Acting and The Physical Life…

Out of your head and into your body”.

When I heard American Acting Coach, Larry Moss emphatically state these words, during the recent Vancouver Acting School workshop, I felt a knowing thrill dash through my body. It’s the motto I constantly preach in my Buffoonery Acting Workshops – and it’s even imprinted on my business card!

Obviously, we still need our head but lately, the body seems to be a neglected tool in the practice of acting as was made evident during the workshop. Actor after actor was ordered by Larry Moss to commit more to the script and physicalize their process.

“Stamp your feet, and say your lines, stamp harder!”

“Do push-ups, feel your feet on the floor, ground your breath, pretend you’re a dog (isn’t your character dog-like?).

“Deliver your lines like a hyena.” “Sing your text!”

“Show me five ways you could sit in that chair.”

It was exciting and rewarding when actors dared to respond and venture into unfamiliar territory and frustrating if they resisted. You could see bodies awaken as they risked leaving their comfort zone (I call it the “safe zone”) and into brave action. Stories, scripts came to life.

It’s not about you! It’s about the story.” A simple gesture can illustrate an important story point. “It’s hot, really hot. Wipe your neck. Hike up your dress. Do something!” When the actor released her control and dove into the temperature of the play, more surprising moments naturally followed.

Larry Moss certainly affirmed the importance of connecting to the physical. “Watch Meryl Streep, Daniel Day Lewis, Dustin Hoffman without sound and watch how they tell a story through the physical.” “Find the physical that tells the story that the verbal doesn’t.

My goal when I teach my buffoonery acting workshops is to get the actor way out of their physical comfort zone and get them to know themselves. My Porsche analogy explains it well. Let’s say you drive a Porsche but you drive it only downtown. You know it can go really fast but you don’t really know what it feels like. One day you go to the desert where it is safe and you put “pedal to the metal”. You sit up straight, hold onto the wheel like never before and you grasp the power of your car. You return to the city and continue to drive your Porsche, but now, you are different. You are at one with your machine. You have an alternate, connected energy about you.

This is exactly what happens once you find your bouffon. You go to an extreme in play, and in text, and then return to your normal self, and “normal” acting. The great by-product of this process is discovering unexpected sub-text in the monologue/scene exercises, leaving the actor with a terrific audition or rehearsal tool.

Buffooning Romeo & Juliet... guess who's Juliet?
Buffooning Romeo & Juliet... guess who's Juliet?

Chapter ten in Larry Moss’s book “The Intent to Live” goes into more depth on the subject of the physical life. He gives us specific examples of the story taken to another level because of an actor’s physical choice. “When your body’s lost, look for a choice…this is your talent.”

The Intent to Live
The Intent to Live by Larry Moss

Once again I thank Larry Moss for getting things moving, and re-confirming the work I do with actors. When I excitedly chatted with him about his work and my relationship to it via “Le Bouffon” his eyes lit up and he said, “Bless you for doing this work.”

Merci, Monsieur Moss…. I am honoured…

Thank you again to Vancouver Acting School for bringing a Master among us!