Kyle Riabko has "It"!

Twenty-six year old Mr. Riabko is new to me but, after I came across this video of him singing a Burt Bacharach medly, I was hooked (pun intended) and have replayed it maybe twenty times. It is amazing how much you can tell about a performer in a couple of minutes. First of all, he's smart, extremely handsome and has swell hair. Second, he has a remarkable talent, probably more than one of them, which is intriguing. Third, and probably most impressive, he wears his heart on his sleeve, the hallmark of a rare good actor. Even after all these years, it still excites me to see this kind of talent and potential. What's your opinion? You can see him on stage in New York through January, in What's It All About: Bacharach Reimagined.

Peter O'Toole (1932 - 2013)

Movie Star n. \moo-vee stah-rr\

1. Peter O'Toole, sometimes known as "Lawrence of Arabia"

2. plural: none

Acting for Animators Workshop Schedule

January 31st weekend, Medellin, Colombia, participating in gov't-sponsored animation education event

February 10-14, Animex Int'l Animation and Game Festival,Teesside, England

Late February, date to be determined, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennyslvania

"Frequently on the lunar surface I said to myself, This is the Moon, that is the Earth. I'm really here, I'm really here!"   —Alan Bean, Apollo 12

Craft Notes:

A Visit to "Planet Acting"

Think of acting as a planet in the universe, like the moon or Mars. Planet Acting. Humans have been able to look up and see it in the distant morning sky ever since humans realized they (okay, we) could pretend to be one another in chldhood play. From the start, we loved to look at Planet Acting because pretending made us feel strangely and uniquely happy, and if we could just walk on Planet Acting, we might be the happiest we could possibly be. That is the way things stood for some many thousands of years, until Constantin Stanislavsky built a space ship in his backyard outside Moscow and made it fly. Stanisvlasky was the first astronaut on Planet Acting. He returned to earth and reported what he saw up there, and he made his space ship design open source so that one day anybody could log on and copy it. Most of us have been flying in copies of Stanislavsky's space ship ever since, even landing in the same general vicinity that he did. Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meisner, Stella Adler, Uta Hagen -- the entire roster of famous American acting teachers, all traveled in Stanislavsky's space ship.

This metaphor popped into my mind recently when I read a book, Acting and How to Be Good at It, written by a friend of mine, Basil Hoffman. The first thing I do when I read a book about acting is to check the table of contents and index for Stanisvlavsky's name. I, too, first flew on his space ship, and I can calibrate my own perceptions about acting in relation to other actors and acting teachers if I know when and where they landed on Planet Acting. Basil's book was missing Stanislavsky. I read it anyway, of course, often with delight, occasionally with smugness and, because it is my nature, the now and then "tsk, tsk". When I finished it, I realized I had just seen Planet Acting from a different landing zone. Basil seems to have designed his own space ship, made the trip all by himself and then written this book about what he saw up there. For sure, he landed on the same planet as Stanisvlavsky. He describes many of the same landmarks, but in his own words. He returned to earth not caring much for scene study, for example. Based on what he saw, scene study is too limiting a training tool for those who aspire to serious space exploration. Working on a particular scene is like learning how to make a particular kind of screw, but it doesn't help you understand how the screw fits into the larger space ship. Instead of scene study, he encourages total immersion into a character's view of the world. Yup, you're right: Stanislavsky said something similar, but that is my very point here. Acting is acting is still acting on Planet Acting, but there is more than one way to describe what you, the astronaut, are seeing there.

Basil Hoffman is instantly a credible astronaut because he has enjoyed a long and distinguished career as an actor. He is one of those character actors who carves out a house-buying career without drawing a lot of attention to himself. You've seen him in movies and on TV shows lots of times but didn't know his name. ("Honey, who is that guy playing the judge, the one with the long face?") Reading his book is like spending a few hours with a respected scholar. You learn right away that he places a lot of emphasis on approaching acting with the proper and respectful attitude. He dismisses the role that luck plays in a financially and artistically successful acting career, insisting that dedication counts for more. Luck tends to favor the actor who is best prepared, the one who has made the most trips to Planet Acting. I hope you will buy Acting and How to be Good at It. If you are a Frequent Flier on the Stanislavsky Express, just keep an open mind. Look out the window and you will clearly see what Basil sees, and you will realize that Stanislavsky was looking at the same things, from a different perspective and with less sophisticated lab tools. It is a heck of a trip, I promise. And while you are at it, pick up a copy of Sharon M. Carnicke's Stanislavsky in Focus. Nobody - repeat, nobody - has ever written a better description of the great man's work and how it evolved. If you want to know how major aspects of Stanislavsky's "System" wound up in Lee Strasberg's "Method", Dr. Carnicke is your best pilot.

I really like this Planet Acting metaphor. It's worth noting that British actors did not ride on the Stanislavsky space craft until relatively recently. They preferred Planet Shakespeare, a nearby and slightly larger orb than Planet Acting - raucous, colorful and physical, acting designed for the groundlings. The Brits know how to work the audience better than American actors do, which is probably why they win such a disproportionate percentage of the Academy Awards and Tonys. Stanislavsky encourages the actor to look inward. Shakespeare focuses outward, on the audience. He got the men costumed like women whenever women were needed in a cast, went out there and just kicked theatrical butt.

The Chinese (stop me before I hurt myself with this metaphor!) are still experimenting with spaceship design, but they obviously can see Planet Acting in the sky. Just as soon as the government gives them permission to fire up all the necessary rocket engines, they'll be making the trip, I'm sure. Who knows? Maybe they'll land somewhere near Basil Hoffman.

Happy New Year!

 

 

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