Spring 2022

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mentally accept and agree with what your scene partner says. It becomes an established element of the world the two or more of you are creating. From there, you build upon the idea by adding details of your own and that means getting back to one of the fundamentals of acting: listening. A big element of our work is listening," Meeks said. That's almost what we focus on entirely to begin with at the school. It's not uncommon for folks that talk about the craft of acting to talk about listening and reacting, and that's more of an intangible sill that you can really enefit from with improv training." As the actors build the reality, they are establishing the parameters of what's considered normal in that situation. The humor emerges from the aspects that diverge from the established normal" and subvert expectations, and actors are trained to uickly identify those unusual elements and call them out. That techniq ue can be applied to character work as well, explains Upright Citizens Brigade Training Center Artistic Director Christine Bullen. ven if an actor is not changing the dialogue at all, their being able to identify and emphasize the unusual elements helps them make the character their own, she advises, especially if the character's personality is dissimilar from their own. Additionally, the training helps actors uickly make and fully commit to acting choices. Actors with improv training are also well eq uipped to shift gears on the y, for instance when a director asks them to approach the scene in a completely different way. It can also be a useful skill during an audition, if a performer is asked to read for a different role. If you've done a lot of improv, you would be able to understand all the tools at your disposal in terms of creating character and] making strong choices in the moment," Bullen said. Having that understanding of who you are and what makes you funny and uniq ue in a scene is really helpful." Actor, podcaster and musician Tawny Newsome, who plays Angela Ali on ace or ce and voices Beckett Mariner on ar ek Low er Deck s, has fully embraced the joys of improvisational performance. Newsome spent more than five years laying eight shows a week to full houses with The Second City comedy troupe. The experience was an intense training experience that she said cured her of any notions of stage fright or fear of failure. It is a gauntlet. It was kind of a performing grad school, and it absolutely released any sort of fear or stage fright. I just have zero anymore," She said. There's no embarrassment I can feel worse than what I'd felt at 2 a.m. on a Saturday night in front of a drunk crowd stuffed full of chicen fingers, just looing at me in a scene I'd poured my heart into, and being like, You suck.'" These days, Newsome thrives in the improvisational medium, and gravitates toward rojects that let her e those sills She loves the interplay between actors doing improv, even when working with performers who have less experience in this facet of acting. That highlights another of the fundamentals of the art, which is that it works best when actors are consciously making an effort to make each other look good. I'm good at ad-libbing things that will set youup for a punchline or set you up for a good character moment," she said. It delights me to no end when performing with] someone who maybe doesn't come from that much of a comedy background, and] I feel them wanting to play. I] give them a little setup and they're able to respond in character with something super funny, and see them surprise themselves, like, Whoa, I was really funny right then,' and I'm like, Yeah, we did that together. Doesn't that feel great? '" Improv brings the thrill of the unexpected and surprise delights for both the audience and the performers and the magic really happens when actors get in the zone. Meeks describes how that feels. You know e at ix When Neo starts to see the code falling and then he can avoid the bullets and do all his powers, at s kind of what's going on in my mind. Because of the training and experience I have had, I start to see a blip in the code when that unusual or funny thing happens," he said. Then, when you get into that commercial audition, where the director says] , Hey put a button on that,' you're already in that hyper Matrix-y mode in your brain, of like, I know exactly what would come next because that's the muscle I built in my head." ● 78 SAGAFTRA | Spring 2022 | AARON EPSTEINNETFLIX Tawny Newsome, left, and Steve Carell in Space Force. Johnny Meeks Christine Bullen

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