Halfway to Hilarity: Getting Back to #Acting Basics with #Improv

Around the beginning of September, I decided to get back to basics. There had been subtle hints in my life in recent months, for me to take an important step in my career: more training, specifically improvisation. Then, after researching various programs, including Upright Citizen’s Brigade (UCB), The Magnet Theater, and the People’s Improv Theater (PIT), I decided on the PIT. Both UCB and the PIT have very similar programs, and many people have crossed over between each program. The founder of the PIT was even a co-founding member of UCB. Needless to say, improv is a tightly-knit community.

I’m halfway through my class at the People’s Improv Theater for level 1. My ultimate plan is to do the whole program because, like I said to my fabulous teacher last week, I feel like it’s really helping me as an actor and with the writing of my show. It has forced me to be in the moment as actor. It has forced me to listen to what my scene partner is talking about, and as a result, react. With improv, there is no script, there is no anticipation of what will happen next. It’s the best decision I’ve made socially, in terms of my career, and for my overall happiness. I am happy, and I’m smiling. I don’t know what’s going to happen next in my career, but that’s the thrill of it I guess. So..can you say, “Yes, and?”

#Starstruck: Brief Encounters and #Encouragement from #DebraWinger

A customer came up to me at my survival job, she was buying Entertainment Weekly with Michael Keaton on the cover. His new movie Birdman is coming out and getting a lot of buzz for him. Sometimes, when a cover intrigues me, I might blurt out a comment. I did.

“Oh wow, Michael Keaton. What’s he been up to? Haven’t heard that name in a while.”

“He has a new movie coming out. How do you know about Michael Keaton? You seem really young to know that name.”

“Haha. I guess. I’m an actor, I do my research. Plus, he scared the crap outta me in Beetlejuice when I was 4.”

“You do comedy, right? Stand-up and acting? I think we talked about this before. How’s that going?”

“Um, good. Thank You.”

“I think it’s really great that you’re pursuing it. You’re funny.”

“Thank you so much.”

And with that, the woman took off her sunglasses, and asked me, “What’s your name?”

“I’m Stephanie Gould. Nice to meet you.”

She extended her hand, and said, “So nice to meet you. I’m Debra Winger.”

“Um, THE Debra Winger?” I asked.

“Well, there’s no ‘THE’ on my driver’s license, but yes,” she said with a laugh.

“Oh my goodness”

Now, at this point, I was blushing, but I kept my cool I think. I mean, it’s DEBRA WINGER…from Terms of Endearment for cryin’ out loud. But, as we continued talking, she asked me how things were really going with my career, and what I was up to next. I told her I’m studying improv, and auditioning a lot. She  told me that she’d be on the lookout for me and that she’d make sure to come by and say, “Hello” to me at my day job. She told me to keep going, and not give up. She told me that the butterflies in your stomach at an audition or performance never really go away. She was a bright spot in my day, encouraging and kind, and I am grateful that I had yet another meeting with a truly talented individual whom I have admired as a performer for years. So Debra Winger, if you are reading this, Thank You. I think our meeting was the universe’s way of saying that things will work out.

As a side note: A friend of mine were at an event a while back, she had a great piece of advise for me. She said, “Don’t get starstruck, they [celebrities] are artists and we’re artists. We do what they do. and they do what we do. Act.”

The Mockumentary That Should Have Won an Oscar:”For Your Consideration” (2006)

Improvisation has always been an essential tool for an actor whether you are in a comedy or a drama. Known for films that only have an outline instead of a set script, Christopher Guest has helped revolutionize the movie-going experience with the “mockumentary” film. Movies like Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and Waiting for Guffman, all use a core group of actors known for their improvisational skills. Actors like Bob Balaban, Michael McKean,  Harry Shearer, Eugene Levy, Parker Posey, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Fred Willard,  and even Christopher Guest himself, all have  made regular appearances in these films. Their improvisations skills have been put to use in both comedic and dramatic films. One of the most interesting films of Christopher Guest’s is For Your Consideration. Ironically, there was Oscar buzz for Catherine O’Hara’s performance in which she plays an actress vying for an statue of her own. Honestly, I think this movie SHOULD have gotten an Oscar for O’Hara and the movie itself. Catherine O’Hara’s abilities as an actor of both dramatic and comedic caliber are so high that even the apparent face-lift that her character, Marilyn Hack, has, was not done with use of makeup or special effects. As an actor, she had the ability to use her physicality and enhance the performance in an honest way.  Take a look at the clip:

Put this DVD in your queue and watch the pure genius of the cast as they improvise their way through one of the funniest films to parody the film industry. There is more truth to this comedy about drama than in actual documentaries about the industry. I would love to be in a movie like the ones that Christopher Guest produces and directs. I think they are intelligent, funny and pure entertainment. I love seeing skilled actors at work.