1997/1998 Acting Notebook

A continuation from this. I’ve gotten a lot of emails and personal comments about these notebooks – people appreciating them, and feeling inspired by them. So here’s another notebook, picking up where that last one left off. It’s devastating too because I begin rehearsals for the Macbeth In Half an Hour monstrosity. I shiver in remembrance.

I had so many different projects going on – that I think the notes I kept was my way of keeping myself on track. I probably would not need to take such detailed notes now. But God – it all just rushes back to me, seeing all of this.

PD Unit
Hello Out There – Sam: “2 damaged people find a moment of magic.”

11/6 Classics
Rent: Rob Roy – study Tim Roth. His manners. Negotiating status.

11/11 Classics
“hidden direction” in Shakespeare’s verse

Hamlet’s speech to the players: Live by it.

What is your intention?
To get onto the stage, dear boy. – Sir John Gielgud

“instinctive apprehension of situations” – on Elizabethan actors

1st scene in Merchant – “Ham it up a bit”

“Theatre is nature highly organized.” – Ben Kingsley

11/11 PD Unit

“The PD … boring or otherwise …” – Sam

“While she’s making all this $ on a soap opera, she can do her creepy parts off-Broadway.” – Sam

“Don’t try to pull yourself together. Fall apart.” – Sam to K.

“I feel like a two-bit whore. Next!” – Sam

11/13 Classics

My monologue: don’t lie! Keep it simple. Let it go. Plow right through the list – don’t linger. Get it out.

Beware of parallel choices, in terms of preparation.

Doug on Ernie Martin: “He ran Actors Studio West with so much love” –

Stimulus – response
Method: create the stimulusnot the response. Pavlov’s Dogs, etc.

Doug on inner thought processes of actors: “I’m not a good actor … I can’t create … my mom and dad will withhold love …”

Create a situation where you do what the character does.

Doug: “I don’t think Polonius ever speaks in prose. He was born speaking in verse. He probably cried in verse.”

Doug, on engraving of William Shakespeare: “I mean, this guy looks like a dork.”

“We made out inappropriately … and then he had a moment …” – Leslie, on Ophelia’s speech about Hamlet attacking her

11/13 German Lullaby rehearsal
How long has Polly been gone?
How overdue is she?
It’s 3 a.m.
Something’s wrong and I know it.

11/18 Classics

We speak in sound bytes and subtext.

Doug: “Get into a state where you release all of who you are so that control is not an issue.”

Doug: “That’s the risk. That’s the job.”

Doug: “Do everything you’re scared to do. Go crazy!”

Over-acting is doing more than you feel.

Doug, on failed love: “You may be able to deal with it better, but you don’t get over it. You have a hole in your heart forever.”

11/18 PD Unit

After the Fall – just relax. Speak. Don’t do more than you feel. Be open.

11/20 Classics

“Shakespeare scares you? Why should you teach yourself to run from these things?” – Doug

Incorporate rhetoric into truthful behavior.

If you get the thoughts right, you’ll start doing what the character does.

Balanchine’s favorite dancers were the ones who spun into walls. Not so careful, not so aware of where they were.

Robin Williams/Jim Carrey – fearless. Moment to moment. Literally second to second expressing what is in their heads.

“Gentle! God! You can call me anything but don’t call me gentle!” – John describing a fellow spear-carrier’s improvisation during a production of Julius Caesar – they all called him the “Gentle God guy”

11/25 Classics

Doug: “So how was that for you?”
Eileen: “I had fun … for a chance.

!! Always make the choice that the character is as smart as you or smarter. You may be playing an idiot – but he is negotiating life to the best of his facilities.

Every character has a hidden agenda or secret. Meryl Street in Bridges of Madison County – her secret was she never loved her husband. Make the secret as a conscious choice – and then let it do its work. Use this in As You Like It. I love him. I’m a woman.

“I just gotta get thru the scene.” – Al Pacino

“What’s it about?” – Doug to Amanda, on her book called Trusting God
“It’s about herb gardens.” – Amanda

11/25 Macbeth
Try the speech like a telegram – look for only the operative words
What are the most important words to get across the message

11/25 PD Unit

“I don’t think it’s self-indulgent unless it’s self-indulgent.” – Sam on crying in stage

Loss. Immediate sensory responses?
WTC bombing.

“Never mind.”

K. says that everything is a “double-edged sword”. He uses that phrase all the time. He’s so fucking stupid and he thinks that makes him sound smart. Let’s count how many times he says “double-edged sword” in the next 3 hours.

“If she’s peeing loudly, that’s a beer-drinkin’ woman.” – Tom

Eileen: “I know that women are bad lays, too.”

“Are you a spy from Juilliard?” – Sam to Brenda

Sam: “The ‘chink in the armor’ is not a racial slur …”

Lesley began throwing paper airplanes at Christine. Everyone is falling apart.

Acting in film:
Think loud.
Talk low.

Sam: “Every scene is Fight or Fuck. Make a choice. Do you want to fight the person you’re in the scene with? Or do you want to fuck them? Fight of fuck. Choose.”

“You were doing some oddly inappropriate emotional work …” – Sam to Tom

“in the hallowed halls of ivy …” – Sam

12/2 PD Unit

“I’m totally confused from an organizational point of view.” – Sam

“Totally uninhibited. No apologies. Go.” – Sam

Liz: “Every woman in this room has gotten their period –”
Sam: “I don’t want that kind of talk here.”

According to D., there is only one play in the world. 2 Trains Running. Hamlet? Hedda Gabler? Forget about it. There’s only one goddamn play in the world, apparently.

12/4 Classics
Tell the truth.
If you’re awkward, give it to the audience with no more or no less than what you feel.

Parenthetical: think of it as an aside

Doug: “Sometimes physicalizing it dissipates the impulse to express it in complex long sentences.”

John: “Should I talk about all of my fears before I start?”

Heaven stands in for God (somtimes) – check the edited editions to see what the consensus was

Let the verse direct you

Words at end of lines (with no punctuation): to be punched, accented, but keep going. The operative words at end of line
Mary had a little lamb whose
fleece was white as snow

12/4 PD Unit

“Do you want to speak, Richard, or are you just breathing?” – Sam

Brenda told Sam that she is a soprano. Sam said, “I don’t care what you call yourself, your high notes stink.”

“Life is short. Keep moving.” – Sam

Brenda: “Should I use my body?”
Sam: “If you don’t use it, I will.”

Sam on Method acting: “I’m flopping around honestly in my moments.”

Sam: “The punchline is ‘The cocksuckers are throwing paper clips’ – so you can work your way backwards from there.”

I am so sick at heart today for some reason. I hurt all over. My heart hurts. I want to get out of here

12/9 Classics
“It came and went … but it kept going.” – Leslie

Cover yourself with the choices you made.

Everything is useful.

Leslie and Amanda – Juliet and the Nurse
obstacles in the scene. “Peter, stay at gate.”
“Where is your mother?”

“saying goodbye” – Leslie

Tom “To be or not to be”
musical notes.
1st line: The actor knows his action from the 1st line, 11 beats
Question (capitalized): That is the Quest-ion. Search.
Whether ’tiscontractions are rhetorical figures of speech

Tom: “I’m like racin’ ahead on this shit.”

Tom: “So should I take it back to the same tired part of the thing?”

Doug: Sublimate means to take your pain, and to make it sublime.

“The demon is smiling because it’s being exposed.” – Doug to G.

12/9 PD Unit

If you really go after your objective, that takes care of the pacing.

“If you 2 ever decide to start a theatre company … count me in.” – Sam

“Go out, say the line, and get the hell off.” – Sam

“They need you to go Ping when it comes up.” – Sam on playing the triangle in a huge orchestra

Have you read about Jack Nicholson on the Terms of Endearment set?

“If Alaska is germane to your piece …” – Leslie

12/9 Macbeth

Gene: “Don’t take anything for granted when you’re fucking with witches.”

12/11 Classics
Taming of the Shrew – Doug told me after I stole his heart. Hugged me after class. “And you … you stole my heart.”

12/11 PD Unit
“I hate it when I don’t get jokes.” – Elena

There’s something weird going on today.

Cosmology. Meryl Streep in House of Spirits

Sam: “Trust yourself. Don’t be conservative. Go out on a limb.”

Kara: “There’s something almost superior to people who are spiritually intact.”

Sam: “It’s always a mistake for an actor to fight his own instrument. It is like a violin saying, ‘I wish I was a piano.'”

“Get Strasberg out of your ass and think about somebody else for a second!” – Sam

“You can’t be like – ‘I’m not ready for the moment to end’ …” – Sam on being in Les Miz

12/12 Gertrude Down rehearsal
outskirts of huge metropolis
Blade Runner
Morning After
Glengarry Glen Ross
Reservoir Dogs

Gertrude: knowledge.
How do you get to Gertrude? The little piece of paper from Gertrude means you’re set

Vix: like Michael Madsen. Cool She is the only character who speaks correctly, with proper grammar.

The allegiance of thieves
Territory. Struggle for power
Aggression – get what you want

Lenny’s a loose cannon

Chain of command:
Her crew

Vix: am I gay?
“I took an oath” ??

Huff deliverws the plans
Margharitte: who is she?

12/16 PD Unit

“Is that that long-lost play by Chekhov?” – Sam

“I’m a little afraid of my boss.” – Barbara

Hamlet to the players: Do not saw the air.

12/16 Gertrude Down
Margheritte: did she used to be one of us? Are we missing someone?

I want to break the patterns of my life.

The library: do we normally meet in the library? Leaving messages in books, periodicals? Is Gertrude a librarian?

Whatever my relationship is with Margheritte (lovers?) – it determines how I see Beadie

After the Fall: Notes
Center of attention
Light seems to come from her
She glows
She laughs in the center of her circle of light and love
She looks like an ordinary girl – became American dream girl – she had to dream herself up
Champagne, silver coloring
She feels the image – lives it. I become my own fantasy
Restless and alive
The Misfits: across breakfast table from Clark Gable. She looks at him and says, “You really like me, don’t you?”
Walks like a cat in a new house
She is possessable – men sense it
a wild spirit –
like meringue – alabaster –
Innocent. “Here was a girl you’d think would be super aware of guys coming onto her – and she went right past that into another space – far more childlike and interesting.”
I’d rather be a symbol for SEX than some of the other things people are symbols for
Sex is not a dirty word to her – it is others who make it dirty. By itself, it is the purest thing in the world.
She was able to walk into a crowded room and spot anyone who had spent time in orphanages. “Do you like me?” in the eyes – an appeal out of bottomless loneliness

PD Unit
I love how Sam interrupts scenes.

Sam: “So I saw that you had such ecstatic oneness with the part that you were barely in the room with us.”

Sam: “The scene lays a royal egg. And I’m thinking: This is not what Stanislavski had in mind.”

After the Fall: Notes
Her footprints on a beach are a straight line – this throws pelvis in motion.
Only understands literal truth. Nuance and irony are lost on her.
Sense of humor collapses when painful images come up
Ludicrously provocative in how she dresses.
ee cummings poem: laughs in thoroughly unaffected way at “it’s spring!” – lame balloon man – naive wonder
Surrounded by darkness
She senses she is doomed
She never had the right to her own sadness
No faith
Sees all men as boys with needs for her to fulfill – she just stands aside observing herself
Frigid sexually. No orgasms.
Men = their need
She is incapable of condemning other people
Has no common sense
She knows that men only want happy girls.
She likes old men. Aged men evoke in her an intense awareness of her own power – it turns to pity, love – this is security
Yawning terror
unrelenting uncertainty
can’t rest or sleep – addicted to pills, bourbon
adores children and old people – everybody else is dangerous and have to be disarmed by her sexuality
Given power over others by mysterious common consent – no one knows why
quick to laugh
she demands a hero
crazy nobility
uncanny instinct for threat – no reserves to withstand it
Botticelli’s Venus
doesn’t believe in her own innocence
cursed by her mother

Remember how she listens in Bus Stop

After the Fall: Notes
Quentin’s quest for connection to his own life
Tenuousness of human connection
Suddenly – after being loved – you can be thrown into the street – abolished
Play is in the form of a confession
Maggie: seeming truth-bearer
Quentin: constricted, mind-bound – looks to her for the revival of his life
Miller searching for a form that would unearth the dynamics of denial
Unstated question in Camus’ book: not how to live with a bad conscience – but how to find out why one went to another’s rescue – only to help in his defeat by collaborating in obscuring reality

Camus’ The Fall:
about trouble with women – but this is overshadowed by the male narrator’s concentration on ethics
How can one ever judge another person once one has committed the act of indifference to a stranger’s call for help?

The play: stream of consciousness, abrupt disappearances, verges on montage
Survivor Guilt

After the Fall: Fact Sheet
I work at the switchboard of a law firm in NY
They don’t allow dogs where I live. Is it a hotel? SRO?
I don’t have a refrigerator
Just bought a phonograph – paying in installments – I only have one record (what record is it?)
“They laugh. I’m a joke to them.” They/Them: Men
“I had about 10 or 20 records in Washington but my friend got sick and I had to leave.” What does that mean? Washington? What’s that about?
Judge Cruise – dying – I tried to say goodbye – Family offered me $1000 – Alexander the chauffeur drove me out to his grave
I left Judge a couple times, but he didn’t want me to leave
Used to demonstrate hair preparations in department stores
Sent to conventions – supposed to entertain businessmen – (call girl)
I sleep in the park when it’s hot in my room
Quentin: “She’s quite stupid, silly kid. She said some ridiculous things. But she wasn’t defending anything, or accusing – she was just there, like a tree or a cat.”
Quentin: “It would have been easy to make love to her.”
Never graduated high school
I like poetry
In the top 3 as a singer
Being courted by a prince – met him at El Morocco
“went up” to see my father – where’s up?
My father left when I was 18 months – said I wasn’t his
Christening a submarine in Groton shipyard – public appearances
I go to an analyst
Mother used to get dressed in the closet (modest() and smoke in there. She was very moral. She tried to kill me once with a pillow on my face cause I would turn out bad because of her
Masseurs say I have a good back
I disguise myself when I go out
My fake name: Miss None. Like nothing. “I can never remember a fake name, so I just have to think of nothing and that’s me.”
Sex: “I was with a lot of men, but I never got anything for it. It was like charity, see. My analyst said I gave to those in need. Whereas, I’m not an institution …”
“She was chewed and spat out by a long line of grinning men.”
“You seem to think you owe people whatever they demand.”
The worst thing I ever did: I slept with 2 men on the same day. I am haunted by this.
Cream puffs, birthday dress, apples
Tried to die long before I met Quentin
“I been killed by a lot of people. Some couldn’t hardly spell.”
Who is Frank?

Transition Idea:
2nd scene: Bathrobe lying on mattress
Drink/glasses – one drink already poured
I walk out of first scene
“Little Girl Blue” plays
I am in the new set – lights dim – I want to be a sort of silhouette
Take off shoes – unbutton dress – take off dress – take off bra – put on robe – tie robe – drink from drink already poured – sit on bed – Quentin enters
White terricloth robe with hotel insignia – too big – it’s important that my pajamas be too big – obviously belonging to a man
Need: 50s bra. Half-slip. Or maybe full slip? Like Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof?

Notes from Mitchell:
Trust Sheila’s innocence. Don’t try to show her innocence. Trust that it is already there. She is you already. She’s you without your edge.

1/7/98 After the Fall
Is Quentin different? What about him is different? What is Quentin? Not who?
Why did mom get dressed in the closet? Shame, rigid, repressed – or ashamed of smoking?
Where is my mother now?
Refrigerator references: I have no refrigerator in the first scene, and 2 freezers in the second scene
What is the relationship with my agent? I’m obviously sleeping with him. Or blowjobs in return for professional protection and career management.
Focus on Quentin. Full focus. Do not get distracted by my own stuff. Eyes always on him. Soak him up

Her line of logic – like a child.
Dog – refrigerator.
It makes perfect sense to me

Page 5: “Why, they going to fire me now?”

Open book. “How could I keep a dog?” (Come on, you know my life!)

Who is Judge Cruze?

“NOW” – in the moment impulsive
Conscious afterwards (Scuse me about my hair …)

2nd scene: What is frightening me?

I call Quentin – not expecting him to answer – it is midnight. I ask him Can you come over? Why?
The mother story: what is the logic of it? She is “absorbed in her own connections” – what is that about?
Does Maggie know she is smart?
“You’re like a god” – what do I mean by this?
My entire life has happened because of him – why?
“You’re very moral” he says to me. No one has ever said that to me before.

What do I want from him in this scene?

“They laughed” – it is a stab in the chest (Betty the Loon) – where is my self-esteem?

She is not philosophical about herself.

“I hate the taste” – what do I love about the effect of alcohol? Be specific. Why do I bring it up? How much have I had before this? Is it a martini?

What would other men in this situation do to me? How would they behave as opposed to Q?

Am I testing him at all?
I respect him for not making a pass at me – but do I feel rejected too?
What role dow sex play in my life? What do I get out of it?

1/9/98 After the Fall

1st scene: What usually happens in this sort of situation – talking to strange men? It’s not happening her. This surprises me. Who is this man?
–Dirt from Judge’s grave – why?
–What is the relationship with Alexander? Give him a blowjob so that he will take me to the grave
— Why did I leave the judge a couple of times?

2nd scene: Try to use sex to make my panic go away
Panic attack
Need for physical contact – it makes the bad stuff go away – sex is the only remedy
Drunkenness – don’t forget she’s drunk

p. 9: “What did you mean – it gave you a satisfaction?”
— where does that come from?
— It’s a clear shift in thought – a gear shift

p. 11 “I don’t know anybody like that” – cover up disappointment – he won’t be staying with me. I did call someone, asshole! I called you!

Would you open the closet door? Everything stripped away.

Do I normally spend my time with men ignoring my fears so I can alleviate theirs?

It’s okay for you to be a man with me, Quentin

2nd scene: If this scene didn’t happen, what would I be doing?
My agent is in Jamaica – am I in his house? Who usually deals with my loneliness and depression and where are they now? Why don’t I call my analyst? Is he in California? Or is Quentin the last person I called? What would have happened if he didn’t answer?

1st scene: What am I doing in the park? Does it have to do with Judge Cruze’s family?
Dirt: Have I been carrying it around with me for a while? Did I just come back from the grave?

1/12/98 Gertrude Down
Don’t look for approval from anyone

Bank heist
— Beadie is in the middle of telling the story

You have to have arrogance to survive in this world

Down the rope – close to Gertrude – Knowledge – Power

Vix: Narcissist. Self-involved. It’s all about me.

I’m late to the meeting. Why am I late?
We are all operating on different levels of knowlege – Secrets – Everything has meaning

Don’t get distracted. Be like a lion staring at an unaware zebra.

1/13/98 Actors Studio Session
Estelle Parsons moderating

1st scene: director Pete Masterson
Tom and Kelly
Okay, what is happening in this scene? Is this an improv? What is the objective?
Acting on your impuluses only is not acting. Remember John Strasberg. I’m just seeing impulse going on.
Her gum?

Pete: letting the actors explore the scene. This is beginning work.

God, you really just have to be so honest up there. Don’t pull your punches – don’t defend – talk about your choices

How do you effectively say what you worked on.

Arthur Penn’s here too.

How to talk about your work without just talking about the plot, or explaining the script.

Estelle: “You talk about him, you talk about the play … what about you?”

*What did you work on today?*

Just answer the ?
I feel like she judges the character. I feel like she thinks the character is stupid.

Estelle: “A lot of the work was very general.”

Harvey Keitel is moderating on Jan. 27

2nd scene – improv
He belches. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Belch. “You motherfucker.”

“You’re a fuckin’ fruitcake, you know that?”

“Whatsa matter, guru?”

“You don’t know, Mr. Skirt Man, what I’m gonna do to you.”

“Let’s see what it does to me. Don’t impose. And I really succeeded in that.”

“I did not trust my own quiet. I didn’t trust that I didn’t want to speak.”

Arthur Penn: “That was so intensely joyful to watch. I could have stayed here for days. I could have had sandwiches brought in.”

I am in love with him!!
Now that is an actor.

“My character has a problem.”

“Well, I’ve been known to make weak chocies.”

“Well, when you put it that way ……” Laughter. “Always nice talking wtih you, Arthur.”

If you try to avoid cliches … you go into Cliche-Land.

1/14/98 After the Fall: Notes
I’ve always wanted people to see me, the real person
You know why I make fun of myself? So I’ll do it before they do. That way it’s not so bad, doesn’t hurt so much. It’s either commit suicide or laugh.
hold nothing back.
“She personalized the whole world.”
Monroe freaked out once about eating a chicken – started weeping: “It had a mother.” Intense identification with animals.
No shame
She could be so subverient and helpless and yet she wound up dominating everyone
Her life was like a war zone.
She was parasitic. Take take take take. Demand. Live off the juice of others.
She’s a good liar.
Life is balck and white – all or nothing – life is intense. She never forgets, and never forgives.
Obsessed with finding Freudian theories for everything.

countless abortions
no self-consciousness about her body
not a material girl

* What would happen if she allowed herself to be strong? Could anyone tolerate it?

2nd scene: “I have to initiate relationships. With men it’s hands off. They don’t know what the hell to do with me. After they get me, they don’t know what to do either.”

She has the psychology of a loving woman who has been treated like a whore her whole life

Help Help Help
I feel life coming closer
When all I want is to die

I saw a star slide down the sky,
blinding the North as it went by,
too burning and too quick to hold,
too lovely to be bought or sold,
good only to make wishes on
and then forever to be gone.

1/18/98 Gertrude Down
Gautier wardrobe, maybe?
Men’s suits tailored for women

1/20/98 Classics
“Rules are designed to minimize thinking.” – Doug

Concentration is a barometer. It’s God’s way of telling you you didn’t make a strong enough choice.

Don’t apply yourself to the task if it’s not working. Change the task.

After the Fall: Mitchell’s notes

“See what happens if you do one rehearsal just as Sheila.”

“This is a woman who hasn’t learned not to play the subtext.”

— dresses too sexy for office
— lays it too much on the line

“You open yourself up for attack if you play the subtext.”

Think about me, and my role at Lounge Ax with P.: that line I was afraid to cross of being perceived as a joke, a bimbo, a whore. Paranoid about how I was perceived. Am I a joke? What are people saying about P. and me? I have to be in control of that – of how I am perceived – so make a joke out of myself before others can. The point is is that I am in on the joke.

“Men are at the mercy of her sexuality – and so is she.”

1/20/98 PD Unit
“And if you’re a talented prick, who needs you?” – Sam

You aren’t only emotionally connected in naturalism

Lee Strasberg: “Your trump card is always the disaster that’s befalling you in the moment.”

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3 Responses to 1997/1998 Acting Notebook

  1. Alex says:

    “See what happens if you do one rehearsal as Sheila.”

    He’s the smartest actor on the planet.

  2. red says:

    Alex – hahahaha I know. He knew that I might be in danger of separating myself too much from that character – when really, let’s be honest, we are very similar.

    He was SO helpful – and he didn’t even see me work on it!

  3. Alex says:

    I have to tell you, I completely stole that. I tld my students that last week at me Weds VPs class.

    And then we did it.

    It was really, honestly revealing.

Comments are closed.