Freudian Slips: Stage Crutches

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

November 20, 2007

Stage Crutches

Kenneth McGregor & Joseph Tornatore
Early on in Kenneth McGregor’s acting workshop, my teacher discovered me reaching for comedic crutches on stage. After I added one too many subtext witticisms to my characters to enrich scenes, McGregor promised to fix my wagon until I learned to stand-alone without wiggle room improvisation.
The next time he divvied out parts in class, McGregor handed me a heavy scene from the movie Grand Canyon that could be nothing but emotionally driven between a husband and wife. The moving scene involved an empty nest wife trying to convince her husband to keep an abandoned baby she found. Kenneth McGregor preaches that acting is born from the cold read of the script. On the stage, I readied to bone in the lines in a cold read opposite my scene partner. He asked us to deeply stare into the eyes of our scene partner to connect, or begin “the dance” as he called it. He reminded the actors in the studio that he did not want to hear one iota of inflection, accent, or emotion for this initial reading. He did not want to see gestures, body mechanics, or acting emerge from the skits. He wanted just a cold copy read to build a foundation for the ensemble of acting, props, and wardrobe that would come later.
While McGregor barked preliminary instructions, I remembered his oath to separate me from comedy. So I sneak peeked through the script to pare down the unfamiliar scene to an outgrowth of the emotional conflict. He quieted the actors, silenced the stage, and called for operative action. I looked up from my cold copy and stared into my scene partner’s sparkling green eyes. Then I slammed my clenched fist down on the table, action that surprised even my scene partner.
In a blistering voice, I yelled, “Who is the father of this goddamn baby?”
Kenneth McGregor instinctively lurched forward to unleash biting criticism of a performance where there should not have been any theatrics. The class laughed at my antics because at this point of the act, I fixed my acting coach’s wagon.
Kenneth McGregor relented, “You just never know what is going to come out of Joe Tornatore’s mouth. Now let’s get back to work.”
My wide as the Grand Canyon smile shriveled in time and space. My uncalled for outburst marked the last time I got even a whiff of infusing comedy into his workshop.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Jessica said...

Handsome pair of sleek suits!
Reading this made me remember how enticing, enthralling, sexy and scary taking any acting class sounds, esp McGregor's! At least the way you write it/him. I plan to make a class part of my 2008 dos!
I really love your writing style, Joe. And this one wasn't about humor either.
Hope you and your fam have a happy thanksgiving!

7:26 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

jess,
thanks for the compliment.

8:51 PM  
Anonymous et said...

McGregor sounds like a man I would invite home to supper.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

et,
What about me?

10:54 AM  
Blogger Pax Romano said...

Grand Canyon was a great movie -- does this mean you'll be in the remake.

9:57 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

Pax,
I would not want you to do a critique...lol

10:54 PM  

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