Some of them are amazingly stupid or amazingly brainless or even more annoyingly, amazingly ignorant. But I am wanting to keep this a bit more positive, so I won’t talk about the ignorant morons who think that the days I am not at the day job, I just sit around doing nothing. No, not going into that. I want to talk about some of the people I have met more recently who are amazing for good reasons.
As I mentioned recently I was taking part in the Howard Fine Masterclass. The experience was as incredible as I thought it would be. I have audited a few times before which gave me a chance to witness the magic of Howard Fine. Before I had even heard of Howard Fine I had the opportunity to audit another Masterclass by a different, amazing acting teacher from L.A. who I found very impressive. But after auditing Howard I have lost all interest in doing the other Masterclass altogether. (Not going to mention names as personal opinions are up to the person entitled to their own opinion, this is mine)
There are a lot of similarities between the 2 different 4 day Masterclasses. Both need to be applied for, you can’t just have the money and say “I’m in!”, except for auditing. Both have actors in pairs, taking it in turns to do a scene then the teacher gives them notes, then they do it again better. Followed by more notes to go and rehearse then come back and do it again on one of the other days. I believe the other one, everyone got up twice. With Howard it was 3 times, which means most of us got to do our scene 6 times. The notes is also interesting. Howard would get out of his seat in the front row and sit on another chair on the stage. The chair was sideways to address the 2 actors on stage as well as sharing the wisdom with the rest of the people in the room. The other never left their front row seat and never faced the rest of the room at all until question time at the end of the 4th day.
Howard never asks for personal details on the sources you are using to help you with a scene. Sometimes he will say that it not strong enough and you need to find something else. The other will ask what are you using for a source say it’s too weak and get you to share in front of the rest of the room whatever source or potential sources you will use. For some of the more dramatic scenes the actors are required to tap into some sad thoughts and memories. To share it in front of a room of strangers then have to teacher go over and over it seemed very uncomfortable for everyone.
I remember watching one actor. The first run (sorry to be judgemental) was horrible. What that teacher then put him through had the entire room squirming uncomfortably in their seats. His next performance was amazing. But if he needs to go through that every time he acts then he would have topped himself by now, I have no doubt. Or, just left acting entirely.
Another clincher to steer me towards Howard Fine’s methods. At the end of a scene, while the actor was still on set shaking from what they just went through, the other teacher announced loudly and proudly “I look at things like that and think, Fuck I’m Good!”
Last week in the Howard Fine Masterclass, I saw someone (several actually) improve incredibly in their scene. Howard’s reaction was one of congratulations to the actor. He would praise the actor when praise was due and he wouldn’t if it wasn’t. In Howard’s words to an actor last weekend who, like most of us, wasn’t used to or very good at, accepting a compliment (please excuse the paraphrasing, I didn’t record it) “There is no advantage to anyone if I tell you that was good if it wasn’t. I don’t hand out compliments easily and that was amazing. SO TAKE THE FUCKING COMPLIMENT!!” Howard is about the actor and the actor’s achievements.
Anyway, this blog was supposed to be about the amazing people and as always I get sidetracked.
The room was so full of amazing people at the Howard Fine Masterclass, held at the Howard Fine Acting Studio Australia. Firstly and with an element of “Oh, der!” there was Howard Fine. Supportive, constructive, funny, knowledgeable and any other words you can think of to describe someone who you want to learn from. His opening words after my scene partner and I did our scene was to look at me and say “Welcome.” then to my partner “Welcome back.” (she’s been here before)
There were two other teachers there to back Howard up as well. Firstly Stephen Costan, voice coach extraordinaire. Such a top bloke and an incredible voice, a master of the instrument that is his voice. If ever I write a book I will be approaching this man to to do the audio book for me. Secondly was Alexander Technique teacher Penny McDonald. I won’t pretend to know anything about the Alexander Technique but to see it in action was amazing. I will definitely be seeing Penny soon. Stephen too actually.
The other amazing person was definitely my scene partner Maryanne Niceforo. Her generosity of spirit was second to none. Although I hardly knew anyone else doing the course, about 3 friends in there I think, but they all knew Maryanne. They all lit up with excitement the second they saw her but never as much as she lit up seeing them. She is always happy and excited and the room just feels better because she is there. A true powerhouse and one to watch out for. The one thing I always say is the most important skill for an actor is to be someone others want to work with. Maryanne is going to be going places, keep your eyes open.
Although I didn’t know many at the start, I loved all by the end. There were no egos in the room. Everyone came in open hearted and open minded and were there to listen and learn. Even Howard felt the need to mention several times how amazing it was and how happy he was that everybody, without exception, in that class were open to his notes and took on everything he said to the best of their abilities.
It’s an incredible feeling to be in a room with so many wonderful, friendly, talented, ego free people. I just wanted to sit there like a sponge and soak in all the creativity and love. I almost make it sound like some sort of hippy commune. On some level I suppose it was except everyone washed.
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