” is a good starting point . . . “If my father is --,” “If I lived in --”, etc.
35. To get at characters: do the things they do -- their work; go for their walks; develop their attitudes toward everything in their lives; do something.
36. A goal of acting: to show three-dimensional people emerging from a background.