Friday, March 2, 2012

Coming to Life

view details    Blog friends, it’s been a REALLY amazing week. On some levels, I’m still mentally processing everything, but on others I’m just so dang thrilled it’s hard to sit still. I know, I know, you want me to stop being irritatingly vague right? Okay, here goes.
    At the end of 2011 I considered taking a theatre class to help me round out my characters, especially my guys. Then I actually priced said classes and scratched that idea. The main reason, aside from the ungodly amount of money, is because I have no interest in being an actor. I wanted to observe how they move and their expressions, not perform. With my male characters being young and male, I wasn’t entirely sure they were well formed, working hard enough or acting naturally within the story. This concern was later confirmed by my friend Michelle after she did a reading for me. My guys needed some work.
    After deciding against a “school” environment, I started searching for different options. I discovered a Master Acting Class taught by Daniel Martine. A local film maker, writer and teacher in Memphis, Daniel and I also share a mutual friend in Carolyn Haines. I emailed Daniel and he asked that we discuss a visit to his class in more detail. During our conversation, I explained what I needed help with. Daniel thought he had an actor close to Hayden’s age. THEN (and this is the very best part) he offered to adapt a few of my problem scenes into screenplay form and have his actors play them out. After my heart moved out of my throat, I eagerly accepted and started preparing which scenes to send.
    Wednesday was the big night. And yes, I was nervous beyond reason. Scripts were all prepared and copied; I had my huge bag of junk (digital camera, research book, video camera and more pens than I’d ever need). Hey, what can I say, everyone has their comfort objects. GPS leading the way, I headed out to downtown Memphis.
    Once everyone arrived, Daniel introduced me around then they got down to serious acting business. First, the guys did an improvisation which was really interesting to watch. Four guys, all different ages making the scene up as they go. It definitely opened my eyes to the process and was a great introduction for someone who knows nothing about acting.
Darius taking it to the next level
Such an ALIVE expression, one of my favs.
    There were several great pieces throughout the evening, an amazing monologue from Lanford Wilson's FENCES performed by Darius Newsome. Another by some of Daniel’s younger students that reminded me so much of my own sons, a new project Marcus and Allison are working on that’s really gritty and fascinating to watch and then Graham, Allison, Daniel and Dorv worked on my scenes.
    My stomach squeezed into a knot watching Daniel set up the scene with the actors. Once they started moving through it I found myself holding my breath. The fantasy world inside my head seemed to tilt on its axis as I tried to mentally organize my thoughts and emotions around my creation being brought into reality. Watching Graham become Hayden linked so many disconnected parts of the story chain inside my head. All three actors morphed into the characters so smoothly. Their joints appeared oiled as they slipped their skin and became someone new. Even the panic of the scene became a gliding movement of their bodies. A subtle raise of eyebrow, combined with the words, pushed forward by Graham’s body movements communicated all Hayden’s stress and fear and brought the words roaring off the page. Amazing, truly I have no other word for the experience than absolutely amazing.
Graham Elwood
    Afterwards, Graham graciously talked me through a few additional scenes that weren’t scripted. A pleasant surprise indeed once I discovered I wasn’t as far off base with Hayden as I’d originally thought.
    Even though I was still buzzing on adrenalin, the curtain eventually dropped on my portion of the class. Stepping out into the night, the breeze brushed against my skin and brought with it the depressing tang of the Mississippi River. Even with the dark and humidity pressing the water's scent into my mind, a new hope zinged through my veins. Never before had I felt so connected to the story and characters.
Dorv, Darius, Marcus, McTyere, Allison
Daniel and Travis
    I can only hope I thanked Daniel and his actors enough times for giving me an opportunity that few writers, especially unpublished writers, ever get. As for my boys, their voices are much clearer to me now and I have these wonderful new friends to thank for that.
    As always, I ask you that you give a book some love this week. Additionally, in honor of my new actor buds, watch a great movie too. Never know ... you just might learn something cool.
Till Then,
If you'd like more information on Daniel's Master Acting Class, visit Master Acting Class on Facebook


  1. Wow, that sounds completely amazing! I can't even imagine how exciting it was to see your characters come to life. Keep up the hard work, cuz!

  2. Very cool. Now you know how playwrights feel! (grin)