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!

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Acting Coach Larry Moss Does Not Need a Buffoonery Workshop..

Okay… it’s a long title but it needs to be said.

I have just spent three amazing days auditing, witnessing, observing, absorbing, laughing, crying, taking notes, processing, confirming, squirming, cheer-leading, supporting, holding my breath, thinking and agreeing at the Larry Moss Workshop by Vancouver Acting School.

Larry Moss workshop held at The Rio Theatre Vancouver
Larry Moss workshop held at The Rio Theatre Vancouver

No,  Larry Moss, well known American acting coach, does not need to find his inner bouffon. He has it well intact as he was brutally, and winkingly (a made up Trilby word) truthful, like a bouffon loves to be, with each and every actor who was brave enough to perform a scene for him to critique.

And, he did.

Mr. Moss did not let one person off the hook. And, it wasn’t because he prances around with an ego to show off his expertise and tremendous experience. No… he does it because he cares deeply, very deeply about actors and their unseen potential.

He pushed, prodded, swore, bullied, encouraged, inspired, threatened, and did whatever it took to break through an actor’s carefully placed mask to get to their raw truth.

“It’s all about the story!” “Fall in love with the writing!” “If the writer wrote it, we want to hear it!” “Grow up to the writer.” “It’s about telling the story, all about the story.” “Script analysis… good actors are good detectives!”

Held at the spacious Rio Theatre in Vancouver, actors were forced to find their theatre voice – a challenge for many since a minimalist style of film acting, “faux naturalism”,  has become a sad epidemic, according to Larry Moss. “Narcissism is killing our work as artists.” “You’re all being geared for TV and it will eat you alive.” “Be brilliant in the theatre and the films will find you.”

Actors were made to do push ups, stamp the stage, scream, and shout, dance, and hold their hands to their ribs while doing their lines in order to find a grounded voice. Over and over again we witnessed breakthroughs, after breakthroughs, and wonderful gems proving this type of work is necessary. (it also affirmed the work I do with my buffoonery acting students)

On the last day, I recognized a part of myself  in a certain actor, and took  his work he did with Larry to my heart. Very quickly I found myself in tears,  tugging down my hat, relating to his difficulty of letting go of control and trusting the idea, the text, and not being afraid of vulnerability.

Yet, if I look back at some recent work, I have let go. I have gone into the deep end, but I know I could go even deeper.

Much deeper.

Other actors shed tears, as well, after their work with Larry was over. “How do you feel?” “I’m lost.” “No, you’re not lost, you’re getting found.” He leans forward, “All tears are because you now know what you didn’t know.” “… a nervous breakTHROUGH…”

He looks out at us. “Isn’t it funny, acting helps us rip down our defenses and be more human.”

The three-day session equaled a roller coaster of emotions, confirmations, and inspiration. I have to thank Kirsten Clarkson from the Vancouver Acting School for giving the gift of Larry Moss to our acting community.

We needed it.

Larry Moss & Kirsten Clarkson
Larry Moss & Kirsten Clarkson

“Choose something beyond your wildest dreams… dare to be great.” Larry Moss.

(Subsequent posts will contain more about the workshop as there is much to discuss… stay tuned..)