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The brilliant and respected casting director/director/coach Risa Bramon Garcia came to my class last week and blogged about it. Although I can’t reprint her blog (wouldn’t be right…) – I can direct you to her link at Risa’s Blog about me . Thank you, Risa! By the way, all her blogs are brilliant, so keep reading.

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Self Protection

I was recently pointed in the direction of a wonderful resource for actors called “Hollywood Happy Hour” by my lovely friend, world-class casting director Marci Liroff . While there, I saw the following question by a generous actor, Devai Pearce, who has so kindly given me permission to print our exchange. I have edited out a few extraneous paragraphs. This is the fourth or fifth time I’m been asked how to deal with this issue. I always get this question from actors who aren’t studying with me. Perhaps they might want to reconsider…..
Devai wrote:
Hi comrades,
I am working on an intense scene that involves sadness ( serious grief ) and anger, and some times after I do the scene, I end up with a migraine headache, due to the intensity of the emotion. In feeling this scene fully, a headache is often the result. Any thoughts on this? How to remedy it? I tried various forms of meditation afterward to no avail– well, it did help me cope with the pain, changing my attitude toward it, but ultimately the pain triggered by the scene sometimes remains, and even gets stronger. Any thoughts? Anyone lift weights to counter the aftermath of an emotionally rigorous scene?
I welcome your thoughts.
Thanks,
Devai

I responded:
Dear Devai,
I understand your question. In fact, I suffered a similar headache trying to figure out how to respond to your question. I have two very simple, yet profound suggestions for you to consider. In order to clear whatever emotions that the circumstances of the character or the material bring up on:
a )the physical plane – make sure that you make a ritual of putting on and taking off the characters clothing (especially their shoes). NEVER wear the same clothing that your character wears. Also washing your hands and drinking some water afterwords proves to be very helpful.
b )the Spiritual plane – Say a prayer, affirmation, whatever you like to call it before entering the emotional state. Remember, we as actors are entering a form of trance or self-hypnosis. If you set the intention prior, along the lines of “Spirit, I am about to enter into some dark and painful territory. I ask that you protect me as I use my body, mind and senses to embark on this journey in order to heal myself and anyone who may witness my work. Please protect me and return me to radiant health and well being upon completion of______. Allow only that which is for my highest good to remain.” Or just surround yourself with White Light before working.
I have found both of these techniques to be very helpful for my students and myself.

On a personal note, I find that pain usually comes from resistance and holding back. I urge you to really let fly with whatever comes up IN THE SCENE – so there is nothing residual at the end.

Please feel free to visit my website at www.jeffreymarcus.com.
Best,
Jeffrey Marcus

Two days later, I got this….
Thank you all! I rehearsed the scene today (as a mother of a recently deceased son) sans headache! Woo hoo! I will re-read all of your fine suggestions too, just to see if there’s something I missed! You guys are the best!!!

Told you so….

Happy July 4th

At this time of Independence Day, I was thinking how, at one time – we were taught that being independent was the way to go. It is not strong and courageous to need, or rely on, anyone. I wonder that if a belief held firmly over 200 years ago, still speaks to us as strongly as it once did?
Actors know that it is all about being interdependent. We depend on our authors (scripts), our directors, our fellow actors, our imaginations, etc. Being a rogue actor doesn’t really get you anywhere. Even Lily Tomlin has her Jane Wagner, her theater owners and sound engineers, etc.
Perhaps actors are pointing society to where it’s going by reminding society that we all need each other. Now more than ever. When companies go for making profits independently of what is good for mankind – we get catastrophic oil spills destroying our oceans.
I did think of one way we actors are independent. It is important that we remain independent from stress, limiting beliefs and misunderstandings of our own power. As Stanislavsky said “At times of great stress, it is especially necessary to achieve a complete freeing of all the muscles”. Why? Because, he also said “The language of the body is the key that can unlock the soul.”

Winning

Winning is enjoyed in the present and chased after into the future. The enjoyment and the pursuit are both necessary components of a great acting performance.
Most of our day is spent with tiny moments of winning or losing. I made it to yoga class in time – win! I wasn’t able to hold my handstand for a minute – loose. In both instances, I was enjoying the process and trying to achieve my win. In the former I was successful, the latter – not so much. Even little moments, like smiling at someone, becomes a desire to get them to smile back – win!

Remember people do what they want to do in life. For the most part, we’re all doing the best we can. Please don’t judge or feel sorry for your characters. By all means have compassion, but not pity. We are who we want to be, and do what we want to do. Knowing this, an integral part of every great performance is to have gusto. Allow your character to relish their situations and actions. It’s what makes a performance memorable.

I often mention how important it is to find where the love is in a scene. Without love, a scene lacks fuel to power it along. In America, we often confuse love with attraction or infatuation. The truth is love needs no object to attach itself to. Love is a state of being. It is a force. It is tender and gentle. Passion has suffering inherent, and is not to be worked with.

Michelangelo often worked for the church, because the Church was the only institution at the time that could afford the stone that he wanted to work with. It is said that he needed to love the stone, in order to free it of what was extraneous to the sculpture that lay within.

There is a fable of a very powerful king that owned a beautiful vase. One day, the vase broke. He searched for the most famous potter in the land to repair the shards. When it was returned to him, it wasn’t to his liking and he had the potter slain. Other potters tried and met the same fate. Finally a monk who had a reputation for working in clay was brought to the court and given the shards. He retired to his cave for a long period of time and came out with the beautiful vase for the king. The king rewarded him handsomely. When his assistant was cleaning the cave, he came upon the shards in a corner. The assistant said to the Monk, “How did you create the famous vase without the shards?”. The monk said, “Anytime you work on something from a loving heart, you are sure to create great beauty.”

Sit quietly and surround yourself with images that invoke love. Use anything that is unconditional: a pet, a sunset, a grandparent, etc. When you feel the tender, vulnerable love that ensues – place it into your career. Send the love to your work, to your career, to your representation. When you work from love, rather than the need for money, fame or attention – you gather the forces of magic available in the universe.

When I enter into my thoughts on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – I think of the tremendous service consciousness that he had to embrace in order to battle against the odds, and bring society a bit closer to compassion. He made the ultimate sacrifice by putting his life in harms way. Right now, people are stepping outside of their comfort zone and volunteering for the earthquake relief in Haiti. In our very own city, people donate hours of their time and energy to assisting people and organizations that they believe in.

Although I am loathe to compare the civil rights movement and natural disasters to an acting class — what can we learn from these brave individuals who have come before us?

Why not volunteer hours of your week in service to your own talent? In light of the sacrifices that many people make, everyday, how can we sit back and wait for Hollywood to recognize our talents? Why not volunteer hours of your week in service to your talent? Can you treat your talent as a gift from the heavens that is waiting to be recognized? There are many details and dues that aren’t fun to do, yet are necessary to move forward in your chosen career. Whether it’s delving into your sensory memory, keeping your mind/body/spirit in shape, writing a short film to star in or delivering pictures to agents – try treating these efforts as service work to assisting your talent in being of service to our society. If you don’t answer your Spirit’s call, who will?

Tonight, the first night of the winter session (after Christmas break) –an agent and manager are attending my class. Being off for two weeks, I feel like I haven’t gotten my sea legs back yet. I immediately went to: “Why can’t they come next week?” “Why tonight, when not everyone is back from break yet?” “Why me?” Within two beats of a heart, I was able to shift it to – “What a wonderful opportunity for the students to be seen by viable representation!” “What a wonderful gift for me to have another agent know of my work!” “How exciting to start the year off with a bang!” I saw how my opinion of the situation enabled me to go from stress to appreciation, instantaneously. I then thought of how, as actors, when we get that call for an audition we can also go into the… “I don’t have enough time to prepare.”, “This part isn’t right for me.”, “What if I don’t do a good job and my agents find out?”, etc. In that same instant, we can shift it into – “Hooray, I get to act today!” , “What fun it will be to make another fan of a casting director!” or “ I love the challenge of creating something from nothing!”
Our perception is our reality. No one can change that for us. With discipline and mastery over our thoughts, we can change our future. What a powerful realization to bring into 2010.