Friday, November 21, 2008

ACTING CLASS, Part 7 by Gregg Gethard

Things just seem to happen to Gregg Gethard. After telling a few stories at comedy shows in New York City, he created his own monthly show in Philly, BEDTIME STORIES, to tell a few more. Over the past year and a half the show has grown in audience and features some of the best comics in the city.

Here, Gregg continues his eight-part series on an acting class he took in Montclair, New Jersey. [Read Part I, II, III, IV, V and VI]


I timed my departure to arrive in class 15 minutes after it started, to avoid doing any stretching routines. When I got to class, I noticed that there were only four people in the room... it seems that most of the people have dropped out, unfortunately. The remaining few were Class Junkie, Voice Box Girl, The Overly Competitive Hindu and Sagging Boobs. And Bob, of course.

This meant that I had to stretch/self-actualize, so I basically stood off to the side and waited while everyone else meditated. Bob came back to the room and saw me standing there and asked why I wasn't stretching, so I told him, "I'm already centered."

During the stretching period, the Overly Competitive Hindu started leaping around like a madman, doing "extreme" style calisthenics, placing his hands against the wall and pushing with all his might to better stretch out his calves. "I'm pumped for tonight. I drank two mochachino's before I came here."

Voice Box Girl started laughing hysterically when she was stretching. "I don't know why, but I always laugh when I do this."

This prompted Sagging Boobs to dispel some sage advice. "You have to get over that if you want to make it big."

We were performing our monologues tonight, which I wasn't aware of. Luckily for me, I stole a copy of Ibsen plays from my brother so I could half-ass something if need be. Voice Box Girl went first, doing a monologue from a book entitled "Pocket Monologues For Women: Convenient Scene-Study Pieces For Today's Demanding Acress."

Her piece involved her smoking a cigarette, talking to an imaginary person about the end of her marriage, where she was the victim of domestic abuse. "And get this... The girl he ran off with, my friend knows her from World Gym. And she has bruises on her arm... I don't think she got those from doing push-ups."

After her scene, Bob (who was wearing a baseball jersey that said the word WICKED on the front of it) lauded her with compliments. "You know this cold. I know you know these lines. These lines have become YOUR lines." Then he told her to redo the scene, this time with another person in the class (The Overly Competitive Hindu volunteered) and they had to pretend they were in a crowded diner.

"That... THAT was a scene. That is what we call a scene," Bob said afterwards. "I felt great doing that," said Voice Box Girl. "But I want to apologize for the bad language."

The Overly Competitive Hindu went next, setting up chairs to resemble a car, using Voice Box Girl as his female compatriot.

"Alyssa... I love you." He then began quoting the monologue from Chasing Amy, with a stunning lack of passion in his voice. "And as much as I appreciate it... I don't need a picture of birds bought at a diner to remember you."

The Voice Box girl stood there blankly as this scene continued. I got to watch as a Hindu man in his 40’s told a dumb North Jersey girl in her 20’s that he was in love with her.

And, from the look in her eyes, she had never been told that before.

Bob then went "interpretive" and made them redo their piece. This time, they scrapped the car and had to do it with the Overly Competitive Hindu literally chasing Voice Box Girl, saying his lines.

"Go after her!" was Bob's command, explaining how this was a “chase“ scene, thus this Indian man in his 40‘s should literally run after this girl 20 years younger than her while quoting Kevin Smith dialogue.

The two of them than began running around the room as the Overly Competitive Hindu read his lines to her. They ducked behind chairs, hid behind drawers, hid behind me. It was the most bizarre game of freeze tag ever performed. No one in the room could look up. Least of all me, as tears of laughter began to stream down my face.

It was the single most uncomfortable moment of my very uncomfortable life. Thus, it was also the best moment of my life.

And it only got worse/better.

After their scene, Voice Box Girl asked The Overly Competitive Hindu where his scene was from. She drew blanks when he told her it was Chasing Amy. "You know... Kevin Smith. Clerks. Mallrats. Dogma." She had not seen any of them.

The Overly Competitive Hindu then asked her, “What are you, an idiot?’

No one in the room flinched. Not even Voice Box Girl.

Sagging Boobs went next. She was reading from a book called "Womyn 2 Womyn: Monologues for the Modern Female." She needed a volunteer, and Class Junkie went up ("I don't want to hog the stage," said the Overly Competitive Hindu.) She recited a monologue about a woman seeing a psychiatrist, coming to terms with her cruel, ego-driven mother.

She was having problems at one scene and Bob encouraged her. "Don't run away from this. Run TO this. This is some deep shit here." Then he gave her advice to unlock her inner demons. "Just envision the person you hate the most in this world, the person whose relationship damaged you the most. Pretend you are talking about this person."

Sagging Boobs was enthusiastic about this, apparently knowing deep pain. "Oh, I so have a person like this. Ooooh, this is... wow." She redid her piece and this time was able to cry and weep while doing it. Bob raved about her. "We can really go somewhere with this. Next time, we'll try and paint this tapestry with more muted colors."

Class Junkie went next. "Time to break out Old Yeller," he said, holding up an ancient paperback copy of Hamlet. He then did a monologue of an older, bumbling guy giving advice to a younger warrior for Hamlet. (Like most Shakespeare I studied in school, I politely pretended to listen while I thought about my March Madness brackets. It beats me what the scene actually was, but I think that was the gist of it.) Bob then made Class Junkie redo the scene, but with a more serious tone.

"I don't do serious," Class Junkie said, apparently hoping that he will one day become known as the Cerebral Don Rickles.

"Just try it this way," Bob said. "Pretend that you are a high-profiled, high-powered manager at a securities and exchange firm in Manhattan. And you have taken a young up and coming charge. He is your project for the year, and it is your career highlight to impart your wisdom onto him."

Class Junkie than triumphantly read his scene. It was less of a security and exchange broker and more of a middle school soccer coach trying to fire up the team to no response.

I then began my scene (Something I randomly found in Hedda Gabbler.) and Bob interrupted me about ten seconds into my material. "We're running out of time, and I have an important thing to go over with you guys." Bob then told us that there will be more acting classes offered, but not for another month-and-a-half or so. He was asking us if we would be interested.

Everyone said yes.

After class, I was walking out with Class Junkie. I told him that I really wanted to read his play. "Ibsen is yours," he said. "The bisexual witch is mine."

NEXT WEEK: The thrilling conclusion!


Pruneface said...

The part where the hindu chases the girl, reciting Chasing Amy lines, is hilarious.

Anonymous said...

I want to make a film version of it. The first time I saw "Free Love on the Free Love Freeway" on The UK Office, I was like... wow. I saw a real life version of that just a few years back.