Thursday, November 12, 2009

Improvisational Observations (aka boring)



Mad Men is over. Ugh. I hate it. But – the thing I love about the show is that things won’t happen for weeks. Episodes will go by and you’ll think, “OK, great, I sat and watched that for an hour and what the fuck happened? Nothing.” But, then you see the Season Finale and EVERYTHING happens. It all comes together and you understand nearly every single miniscule moment of every single episode. It’s unreal.

I was reading a Mad Men blog and the writer interviewed Chelcie Ross, who played Conrad Hilton on the show. He asked this question:

Q: How does working on Mad Men differ from the other work you've done?

A: I don't know how to describe it, but it's a different requirement. It's a scarier proposition than acting on most TV or movies; it's kind of naked acting. The show is shot to the technical standard of 1963, so you're not going to get quick jump edits, or steady cams, or any of that flash. In addition, there's no score. You can take any scene and tell the audience what you want them to feel with a good score. But there's not a score behind the scenes, there's incidental music. So basically what you have is a camera on a stick and two actors in a room. It's like being under a pop-up, there's no place to hide. And I like that. It brings out the best in everything.

My first thought was, yes! Improv! It’s improv baby! I mean – it’s not. Mad Men is scripted. But, in the sense of naked acting. It’s entirely on them as actors to set the scene. There’s no music, no cue to the audience to say, “This scene is a dramatic scene.” It’s all on the actors. But how it relates to me is what I was trying to explain the other day while talking about Seriously Bent.

At an improv show, you have actors and a stage. There’s no script, there are just suggestions given to us, pure brain power, and rules to keep in mind (and probably break.) Any emotion the audience feels is purely based on what we’re handing to them. How we feel is how they will feel. Like, for instance, a couple of weeks ago when I played an anorexic girl in a scene. The scene wasn’t particularly funny, so people weren’t laughing. But it was realistic. And some girl cried because I guess she was anorexic or something –but that girl was also crazy.

But, when we have a musical underscore to work with – it’s a different experience. Sometimes, before we even speak – the audience feels a certain emotion based on the music. And then it’s our job to play to that emotion and justify the music. It’s sort of like a safety net. But, it creates an even better environment and emotionally involves the audience so much more.

But, we still have no place to hide. And I like that, too. It DOES bring out the best in everything.

In other news, I need a life.

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