Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Dennis Neal was conducting his second three week intensive actors workshop at the GOAT Actors Studio Annex, (650 S. Northlake Blvd., Suite 430, Altmonte Springs). The Greater Orlando Actors Theatre class was offered two nights a week with four hour sessions. The invitation stressed that each person would be working on a play of their choosing, as well as other work. This class was for those WILLING TO WORK and SERIOUS ABOUT THEIR CRAFT!
About a dozen actors sat at tables edging the corporate training room. The first question Dennis would ask each student was, "Why are you taking this course." The answers helped define where each artist was on their personal journey. There were far more women than men who wanted to learn. Each actor was asked to bring a monologue they could read. A young woman named Denise was the first at bat. Her mom sat beside her. Denise got up and sat in a lone chair in the center of the room facing Dennis. He stressed that the class wasn't about judgement or winning his acceptance. Jokingly he warned Denise, "I will break you down." The room grew quiet. There was tension in the air.
Denise confided that she was nervous. She had written her own monologue in which she confronted a boy making unwanted advances. "You think I'm that kind of girl?" she said. Dennis interrupted her and asked her to delete all the inflections and flourishes. He wanted her to just say the lines like she was speaking. He would then use hand signals to indicate when he wanted her to slow down or speed up a line. She was flustered, thrown off balance. Her eyes welled up. She asked to be excused and ran to the bathroom. Dennis asked another actress to go in and see how she was doing.
Each actor got up in turn to work on their monologue. Alecia traveled two hours to get to the class. Dennis shouted out, "Lets take it to the wall!" He said, "Every scene goes back to love and fear." The most important thing an actor must keep in mind is, "What do I want." Even more important, "Nobody is perfect." Sarah Lockhard had already memorized her monologue. She played the part of a manic receptionist talking at a break neck pace. She was quirky, quick witted and hilarious. When she was done, Dennis asked, "Do you drink coffee?" "Heck YEAH!" she shot back. Everyone laughed.
Dennis asked one actress to just speak to another actress about maturity. Everything she said came from the heart. There was no script. Authenticity flowed. Dennis used the exchange to point out that honesty is the best tool in any actor's tool box. The young actress, Denise, had returned and she was the last to again take the center stage chair. Dennis said, "I may bark, but I don't bite." This time she performed admirably, working hard to accept advice and dig deep inside to express herself with absolute honesty. By the next class, each actor was expected to be "off book." Then, the real work would begin.