IMPROV 101, “Let the Games Begin!”

Yesterday, I took my first class in Improv 101 at the Upright Citizens Brigade in NYC.  The teacher for the class is Alexandra Dickson.  I like her.  She’s funny.

The class runs over 8 Tuesday’s from 3:30-6:30pm.  Yesterday we were just getting our “sea legs,” learning the basics of “long form” improv and trying to remember each other’s names.

At the end of the day, I don’t know if Improv is “my thing,” but that’s really not the point.  I’m there to “get out of my head” and be more spontaneous.  That’s the beauty of Improv… “thinking” doesn’t help.  You just have to react, in the moment, and trust that whatever comes out is OK.  The more “truthful” you are, the better (and generally, the funnier!).

I know this will help me in acting, but also behind the mic doing voice overs.  It’s all the same, responding in the moment, truthfully and fully, with no self-judgement.

One funny thing that happened there is that one of the other students in the class is someone I went to school with at Mason Gross in 1985.  She looked at me when we walked in and said, “I know you!”  She was Debbie Durkes back then.  A lot of water has flowed over the dam in the last 32 years for both of us, but we’ve both come back around to our first love… acting.

More to come.

My first Audio Book has been Published!

This has been a banner week in the life of Golden Tonsils! I’ve passed a milestone. My first book has been published on Amazon.com! The book is, “Ethics beyond the Law” by Pete Geissler.

It was quite the learning experience! One thing I learned is that I have to get a lot faster and better at narrating, basic audio processing, and editing. I have two other audiobooks that I’m starting to work on now. I won the contracts through audition. This first one was only an hour and 15 minutes long. The next two are over six hours each. Fortunately I found someone to work with to help. Her name is Amy Golan, and she runs a business in LA called Narrator Helper. She was recommended by George Whittam, Audio Engineer from Edge Studio. Amy does proofing, editing and mastering—and help me put together the first book. Even so, I estimate it took me more than six or seven hours at least to produce that one and a half hour audiobook. I don’t know this to be the case, but that strikes me as a lot! I did find, as I went along in the process, I did get faster and better. And, when Amy gave me edits, I recorded whole sections or sentences instead of just a short phrase like she requested. So, even there, I added time to my work. That said I still learned a lot! As I start the second book, I’m keeping meticulous track of my time at each step. I need to understand where the bottlenecks are.

One thing I’ve clearly identified is that I still have a sibilant “S.” Egad! Part of that is caused by the crowding of my teeth. My mouth is very narrow and I find that the back of my tongue has a hard time flattening out when articulating certain vowel and consonant combinations because it can quickly “fit between my teeth.”

There’s also a lot to learn, obviously, on the audio processing side. Both Amy and George have told me my audio gain is too low. When I boosted it seems like I get a low hum in the background I’ll have to ask George about that. I’m planning on having him set all of the settings for Adobe audition, for EQ and mastering.

Acting

In addition to the audio work, I’m taking a lot of workshops in acting again. I’ve done a few at the Red Bull Theater in NY. The focus mostly on Classical Theater. Great classes. I’m signed up for a few more in the future. One is a four day workshop on Checkov with Olympia Dukakis.

And I just completed an “on camera” workshop with Tim Phillips. That went well too. Got a lot out of it. George was recommended by Michelle Colt, but Kevin Kilner worked with him as well. Jordan talked about him too. The class had two parts: Sherlock Holmsing the Text (breaking down the scene) and “on camera” performance. Everyone brought in a scene they selected and Tim worked with everyone in the class. His assistant, Zillah Glory was the “reader.” The scene was a father apologizing to his son after the son’s announcement that he was marrying his gay lover. The scene was very heartfelt and apologetic. Zillah and I were both crying by the end. That’s not what I was expecting, but it just happened… mostly because of her “openness” as a Reader in the scene. Tim had us do it twice. He gave me an adjustment and filmed it again… which was even more powerful. I watched the scene afterwards, and for the first time on video/film, thought that the character I was looking at was believable. That’s a pretty big step forward after seeing some of the video classes I’ve done at Actor’s Connection! Technically, I could see myself moving around in the frame too much, and I had some “tension” in my mouth that I saw as a habitual behavior that I need to be aware of… but generally, I “left myself alone,” and what came out was very simple, truthful, honest and believable. Tim is coming back in November. I can’t make that one, but plan on going back for another session the next time he’s in NYC.