Stand-In & Deliver: Learning from Some of the Greats

Every once in a while, you have to thank the universe for the gifts it gives you. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to work on a new untitled project by director, Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace.) However, technically, I wasn’t in front of the camera. I was able to be a stand-in for none other than Kathy Bates. I’m not sure how in the world I got the call at 6:00 in the morning,  let alone how I got called in to be her stand-in. Yet, I was excited to be back in an environment I love and learn from every time I work on a film. I will be eternally grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and the observations I made during my three day work week. Honestly, it was like one big master class. I got to watch Kathy Bates, Danny Glover, Michael Shannon & Rachel Weisz work, rehearse, and just be. well, normal human beings. More importantly, I got to be a part of something that will no doubt yield wonderful performances from its cast members. I also learned more about the ins and outs of the process in three days, than I have in a long time. I was there to do a job and contribute to what they needed at the time. That pretty much sums it up about the film industry in general, you do your job for the time allotted and move on. I’m glad that i got the opportunity to work with and learn from four of the most talented actors in the business.

#GimmeShelter: @VanessaHudgens Shows Us Her Acting Chops. #VanessaHudgens #Surprises #Gigi #GigionBroadway

Yesterday, I watched a movie called Gimme Shelter on Netflix. I didn’t realize that Vanessa Hudgens was actually in the movie until I started it, and even then, I questioned whether or not it was her. Now, my only references to her work other than the High School Musical franchise, was Sucker Punch. That being said, I didn’t really have any high expectations. I’d heard of the movie briefly before, but didn’t get a chance to catch it when it was in theaters. That being said, Netflix is a wonderful invention. Based on a true story, Hudgens plays Agnes “Apple” Bailey, a pregnant runaway teen. The film co-stars Rosario Dawson as her drug-addled mother, Brendan Fraser as her well-to-do biological father, James Earl Jones as a compassionate priest, and character-actress, Ann Dowd as Kathy, the woman who runs a shelter for homeless, young mothers.

The role of Apple is a far cry from Hudgens’ current project as the title character in Gigi on Broadway. Her portrayal is riveting, raw and honest. She gave the role everything her talents could provide, had the dialect down, and was vanity-free.  She really shines and seems to leave the Disney star behind with this role. In a key scene in the hospital, Hudgens spars with James Earl Jones and holds her own against the industry veteran. That scene itself pretty much sealed the deal for me, giving me a new found respect for an actress who has often been simply labeled a teen star. Although the film could sometimes have the feeling of a Lifetime movie or even reminiscent of Precious, it is well executed and performances elevate it to a level that makes it worth a watch. It’s currently on Netflix and I am glad I stumbled upon a gripping tale with amazing performances.

Oh, Hey #Harold, Nice to Meet You: #LongformImprov. #Improv #comedy @thepitnyc

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The Harold, developed by Del Close

In my previous class of musical improv, song structure and format was extremely important. Listening to your fellow improvisers in a group and in a two-person scene into a song was the key to making the song successful. From environmental details, to picking up on key words and phrases a person says, everything was important. The same goes for Longform improv. Developed by Del Close of Second City and ImprovOlympic fame, he created a structure known as the Harold which was first performed in 1967.  Since then, companies such as the Groundlings in L.A., Upright Citizen’s Brigade, and the PIT have used the Harold in Longform improv. Typically, there are two categories of improvisation: Shortform (think Whose Line Is It Anyways?) and Longform (The Harold).

After taking musical improv, I knew to expect a certain structure for the Harold. I even studied various notes on the format before starting Longform  due to its complexities (click on the picture above to find out about the format.) Last night was our first class for Level 3 in which we study Longform, particularly, the Harold. We did various Harolds, and I really noticed the amount of listening it takes to make each element successful. A good memory is also useful. I credit learning song structures in musical improv for not completely freaking out about following The Harold’s format. I find it challenging in a different way, and I am excited to see what more I can learn.

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