Acting in Columbus presents 'The Jury' based on '12 Angry Men' the original teleplay by Reginald Rose featuring the Advanced Acting for Film Class - Spring 2019 Class.
|Jacqueline Cook as JINX|
SYNOPSIS: Step inside a life size journal and follow the pages of one suicidal teen’s journey as she makes her way through the incidents preceding her death. The mind of modern adolescence is explored through a multimedia experience (home videos, an original score, 6 foot tall journal pages, and life size doll stands). A group of 18-23 year old artists partnered with 8 suicide prevention organizations to create an eye opening theatrical experience with a core of activism.
Nap the Play, written, directed by and starring Lauren Sage Browning, is nomad theater at its most poignant and aims to highlight the complexities of mental illness and prompt a discussion around suicide.
After its debut at the California Institute of the Arts last fall, Nap the Play went through an extensive artistic rewrite, after which Browning says she wanted to make sure it was a productive piece of social change. She considers her work as a form of activism, and the most important aspect of bringing this story to the stage was that its message was not harmful and wouldn’t contribute to anyone’s mental health struggles. To ensure its empathetic approach, Browning asked four parents whose children had committed suicide to read the play.
For the cast, all of whom are either recent high school graduates or in college, this is the first time they’ve participated in a traveling production of this size and importance. “This whole tour has been finding the artists voice and container for the piece. And something that was really important to us all from the get-go is that this is a national epidemic and it’s being talked about a lot and discussed a lot, but there’s very little young adult or teen voices in that conversation. It’s a lot of adult perspective, which is great and we need that, but we also need the inside of the teen suicide epidemic talking about what it’s like to know these kids and what it’s like to feel these pressures,” Browning says. “The main thing is to leave with the connection of humanity and the fact that we all need each other and we all have a place here and we’re all intertwined. Without us things fall apart, and the answer is never to leave.”
Verona Blue is an actor friend of mine and my coaching client. She has full sleeves, facial piercings, a medium-size piece on her thigh, the words “tiny dogs” on her fingers, and a small barcode on her head. “I think there are two types of tattooed actors,” she says. “Those who have a ‘look’ that suits and highlights their tattoos, and actors who happen to have tattoos that are rarely seen onscreen and not part of their type to any significant degree. In my case, my tattoos generally help because I am very specific and typically go out for characters who, more often than not, have the word ‘tattoo’ in their breakdown. My niche is pretty small.
“On occasion, a makeup artist will make some minor changes to my tattoos to highlight certain colors, but I’ve never had them covered with makeup.
“I think it’s important for any artist to be true first to themselves and to their business second. Most of us will spend most of our days as ourselves, not as characters on set, and it’s valuable to have a strong sense of self and be confident with who you are when you’re not acting or auditioning.
“If you get a tattoo that’s in an easily exposed place like your arms, hands, or neck, you should make a note of your artist and get their direct contact information because the production’s legal department will ask you to get a signed release from them to make sure they aren’t sued. After the artist who did Mike Tyson’s face tattoo successfully filed suit against Warner Bros. for ‘The Hangover,’ we are all suffering a new pile of paperwork for each booking.”
Seth Yanklewitz, vice president of network casting for Fox Broadcasting Company, has many tattoos—full sleeves and legs. As a casting executive, I was curious about his take on tattoos.
“As both a former independent CD and now an executive at the network, I have no issue with an actor having tattoos,” he says. “I would say so many creative types in this day and age have tattoos, so it’s fairly common. However, I’m sure there’s a producer or director who would have an issue, but makeup departments have airbrush techniques that literally make tattoos disappear in seconds. It’s not like the old days where you needed Spackle to hide a tattoo.”
When asked about the prevalence of prejudice against tattoos in the industry, Yanklewitz said, “I don’t think there’s prejudice, per se, about tattoos. If an actor were to have a past with certain affiliations or negative religious affiliations tied to those tattoos and the actor is now reformed, they should want to cover them up and make sure the public doesn’t associate them with that particular ideology.”
On differences for tattooed men versus women, he said, “Sadly, I would say there still is sexism and classism associated with [tattoos] for certain people. But if you can act, that’s what I and all CDs need to see—bottom line. The rest can be fixed in the hair, makeup, or wardrobe trailer.”
"LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN, REALLY LISTEN ..."
Vanessa Redgrave, appeared on Broadway in Driving Miss Daisy with James Earl Jones, sat for a rare interview ("A Reluctant Redgrave, On 'Daisy' And More" by Patrick Healy, New York Times, February 16, 2011). Asked about her craft and the challenges of working in a two-character play, Ms. Redgrave offered this about the importance of listening. "I've certainly taken it as something I've worked on myself - listen, listen, listen, really listen. You think you're listening, but you really have to work at it." Of course she is correct about that, just as it would be good advice that one "...see, see, see, really see..." and "...touch, touch, touch, really touch...". But it is worth pointing out that the kind of listening we do while in a conversation is more complex than it might seem. Let me explain:
In a conversation, we do not take turns listening; we take turns talking. Roger Schank, a former professor at Yale and Northwestern Universities, wrote a book entitled Tell Me a Story - Narrative and Intelligence in which he talks about us being "story based". We tell stories to ourselves and to one another. I am over-simplifying now, but the process basically works like this: Beginning as an infant, you experience things and tell yourself stories about them and, throughout your life, you expand, update and revise those stories. By the time you are an adult, the stories are densely cross-referenced. If, for instance, I tell you in conversation about the wonderful Thai restaurant where I had dinner last night, the moment you hear "Thai restaurant", you will start mentally running through your own stories, cross-referencing to Thai restaurants you have enjoyed (or not), which may in turn cross-reference to your trip to Thailand. This process happens faster than the blink of an eye, and you immediately have a story to tell me as soon as it is your turn to talk. You are only partially listening to the rest of what I am saying because you have that story ready, and you are deciding not to interrupt.
New actors spend a lot of time doing sensory exercises, especially listening. Everybody in class sits very still while listening to sounds outside on the street; you count how many different sounds you can name if you really listen; you listen to the sound of your own breathing and that of your fellow students. The Meisner Technique, a popular approach to acting training in the U.S. includes practice listening in conversation. In "the repetition exercise", two students sit facing one another and proceed to listen and repeat, not as characters but as themselves. Listen, repeat, listen repeat, which is actually the same thing as listen, react, listen react except that the actor is more mindful of the reaction. The repetitions become a kind of organic communication in which both students are reacting honestly.
Some new actors have initial difficulty with the repetition exercise, and I think the reason is because it is counter-intuitive. Our impulse, as Mr. Schank points out, is to talk, not to listen. You listen to the other person long enough to come up with your story. Don't get me wrong, I think the repetition exercise is swell. I have no problem with it at all. I simply think that the exercise is not really teaching an actor to listen so much as it is to be "present", "in the moment".
With respect to Vanessa Redgrave, listening - in and of itself - is not really going to do much for an actor. Ms. Redgrave's special talent is that she allows what she hears to stimulate her emotionally, which propels her into doing something. Listening is not an end in itself, no matter how truthful it may be. Acting is "doing", which means you are playing an action in pursuit of an objective while overcoming an obstacle. Theatrical reality is not the same thing as regular reality. It is compressed in time and space and has structure. By all means, listen carefully. Then do something. One more time: We take turns talking; we don't take turns listening.