Milton Katselas. Acting Class: Take a Seat. Beverly Hills, Ca.: Phoenix Books, 2008.
This book presents the instructions that the author uses in his Acting classes at the Beverly Hills Playhouse.
Acting brings out the genius from inside an actor. An actor frees a creative spirit when acting.
Stella Adler stated “I’m not teaching acting, darling, I’m teaching actors to be people.” This requires merging artistic skills with life knowledge to produce a performance.
Acting involves the actor as a person. Director Martin Ritt explained that “All you’ve got to be is mine the gold within yourself.
Creativity requires some to forget past life lessons that taught that one should have humility and modesty. Acting requires one to be a Mensch, or a full, caring human being.
Acting is the craft, technique, and process of acting work. Attitude is the artist’s feelings regarding the artist’s own life, feelings towards other actors, and feelings towards others in life. Administration is the chosen actions undertaken in the craft of acting.
An honest actor tries to feel the same feelings and live the same life as the character being portrayed.
Marlon Brando presented a height in personal acting with a wit that caught people off-guard.
Realism is acting as a foundation that includes intelligences, expressiveness, irony, humor, and unexpectedness.
An actor needs to understand the story and know what a real person would do during the story. Katselas explains this is the simplicity to acting, and warns that many try to make it more difficult.
An actor should be enthusiastic and have a good attitude towards acting. An actor should be pleasure to others in order to become successful.
Actors should maintain contacts with directors.
An actor needs commitment.
Technique is what helps an actor in creating the art of acting. An actor considers a Checklist for creating the art of acting, namely the Event, Evaluation, Behavior, Physical / Emotional State, what occurred prior the scene, Creative Hiding, Be a Person. Inner and Outer Life: The “Cover”, Who’s the Author?, Improvisation, Humor, Trust, Being Personal, Pathology, Objectives, Specifics, Use of Objects, Arbitrary Choices, Momemt to Moment (part 1): Belief, and Moment to Moment (part 2): Alternatives.
The Event is the scene’s location and what is occurring. The actor must relate to the scene.
The Evaluation is the appraisal of a scene.
Behavior is what a character does in a scene. There is the Apparent Event of what the actor physically does and the emotions shown in the Actual Event of the character’s motivation.
Stanislavski advised actors to follow “the line of action, the line of truthful actions, and of genuine confidence in them.” An actor uses the simplest of actions and words to present full emotions.
The actor must know the psychology of the scene. Director Elia Kazan stated “The job of the director is to turn psychology into behavior.”
The Physical/Emotional State concerns the actors condition, both physically and emotionally.
What Happened Before the Scene requires an actor to portray a role at a specific moment.
Creative Hiding is when a character hides emotions from other characters.
Be a Person requires portraying a real person. An actor should consider what real people do in situations. Stanislavski notes people often have a reflective delay.
Inner and Outer Life: “The Cover” is the subtext to a character.
Who’s the Author? Requires delivering the lines in an effective manner, often according to a voice an author intended.
Improvisation requires making dialogue appear real and spontaneous. Katselas recommends to “play the written scene, but use your own words to paraphrase the text”, “set up a situation analogous to the written scene”, “explore a part of the scene that is not included in the script but relates to your scene”, “explore another technique out of character”, and “realize what is expressed by action that is the opposite of expectations.”
Moment to Moment, Part 1: Belief requires a portrayal to be believable by an audience.
Moment to Moment, Part 2: Alternatives requires an actor to realize that real people don’t act in specific actions that they do so while weighing alternatives.
The author provides several acting exercises. One exercise is to sing while still and to relax and observe the small emotional impulses and note where tensions and emotions arise. Sing fully to loosen emotions.
Another exercise is to assume a pose from a picture and then speak as the person in the picture, being true to the character in the picture.
Another exercise involves the actor relating to and changing the environment of a scene by making it more personal. This may relax an actor and allow the actor to better absorb a scene.
Another exercise is to write and perform a monologue that tells something personal. This gives an actor practice in relating personal emotions.
Another exercise is to pretend to audition by acting without reading. Robert DeNiro advised for real auditions that “you go in, you read you do your best you can, you go home. You’re probably not going to get the job anyway”. When auditioning, Katselas states the actor should be enthusiastic and let the auditioners know the actor is interested in them. Also, don’t place much reliance on any feedback given, as an actor will never learn the truth as to what the auditioners discussed. Katselas advises actors to keep faith in themselves, to retain their dignities, and to be persistent.
Another exercise is to do improvisation with another actor. This helps actors to improve their impulses and learn how to stay mentally fresh.
Tense actors should try relaxation exercises. Tension usually is found around the mouth, back of the next, and around temples. Falling asleep can relax a person.
An exercise for actors doing a shoot is to run lines together without over-thinking the scene. Instead, the actors rely on their spontaneous impulses and reactions to each other.
Presentational acting involves showing emotions through visual presentations, such as gestures. Real or feeling acting also requires an actor to experience the role so the audiences see the emotions as real and not fake. The essence of an actor must go into each performance.
Stanislavski stated an actor should feel total relaxation when performing at the height of emotions. This requires a set attitude.
Humor can result from juxtaposing realities. An actor should plan the truth of a comedic situation and note that opposites can both attract and be humorous.
A director only provides clues to an actor on how to play a part. An actor needs to act with self-reliance and conviction.
An actor needs the proper positive attitude. A successful actor is 80% positive attitude, 10% talent, and 10% technique.
Stanislavski wrote that “The actor is still bound in his everyday life to be the standard bearer of what is fine. Otherwise he will only destroy what he is trying to build…Develop in yourself the necessary self-control, the ethics, and discipline of a public servant to carry out into this world a message that is fine, elevating, and noble.”
A positive attitude is important. Self-invalidation can destroy an actor’s performance.
An actor should learn how to discover casting calls, work well with an agent, contract people who can be of assistance, make friends with casting people, write good thank you letters after auditions and work, wear proper fashionable clothes, have good hair styling, have a website and other promotional aides, meet industry people, and lean about the craft. Persistent enthusiasm is a key. An actor should feel dignified about being an actor.