Friday, October 13, 2006

Scene Study vs. Auditioning and Improv Skills

An agent wrote an actor-client heatedly: "Intense scene study [class] is good ONLY after a mastering of cold reading and improv. Why bother with intense scene study if you can't make it through an audition?"

The actor/client wrote me and asked me what I thought of his agent's statement.

My answer: Tell your agent an actor can't make it successfully through a cold reading audition probably because they can't act...which is the ability to do the whole job...which is what scene study teaches...and requires actors to accomplish. To phrase it differently: why try out for a job (cold reading) when you have no familiarity with the whole think being cold read. That would be like trying out for a football team having never played football, just simply threw a ball around and worked out in a strength gym; or, worse, putting on a Vegas demo show for a car that can't run.

An audition merely a demo show...and a lack of ability to act will become apparent when even packaged in the most skilled demonstration of auditioning skills. Remember: (1) Acting is the job being cold read or auditioned for. (2) Acting occurs within a certain form (called a scene; or whole film or play) and acting happens only in accordance to the job spec: the script (often called a scene). If you can't do the scene (i.e., the work; i.e., act) why audition? Why put a pretty package on an empty box. ONCE IT IS OPEN YOU (WHAT'S INSIDE) WILL ONLY BE FOUND OUT LACKING!

Now I am not deriding demo shows, or the learning of auditioning skills: that is, the learning how to best show off in a sales show your worthwhile acting product; but rotten meat is rotten meat no matter how enticing its surrounding serving, place setting and ambiance. The rule in acting (or any other endeavor) is cook the great meat first; that is, develop the product; then give an sample to the buyer in a demo-show or audition.

Similarly in 'cold reading'...a cold reading is a sample audition where the actor has not had the time to 'warm up'. I'll go back to meat again: rotten meat is rotten whether served warm or cold. And a cold slice of well cooked (even one previousloy heated) meat will always taste better than a cold slice of rotten meat.

An auditioning skill is the artistic presenting of a worthwhile (that is, worth eating) product.

Finally: as to I agree, improv is a great actor's training tool. It is eminently worthwhile studying. But it is not the job. Like weight treaining is not the job of football. Acting is the job. And while acting demands impvov's skills of sponteneity, reality, impulsivity, react-ivity, etc...all the elements that are practiced and served in improv training...those spontaneous, real, impulsive skills ultimately have to be presented in scene work. And scene study, the study of the whole job, is the class that teaches and practices that most directly and fully.


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