Charts and Graphs from My Brain

Sometimes the only way to express a constellation of related ideas is by launching inDesign and losing an afternoon to the creation of a PDF that only I will ultimately find useful.

Fridays in grad school I had Directing Practicum class. Four hours (9 AM to 1 PM) with all the other directing students. All on their way to discovering, with varying levels of delusion, whether they were cut out for directing in the American theatre (I, it turns out, was not). On these mornings, I created several of these charts and graphs as a way to throw a lasso around the giant ontological smorgasbord of thoughts and opinions whizzing around the room.

Anyhow, here we are. Some of these are on directing, some on acting, and some on life itself…

Featuring an illustration by the inestimable Dave Dowling, this is a menu of body part manipulations to be used by the actor while acting. Most significant and important, relax your asshole. That is basically the only thing you need to do to improve your acting by 60%, instantly.

PDF here.

I cover this in the premiere episode of Low Tide, and it picks up on the whole asshole thing, but there are four remarkable body parts to deploy when you must convince a listener that you mean what you are saying.

PDF here.

I should say upfront, this was merely a way to trace the lineage of teaching and approaches through the ages, and in no way to count myself among these giants. There seem to be three schools of thought when it comes to American acting: (1) Mine your own past for emotional stimulus; (2) Create a vivid emotional past for the character; and (3) Emotions are by-products to playing actions.

PDF here.

We are always participating in a story. And the moral of that story is either: “I Am Awesome” or “The World is Awesome.”

PDF here.

When you’re directing actors, issues begin with energy calibration (acting is over-exerted, over-voiced, over-breathed, rushed or too slow); then go deeper to authenticity, (you just don’t believe them, it sounds fake, there’s no chemistry); until you land in the area of emotional depth (there’s just something missing). Here’s a list of symptoms that appear, concepts that may alleviate the problem, and the best ways to convey it to your actors.

PDF here.

This is an acting improv exercise that combines MacLean’s Triune Brain Theory and Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions. The results, like a fantastic Beckett play, are usually hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time.

PDF here.

On the set, and in the rehearsal hall, moment by moment, you can either build morale or get results. You can either convey a grand vision or safeguard the quality of details. You can rarely alight upon that perfect sentence that does both. A spoken paragraph can include messages accomplishing all of the above, but inevitably, you will aggregate toward one of the quadrants. I am very sad to report that I am the Pollyanna. Sure, everyone has fun working with you, but the results are unpredictable and based on luck, and you are at the mercy of the tempers and moods of your collaborators. Tough times. Luckily, this diagram has bad news for everyone.

PDF here.

As a director, you must team up with the actor in order to slay the dragon of their inner editor. The bandwidth of truth must be dilated on set, and in rehearsal, to as wide a setting as possible. The actor’s soul can be a fire hose. But it can also be a cocktail straw.

PDF here.

There are four elemental ingredients to drama: Language, Transaction, Time and Space. Each of these elements appears in the four dimensions of possible conflict in a dramatic piece: between a character and his own soul, between characters, between a character and the world of the piece, and between the world of the piece and the world of the audience. A script will give you certain indications of evidence to how sparks can be created in these 16 realms of direction, and there are several tools at your disposal to ignite sparks of contrast and incongruity all over your production. There is, thus, never, ever, nothing to say.

PDF here.

To tell you the truth, I don’t totally remember what this one means…

If you’ve made it this far, I thank you for taking this stroll. Seems like one or two of these emit from my laptop per year. Check back here for more. Maybe I’ll write a chap book someday.

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  1. Ellen Burr

     /  September 16, 2013

    these are great. can I print them?

  2. Christina

     /  July 13, 2016


  3. Thanks Christina! Long time no see!

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