Master Class with Alumnus Jason Alexander



so I guess some people don't need introductions on my fridge a sand is one of them but they want you all to know that he was one of you that he's one of us a terrier never went to a game the entire time this one tonight is really a mistletoe actor singer dancer director a teacher and besides being a great friend and a great Terrier a member of the CFA Dean's Advisory Board so welcome Jason you are home okay this is very good some work I haven't worked in the round for a while this is my back is always to somebody hi nice to see you all thanks for having me back this is so strange this looks exactly the way it did in nineteen they haven't painted they haven't run done the floor it's these were that spike marks when I was here this is it is so freaky always being back in this building ah nice to see you ah so apparently what they tell me is we're going to do like an hour of torture with three very brave people who are going to get up and do a little bit work today and I will show you what I have been trying to develop and teach for the last 18 years and then our second hour for those of you that want to hang out is just open conversation you can talk about anything everything theatre showbiz politics sex I'm an expert on them but to jump into sort of the master class part of this I left here prematurely not not necessarily by choice but I got a gig after my the summer I got a job during the summer of my junior year and then I was late for the beginning of my senior year and I was a little too late to begin class so I moved to New York for what I thought would be a semester got a Broadway show and I and I never went up coming back so I I'm a dropout yeah I'm very proud I'm a dropout with with an honorary doctorate so thank you but what happened was and and this could be similar to some of your experience as well especially seniors is before I came here I you know I did not think of acting as a craft I thought well you memorize the lines and you imitate the actor that you think should have gotten the part and that's how you that's how you go and what what be you did a very very good job of for me was introducing me to the notion of acting as an art craft and introducing me to all the tools in our quiver that we use as acting artists a painter can go home and paint and a dancer can go and like stretch and like how do I practice like how how like what do I you know what I mean like how do you strengthen yes here's the answer to your question the only difference between us and really musicians are kind of with us as well a painter my wife paints regardless of the audience the work exists whether there's someone looking at it or not actors tend to feel our work doesn't really exist until someone is working at it you must eliminate that from your thinking our work exists because we live to create characters and stories and experiences and we can practice that work without an audience the only thing about an audience is they'll tell you whether what you are trying to communicate is being communicated they will tell you I understand your choices or I don't I am moved by your choices or I'm not but the act of practicing this does not require an audience in fact you could do it in front of a video camera and be your own judge okay is that kind of help and it's not a friendly answer cuz you go oh that means I have to actually do it I know anybody back here by the way yes ma'am OOP microphone hey it's B you could you buy two microphones for fuck's sake what's tuition at this joint again if what a microphone forgotten in terms of I think the work that we did today and and with all acting that is inherently physical how do you feel I mean you've worked in so much film that do you feel that your physicality was limited by working in film Oh such a good question it's such a good question um this is why and I respect everybody who teaches it please remember it's not technique it's technicality every time I go to a guy who teaches film they go bring it down bring it down smaller smaller now I'm gonna ask you a question think of any performance that you have really loved in a movie and even more but if it's won an award is it small it's not small the glory that film gives you is if if we are speaking and I'm this close in reality I only have to do so much in order to convey what I want to convey now I have to do a little bit more and the camera captures the smallest thing when I'm doing it in this proximity but if I'm furious at the three of them I'm not gonna go I'm furious at the three of you just because there's a camera rolling so camera does not dictate the size of your actions camera gives you a light or range because you can play the action very small and that's huge on screen but you don't shrink your choices because there's a camera rolling does that help okay okay there are roles i cannot play both because my physicality will not adapt to create that illusion or my life experience does not give and my power to observe does not give me the tools i need to do it better than this guy and it doesn't mean I shouldn't keep working at it it means I have to have a realistic expectation in the real world about will I ever take this opportunity from him probably not but it does it still have value for me to work on it yes if it expands my ability or challenges me it does the other part that I want to say as an answer to you is as you begin to find your way of working and you and you bump into something you go I can't make this work be gentle with yourself Larry I keep quoting Larry Moss cuz I studied with him for 14 years and he's quite brilliant you don't yell at a bud because it isn't a flower yet it's gonna be a flower but it opens when it's time for it to open if you're working on something that is beyond your ability at the moment it doesn't mean it will be beyond your ability in a month but at the moment it's gonna frustrate the hell out of you acknowledge it and go I'm not getting this I'm not achieving what I want to achieve right now tomorrow I'll make another choice tomorrow I'll look at one of these elements another way or I need to go out and observe something that is this in life and see if I can learn something from that but there's very little that that I would answer in any other way to your question about have I have I hit a wall on something and and I don't know if I it would if it pays to persevere and be brave and force it through or to retreat for a little bit I don't think I've ever come across that in my professional life because it wouldn't cast me unless I was able to do it to some degree but in my training oh my god there were days where I thought I just should give this up I mean I'm looking at people in my class with Larry or even when I was here I got to tell you I had huge problems tapping into my emotional life when I was here and I had I was in class with kids who'd go you know well my mother Oh and you know I would call my parents ago you guys were too nice and I could have I could have beaten myself up about that and I did for a while you know for a long time going I'm not I don't feel things I'm not I'm not an actor I don't feel things and then I learned this technique and I started to realize that my feeling it in performance was not as important I was trying as I was trying to make it it again it's a great gift when it happens when you're preparation and your emotional life come together Oh fireworks but it doesn't always happen and it doesn't necessarily need to have it all so I will tell you because the actors having an emotional experience doesn't mean the audience's I was just wondering in your opinion what is it when you have the luxury of choosing your own work like your own project to work on what is it that draws you to such work so I'm right now I'm having difficulty choosing uh-huh and I'm wondering if you have any suggestions so what is the thesis just a project for here within the program it's not something that you necessarily have to put in front of agents and it's just in-house okay there's a there's a lot of ways you could choose you could make the choice to say I want to do something that I really shouldn't be able to do because this is the safest place I can do it and I'm going to I'm going to try everything I know to approach this knowing I'm not going to have a finished product that makes sense but I want to do this here while I have people around me who love me and have coached me and that I believe in so that we can look at it and go well you know what that was we didn't expect you to nail it and you got this far and you could do this yeah that's one way to go another one would be to go fantasy I have always wanted to do this it's right in my wheelhouse I love this material I may never get another chance to do it I want to do this you know and I mean other than those two I don't know of another way to choose a thesis necessarily unless there's a statement that you wanted to make with it you know but that's probably a dangerous way to choose because then it becomes a lecture as opposed to a piece of drama but either of those two would probably be a fine way to Qin's I think I never got to do one so I'm not an expert in this I'm fine you can go until you tell me to shut up yeah yes okay so one of the things as you think about the professional world that's good to bear in mind is I'll tell you who helped me immensely right here at this school I actually changed my life a professor named Jim spruill the generally have you experienced Jim yeah a couple people of course a colleague Jim was an African American actor who grew up in the 60s Street political theater social causes using theater as a tool to change people's hearts and minds very passionate guy kind of had this wonderful street wisdom and express things in this kind of it wasn't terribly ethereal it was real nuts and both stuff and Jim called me into his office late in my sophomore year I never was interested in comedy I I wanted to be a classical actor and I wanted to do the great classical roles and Jim called me into his office and he said we need to have a serious conversation he said I know I'm this ba so that he had I know your heart and soul is Hamlet and you would be a profound Hamlet you will never play Hamlet so you best get good at Falstaff and I was like Faust what Fallston he said if you want to play at this go the way you're going and roll the dice if you want to succeed at this you will learn to do comedy and love it and he was right if I tried to have a career as full as the one I've been lucky enough to have simply by doing what I wanted to do I don't think I'd be sitting here with you today so if you're if you're thinking about the real world it's time to start thinking about where do I fit in the marketplace because in that world you are a commodity you are an item on the shelf and if you are a vegetable in the meat aisle you are not going to get sold so you have to be able to step back and go what is right for me I am never going to be a movie guy I'm a TV guy on a stage guy I'm a profoundly good stage guy I'm a damn good TV guy I'm not a good movie guy my face doesn't evoke anything on a screen I'm an everyman that's my calling card everybody knew a George because I kind of look like everybody named George but that's not helpful on film so if I wanted to be a movie star I'd be barking up the wrong tree hard time and you know I know I'm a character actor that can do a cute leading man role or a cute teddy bear ish romantic role but I'm not going to be yeah I'm not going up against Matthew McConaughey and Brad Pitt for and there are guys out there that I know that are delusional enough to think that they are commissioned for those guys where are your strengths it's actually okay to think about what career do you want I know as actors we're willing to take anything we can get right anything give me anything anything but that's what you can get what do you want do you want to be on Broadway big question yes you want to be on Broadway because it's the big time for theater in this country it's not the best theater it's the best commercial theater do you want to do that or do you want to do great theater you want to do great theater you're not looking at Broadway you might be looking at off-broadway but you're not looking at Broadway do you want to do musical comedy you might be looking at Broadway do you want to do a sitcom or a one-hour police procedural very different skills very different agency look for very different things you put yourself out for very different material you prepare if you're making a real and you go I want to be on Criminal Minds that's a different real than I want to be on How I Met Your Mother so you are allowed to work for the specifics of what you want and still stay available for what you can get but just like specificity in our in our acting work is nothing but good so a specificity in what you want to do with your life and career it'll help you make choices that may get you a lot closer than just throwing spaghetti at the refrigerator and seeing what sticks have great lives great careers good luck happy to have met you all

5 thoughts on “Master Class with Alumnus Jason Alexander”

  1. "Because the actor is having an emotional experience, doesn't mean the audience is" – Jason Alexander
    That was a strong statement, that put in perspective the importance of technique and acquiring various techniques as an actor

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