Acting lesson 6

In acting lesson 6 we give you some great tips that Ruth Kullerman, actress, wrote down after working with her students. She has revealed a lot of interesting tips. We gladly forward her tips.In acting lesson 6 you get 3 tips of this inspiring and experienced actress in how she prepares her lines.

1 The Ubiquitous Omnipotnet Comma. (Dethrone Immediately.)Contrary to actors' beliefs, commas did not descend from Mount Sinai, written on stone tablets. Commas are the domain of a reader, not a speaker. Commas replace the missing human voice whose intonation helps decode written language and make it comprehensible -- a fancy way of saying, ignore commas when you act.

They belong on a page, not in a spoken line. Replace commas, not with pauses, but with vocal variety--or ignore the squiggly critters completely. Do not pause when commas cross your path. Slide right across them. We don't talk in commas, so don't act in commas either.

My slogan as the comma cop is DOWN WITH PAUSES CAUSED BY COMMAS!

1.5 The Pause the Exhausts. (Verbal exercise: stretch or leap.)There used to be a slogan for one of the soft drinks: "The pause that refreshes." And yet in acting I have heard eighteen billion pauses, mistakenly believed to be dramatic or pregnant or sensitive or something. ("We find the defendant pause pause pause pause not guilty.") London taught me: "You have to earn a pause." Otherwise they are self-indulgent, mistakenly thought to reveal a deep and powerful soul. NOT SO.

There are lots of ways to replace pauses with interesting acting moments. To mention a couple: Stretch out the vowel in the word before and after the place you would normally pause. Ignore the pause. Stretch the vowels. Listen to a master do it, Richard Burton.

Another "pause" substitute is to leap over the pause as if you are a verbal kangaroo. Raise the pitch and leap into the word that follows the ignored pause. You can discover many other ways to lead the pause to the slaughter. Do it.

2. The Invasion of the Valley Girl Question (No Admission. Scat!)Maybe "Valley Girl" isn't a clear description. It refers to the dreadful habit of ending every sentence with a question mark in the voice: I went to the movies? I stood in line around the block? And in the speech of Olympic offenders, the middle of each sentence is also raised into that dratted question mark. The only thing missing is gum popping "Like, you know."

This Valley Girl inflection creeps not merely into ordinary speech but also into many line readings. The astounding thing is that not one teacher mentions it. An actor I worked with inserted the Valley Girl question mark not only at the end of every sentence but also at the end of every phrase in every sentence. He repeated this monotony eternally. It is irritating. It is distracting.

Unfortunately the omni-present question mark did not stop at the California state line. It has crept into people from Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Canada, Connecticut and South Korea--and that's in my studio alone! Multiply that by the hundreds of studios and schools and it becomes an epidemic.

The Valley Girl inflection knows no gender lines. It is a pattern in actors on national TV shows. When it hits our great dramatic actors, we will admit defeat and the contagious Valley Girl question mark will, like the cockroach, survive forever. Horrors!

Chase it with whatever weapon you have. Especially become aware of the habit in your own speech pattern. Rid yourself of it before it takes over and becomes "To be or not? to be. Like you know? Like huh." (And "know" has a meow in the long O.)

Which leads directly into the next unrecognized line disease.

3. Conquering the Question Mark (How to ask without asking.)In normal American speech we ask a question in several ways: (1) The subject and verb are reversed: He is here --> Is he here? (2) Certain words often imply a question: who, where, why, when, what, how. (3) Most actors see a question mark and head for the lifted sentence ending. That way lies guaranteed monotony. (Its opposite, the dreaded ever-present drop at the end of each sentence, is equally as tedious.)

Let's consider making that question into a statement, especially if the words of the sentence are obviously written to produce a question; that is, if the sentence uses one of the "question" words or reverses the subject-verb order.

So instead of going up or raising the pitch at the end of a sentence, deliver the sentence as if it were making a statement (that is, the pitch remain exactly the same as its preceding few words or the pitch lowers a half tone). Try it out. It creates interest, adds variety, and avoids the expected delivery (always a goal to be aimed for). And don't run out of energy as you finish a line, whatever pitch you select.

Thank you Ruth! We hope that acting lesson 6 gave you again some useful tools to upgrade your skills.


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"The word theatre comes from the Greeks. It means the seeing place. It is the place people come to see the truth about life and the social situation. The theatre is a spiritual and social X-ray of its time. The theatre was created to tell people the truth about life and the social situation." - Stella Adler