Where will you find me on Sunday afternoons? Not at my usual champagne brunch, kicking back for the day. No, I’m on a mission. I’m in Sarah Marie Curry’s 201 Improv Class at The Institution Theater, playing catch-up just as fast as I can.
The deal is I’ve spent this last year as a member of Austin’s A Working Group, an on-camera acting conservatory and now beginning my second year. I’m getting audition savvy. Finally. My auditions have picked up. Got the great headshot, learning more, being called out more often. And auditions today always involve some level of Improv. See. See the connection.
I’ve done Improv almost all my professional theater life, either traveling with an Improv troupe, using it while teaching and touring on arts commissions’ performing artists rosters or in my road show during my many years of touring. Now I’m getting back in the on-camera game. Getting the rust off and hungry for knowledge. So, I’m in this Improv class doing exercises, theater games, discussion, sharing and frankly, gambling for a little revelation. This class takes it to another level and the thing is, it works. It connects. I’m pragmatic and it’s functional for my on-camera work.
Each exercise we do, my mind goes immediately to how to use it in on-camera auditions. Script analysis, physical work, how to make a scene more interesting, things like that. And all the while keeping it small. I like that. I’m sure I’ll use it when I go back on-stage again one day, but for now, it fits my mission. So I’m taking notes like crazy.
Sarah Marie Curry, one of Austin’s vetted, stellar, working Improvists, is a powerhouse. She has us freeing up our minds and mouths. Learning to react, interact, listen and speak without that noisy voice in our head. You know that voice. The annoying one that slows us down, has us question everything, ourselves, our choices? The one that gets in the way? Sarah Marie’s great advice is to say, ‘Fuck that noise!’ Throw it to the curb. Tell it to leave you alone. To stop controlling and scripting your thoughts before you speak. I myself have been having an argument with that voice for a long time and I intend to win.
The ‘space work’ we did yesterday was great. While talking, interacting, listening and improvising in a scene you also must ‘see’ the location, the environment. You have to believe in it 100% for the scene to appear authentic to the viewer, the audience and in my mind, the camera. In one game we handed an improvised object to our scene partner and said, ‘It is important to me because…” We each would fill in the blank with a reason to create our connection to that object. It made you commit to the scene. To take the stakes higher.
By putting all of this together, I’m hoping to be smoother and more flowing in my auditions, in my acting. To not appear contrived. To not be visibly ‘acting’. And when this finally becomes innate with me or second nature, then I will be one happy camper…girl…cat…cougar. I don’t know. Whatever role I’ll be playing. I just know I’ll be happy. –By Martha Hannah