Sunday, March 28, 2021



Acting feels futile during a pandemic even though some brave attempts have been aired on Youtube-- Zoom performances patched together into an odd mix. Editors are the true creators of acting performances in films and television shows, but not for stage performances, yet that is all we have now.  

Still I wanted to work. An actor acquaintance once told me that Uta Hagan wasn’t very good in the roles she played. I had not seen her performances so could neither agree or disagree. But reading her book,  her exercises seemed quite good. Reading them, they sounded good as were her reasons for creating them, solo exercises filled the gap  between roles working on acting between roles, devising exercises that mitigated acting problems. 


 I borrowed a DVD of Uta Hagan’s acting class from the public library. It is a DVD of some of her exercises along with some scenes her students performed. It isn’t the first time I viewed the tape.  I saw it a few years ago and thought it was good. But this time I sat with an actor friend who has a much more critical eye than I. With him, I realized the scenes were terrible and the exercises little more than an attempt to get laughs from the audience.


The exercises, four that I can remember, were the following: waiting, creating the fourth wall, talking to yourself, and creating a period piece through costume. Waiting was straight forward. The individual waited on what seemed like a subway platform. He might have even had luggage of some type. Afterward Uta congratulated him and went up onto the studio stage, explaining to her students that nobody just stands someplace, that we all do things. We look in the direction of the train. We look at the other people, the advertising, the clocks, the computerized signs that tell when the next train is coming. That exercise was simple enough.


The next exercise was an actor finding something she lost. But here the problem was that although the actor looked at all of the objects she brought from home, she knew where the lost object was. As my acting colleague said, somebody else should have hidden the object in a place she was likely to have misplaced her object, but a spot unknown to her so that she really searched for the item.


Other exercises were creating a fourth wall and talking to oneself, which Hagan claimed we all do. As actors performed their exercises, the audience laughed while Hagan explained that we laugh because the exercise has occurred to us in life. But the actors played for laughs. They chose exercises that they could make funny and not necessarily particularly honest work. Honest work probably wouldn’t entertain an audience but are good practice for concentration and  attention to detail.


In my opinion, the only authentic exercise was one in which the actor dressed in an 1880’s costume in front of the audience. She dressed as if the clothing-- bustle, laced up corset and shoes—were something she wore everyday.


The scenes performed were worse.  Hagan only allowed five minutes of performance because as she said, if a scene goes on longer than five minutes, the actor is directing him or herself instead of interacting. But the actors in these scenes were not interacting. They either stood in their places and yelled lines at each other or after her intervention, got caught up in business so again they weren't interacting.


In the future, I will be more scrutinizing when I read acting method books.


 Theatre in San Francisco mainly has been spectacle, much like Uta Hagan’s DVD, broad playing that is about laughs or it is technical effects and innovation. But neither will persuade a younger audience to embrace theatre, and now with the Internet as the main attraction, stage actors have a large bill to fill.  


Friday, February 08, 2008

Norman Gee--Part 8 (4:12)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Norman Gee--Part 7 (3:58)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Norman Gee--Part 6 (3:26)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Norman Gee--Part 5 (6:28)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Norman Gee--Part 4 (7:05)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Norman Gee--Part 3 (6:14)

In part three, Gee starts by explaining the impetus for starting the Oakland Public Theatre. Next he tackles the thorny issue of ethnicity in theatre in the Bay Area. He mentions Shotgun Players, California Shakespeare Company and African American Shakespeare Company.

Part 3 Ethnicity and Theatre
Part 3 - Very Close to CD-Quality MPEG-4 (Broadband) (8.8M)
Part 3 - High Quality MPEG-4 (ISDN) (4.5M)
Part 3 - Highest Quality MPEG-4 available for Dial_up (2.8M)