February 26, 2013

Friends Make You Brave

We have friends for a reason. If we're feeling blue, they cheer us up. If we need help deciding which new TV to buy, they email sales and reviews from Amazon. If we simply want to go out, have a good meal and gossip about all the people we know, they are usually sitting right beside us. Friends console us, they give advice, and they help us frequently.

That said, I'd like to meet the friend that filled Hollywood starlet Kristen Stewart with so much confidence that the crutches, wild hair, and there's-a-pack-of-rats-in-my-dress hobble a non-issue for the 85th Academy Awards. "Show up in your couture bodice, and me, I'll show up fighting these labor contractions!"

It was a brave display of shameless confidence, urged no doubt, by someone that either really loves her or has stock in her demise. I believe the first. After all, the entire world was watching probably trying to understand why she was there instead of the police station pressing charges against the zookeeper that let her play with those gorillas.

Although the young starlet's head was not particularly held high that evening, I secretly gave her kudos while quietly wondering, "does she smell too?" Ms. Stewart did offer an original type of confidence that, well, can't be overlooked...or forgotten unfortunately. Yes, the gods of Hollywood probably did everything in their celestial power to keep her from trekking that red carpet; BUT in a visceral, gritty, real-life, here-I-am-bitches-take-it-leave-it-who-cares-I-just-want-to-sit-down way she found the finish line. And, she also was at the 85th Oscar Awards, umm...when was the last time any of us were asked to go, let alone present?

No one's dead, the world's still spinning, it was nothing shameful, and somehow we all learned something from Ms. Stewart's display...never trust your friends, publicists, stylists, and bloggers will forever out number them.

February 14, 2013

Kiss somebody real good

Kiss someone; bake something sweet; deliver flowers, hold hands; give a hug.

Whatever you do, show some love on St. Valentine's Day.

February 13, 2013

The magic of WHAT IF...

The magic "What If" is a concept that actors and stage performers can learn to help draw deeper connection with their characters. It is a method that helps performers explore things like subtext, motivation, and an inner dialogue. Simply explained, "what if" is the manner by which actors/singers can learn to identify a character's wants and recognize the stakes of any given situation.

For example: A man walks into a department store. It's been a slow day for a sales clerk who works on commission and he needs at least $100 to make his monthly goal. The clerk asks the customer if he wants to try on a pair jeans. The customer refuses and says he is only browsing because he does not what to use his credit card for the purchase. 

"What if," in spite of this example, is not a form of manipulation. It might be in some scenarios, but that is not the ultimate aim of this technique. Instead, it is a way that Clerk and Customer create a path to achieving what they each want in the scene: Clerk wants to make a sale; Customer wants to browse. The stakes are clear-- earning $100 versus not using a credit card-- and these contending desires create a foundation for the magic "what if."

What if... Clerk brings over a rack of deeply discounted jeans and offers the customer an additional 10% off the entire purchase? Or what if the clerk places the customer on a email list that instantly offers him a buy-one-get-one free coupon? 

What if... Customer gets out his phone and calls a friend while in the store? What if he actually plans to rob the store later that night before closing and is only casing the store for cameras, exits, and alarms? What if the customer discloses the truth and explains that he has no extra money right now?

Do any of these choices change the scenario and get either character closer to what they want? Each scene is not necessarily a hatch mark towards an answer; after all, characters are sometimes no closer to what they want than when a show first begins. But, "what if" is a nifty technique that helps unfold a deeper context of one's character and builds a path towards fulfilling his/her wants. Try it out...it works in real life too!  

February 7, 2013

Your Path is Easiest and Probably Won't Kill You

The snow came down in thick sheets today all across the city. It was the kind of snow that blanketed the streets, hid the sidewalks, and fell fat and heavy from above. This type of weather is truly amazing and offered more than only a reason to wear a scarf and gloves.

All around is evidence of people walking in some direction. Some of the paths are similar while others make no sense at all. The paths belong to men and women, animals, and children too. Every intersection holds the proof of hundreds of people walking through their day, towards a destination and closer to some intended goal. For some it's home, for others it's work, some are simply walking dogs, and some brave souls are even out for a run. Every story is captured on the street during days like this.

As an experiment, I walked across a parking lot. Granted there were more tire tracks than footprints, but nonetheless, there was a good deal of data to work with. I wanted to know, could I walk in the identical path of someone else, step for step, stride for stride, left-right, left-right? I set a goal: get across and into the grocery store. Let's go...

The first few steps were easy. I felt good about this goal. However, with time, it became difficult to keep up with how the person angled his/her feet, how he veered step after step, the amount of pressure one ankle had compare to the other, did he slip here? Should I? I had to concentrate, so much that, whoops...that driver almost reverse into me. I fatigued and still had more than half the lot to go.

Forget it. Let me just get across. I'll walk my way, the way I'm comfortable, the way I know how. Besides, with all the tracks, tired treads, and intercepted paths I doubted if I was still on the path I originally picked anyway? It got confusing, time consuming, wore me down, and almost got me killed.

Finally, I crossed, and very quickly after just walking the way I know how. I turned around and was actually able to trace steps that belonged to me. It wasn't clear where or how they began, but somewhere out there that path included all of my steps. The experiment was over. I smiled at all the paths knowing that whatever the goal, it was achieved easiest, fastest, and most confidently when the steps getting us there were unique and one's own.