Monthly Archives: January 2008

Acting Class, Day 4: Will I EVER stop laughing?

I’m going to get thrown out of my diction class if I don’t stop laughing. What the (bleep) is wrong with me? I can’t quit having insanely funny images and thoughts when I’m supposed to be serious. Nobody else in my group has this problem. Just me. I’m beginning to think maybe I’m horribly maladjusted. (No response required, here.) But then, if I am, I suppose acting class is the right place for me. 🙂

During one exercise, our class was told to sit up straight with our legs underneath our buttocks and, beginning at our collarbones, walk our fingers along our sternums. 

My instructor, who’s male, demonstrates. His fingers drum along the center of his chest, moving gradually down to where his ribs end. I follow along, feeling the first few contact points. But then I lose touch, entirely. Something is in the way. What the heck is THAT? Oh yal, BOOBS! 

So while all the guys in the class are fingertip dancing with their sternums, I’m over here trying to pry through the mass of flesh underneath my shelf bra–doing my best to separate what has been compressed into a doughy blob. Unlike Playtex brassieres,  sports bras purchased at Target apparently don’t “lift and separate. “

I can’t help it. I’m snickering.  Now giggling.  Mr. Sternum Finder stops, looks at me, and says, “Did you hit your tickle button?”

I’m DYING to say, “No. I hit my UNIBOOB!” But I refrain. And you know, the mere thought just makes me laugh harder.

Is there a cure for this? 

My monologue for today’s class had been assigned: an excerpt from The Jungle Book. I was the ONLY one in the class who had bothered to look up the correct pronunciation of “Hathi” (It’s a diction class, after all.), which I learned is the Indian word for “elephant” and is pronounced “Huttee.” Did I get any points for this? No-o-o. In fact, the instructor didn’t even acknowledge I’d said the word correctly.

Some folks really hold it against you when they think you’ve been laughing at THEM. 

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Acting Class, Day 3: Breathing through my vagina

If you’ve ever seen that MAD TV skit with Michael McDonald, the one where he played the part of a yoga instructor, you have some idea of what yesterday’s diction class was like. In the episode I just referred to, McDonald’s character is telling a class full of women to imagine that they are breathing through their vaginas. (In case you missed my earlier posts, my diction instructor combines yoga with voice training.)  

So here we all are, lying on our little mats, with our buttocks in the air, and he says, “Now imagine breathing through your whole body, through every opening.” And I got that mental image I just mentioned.  

Immediately, I felt a convulsing spasm spiraling up from my gut. If I’d let it out, I was pretty sure I would roll into a fit of hysterical cackling. So I clamped my hands over my mouth and held tight.  I will not laugh. I will not laugh. I will NOT burst out laughing, I told myself. And somehow, I managed to stifle the urge.  

But THEN we were told to lie on our backs and inhale deeply, then exhale with vocalization (a sigh and then a hum). Because the class is comprised of both men and women, the noises released spanned multiple octaves. Groans escaped students at random intervals.  And as I tried to concentrate on what might be my signature sound, it occurred to me that what I was hearing easily could have been mistaken for a pod of whales. (And with my caboose in the air, there may have been other resemblances, as well.) Again, I did my best to keep my composure. That is, as much composure as a gal can have while assuming what I call “the gynecological pose.” 

Standing upright, I had no greater success. From my “center,” I was supposed to imagine a glowing point of light. (I thought of ET, here.)  With that light, I was further instructed to, I’m not kidding, “paint the wall in front of me.” This, mind you, was the same wall with which I’d already become intimately familiar. I had previously been told to share my memorized monologue with it.  

If I can just manage my giggle response, I should advance quickly in this class—because I’m already skilled at talking to walls. After all, I’ve been married for 17 years! 

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Acting class–Day 2: Did that noise just come out of me?

Today I have learned how to combine silly sounds with pointless gestures—all, of course, in fluid form. I have also discovered how to cross a room, repeatedly, while dodging 18 or so other men and women who seem intent on vying for my space. I have breathed while making eye contact, at close range, with strangers. And I have stretched my body and then let it become small (or at least, as small as I can shrink a size 12). 

After being asked to, off the cuff, recite some verse or prose, being the learned writer that I am, I came up with, “I promise to love God and my country, to help people everywhere, especially those at home.” What was that? My Girl Scout oath? I don’t even know where that came from! Obviously, I didn’t want to use this. So eventually I managed to pull a rabbit out of my hat—almost literally. I recited a quote from The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams. 

So far, other than the spontaneous recitation, it feels like I’m back in kindergarten. However, my first homework assignment is to pore over several classic American plays and find a monologue that is “most like me.”  I will then have to memorize and perform these lines before the class. I feel like Mary Katherine Gallagher. “My feelings could best be expressed in a monologue . . .” J 

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Acting class, Day 1: Who said anything about aerobics?

I have attended college-level classes for decades—and I can honestly say this is the FIRST time I’ve ever heard an instructor refer to students as “fu_ _ ers.” So right off, I can see there’s going to be a language barrier. J  

What I’ve also discovered is that normal classes meet in standard classrooms—the kind where they have sufficient lighting and heat in the winter. But ACTING classes meet in large stage areas and auditoriums where, apparently, they only turn on the heat for paying ticket holders. When the instructor shows up wearing a down-filled parka, three layers of clothing and a winter neck scarf, it’s never a good sign. In fact, I’d call that “foreshadowing.” 

In my diction course, I was told to purchase a yoga mat and to wear workout clothing and athletic shoes to class. Honestly, I did not know that speaking could be this strenuous. 

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Midlife writer attempts acting class

So here’s the deal. I’ve returned to college—at age 53—to study acting. No. I don’t expect to land a role on Desperate Housewives (I could never lose that much weight.) or to become Ron Howard’s next great discovery (but, Ron, if you want me to audition for anything, please call me). I just want to understand more about the film industry, and so I figured this would help round-out my education. 

In my acting classes, I am one of three people who could buy beer without being carded, if you know what I mean. The rest of the students are still at that age where they think showing off their boxer shorts or getting a tongue ring proves them rebellious. (Rebellious, kids, is when you’ve gone out and busted your behinds for, and then later thumbed your nose at, corporate America. And you’re willing to live for the rest of your life on peanut butter and Ramen noodles if it means you’ll never have to go back there.)  

Anyway, I thought I’d share this adventure with anyone who cares to follow along with me. So I’m going to chronicle my course in this blog. Maybe what I’ll write will be funny. Maybe it will be heartbreaking. I can’t say, for sure. But I promise it will be true. None of that James Frey stuff, here. I won’t embellish anything for the sake of making a better story.  

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butt-lifting boxer shorts

Men have found a way to get even with us gals for push-up bras. Yup. Today, guys with flat fannies (and goodness knows there are many of them out there) can purchase butt-lifting boxer shorts. So ladies don’t jump to conclusions when sneaking a glance at a guy’s glutes. (You know you do it.) That hunk could be faking his junk. He very well could be packing padding.

So what’s next? Will men soon be investing in “shapewear” that tricks us into thinking there’s a six-pack underneath their shirts? That is, one they didn’t drink.  

Will swim trunks now come with “shrinkage control?” 

Oh, the possibilities . . . 

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Words to banish in 2008

I just read the Lake Superior State University 2008 List of Banished Words (http://www.lssu.edu/banished/current.php). This caused me to generate the following list of words and phrases I’d like to abolish from the English language. Feel free to add your own.

Celebrity news— If it’s about a celebrity, it’s not news. That’s called entertainment or gossip or proof of a good publicist.

Ubiquitous— That’s a lot of syllables to substitute for “present,” and much more difficult to say.

Smarter than a fifth-grader— This phrase infers a lack of intelligence—in fifth-graders. Have you talked to one, lately? You might just as well ask me if I’m smarter than my computer.

Teleconference— This term is confusing. If it’s a conference, people attend in person. If it’s a group telephone communication, that’s a “conference call.” If it’s a closed circuit broadcast or PowerPoint presentation, that’s called “nap time.”

Going green  Every time I hear this phrase I think of Kermit the Frog. I’ve never seen a person turn green, not even an envious one, unless he or she was about to vomit—and that doesn’t create an appealing image. Everything environmentally friendly is not necessarily green. In fact, many natural products are brown. But nobody, other than maybe a UPS spokesperson, ever says “I’m going brown.”

Parental advisory  I think TV programs add this voiceover comment to their introductions just to boost ratings. If we don’t want our kids to see graphic violence and sexual images or hear strong language, we shouldn’t turn on a TV set after 4:00 p.m.

Kick to the curb  I hear this most often when women speak of bad relationships. Frankly, if I were going to kick a guy out of my life, I’d want him to land much farther away than my curb.

Red states/blue states  States are comprised of residents (most of whom don’t vote), who are neither red nor blue. Elephants and donkeys are neither red nor blue. Seems to me that it would have been more appropriate to refer to Republican states as “gray states” and Democratic ones as, oh, say, maybe, “purple states.” But why color-code them at all?

Politically correct (or “PC”)–  (as in, the statement above wasn’t PC)  How can something be both political AND correct? This term really means: If you’re a politician, you shouldn’t say (fill in this blank with any racial, socially sensitive or stupid remark )—at least not in public. Most of us don’t give a fiddle-fart about becoming politicians, so we should say what we mean and serve the consequences. Being politically correct often hides an individual’s true beliefs and permits bigots to avoid discovery. Just let every jerk have his say. Yeah, it’s usually a guy. Maybe sometimes it’s a woman. But since I’m not Don Imus or Rosie O’Donnell, who really cares?

Spears (as in Britney or Jamie Lynn or however many OTHER sisters there might be out there)  It’s a fertile family. They don’t understand birth control. Big deal. Move on.

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