How Actors Memorize Their Lines

deadwood460

As I’ve been reading Behan plays, I started to think about the challenge that actors must have learning dialog, especially if they are playing a large part in something.  The way that my mind works I have trouble remember song lyrics, especially to cover songs, so I can’t imagine the work that must go into learning the dialog for an entire play.  I also was thinking of the TV show Deadwood, where they often would get pages of dialog the day of a shoot, due to creator David Milch writing dialog often up until the very last minute.  (Deadwood is one of my favorite shows ever.  The dialog is really complex.  At times it is like Shakespeare with swearing.  Actor Ian McShane, in particular, would have to give whole speeches, soliloquies sometimes, that he had only gotten the morning of the shoot.)  So I decided to google what actors do, in hopes of learning tricks to make learning song lyrics easier for myself.  Out of the articles I read, I found the one that follows the most interesting, not only because it interviewed stage actors in Chicago, but also by total coincidence it talked about Deadwood and how those actors dealt with Milch’s writing style.  Here is the article:

How Actors Memorize Their Lines

House of Cards: First Half of Season 3 Review

I am about halfway though Season 3 of House of Cards.  The season has gotten better as it has progressed, but I can’t help but feel that it is somewhat of a letdown.  The acting, cinematography, and subject matter give it the potential to be great.  It is still good entertainment, but nothing more.  I find myself wrapped up in it while I’m watching it, but as soon as its over I find myself not thinking about it very much.  There are scenes here and there that provide interesting ideas about the Presidency, but because there doesn’t feel like there are greater unifying themes at work, they fail to hit you on a memorable emotional level.  Truly great storytelling hits you on an intellectual and emotional level.  It communicates ideas and makes you feel deeply about them.  Although the performances are good enough that make you feel like you are seeing more while you are actually watching, this series has been too much of a melodrama.  If there is any big idea this season, and I don’t feel like it has been expressed coherently or fully so far, it is that the presidency, despite being the seat of power, is constricted because of the political realities of the day, from campaigning to micromanaging different interests.  There are also moments, even though there are also moments that make you feel like you are seeing something as it really is, that are highly unbelievable.  I’m not saying don’t watch, only that the show is capable of better.  I’m not real hopeful of the rest of this season, but I hope Season 4 will pull it together.

Spoiler alert!

An afterthought:  Did anyone else think that when Kevin Spacey’s character threw Kate Mara’s character in front of a train in Season 2, that it was really unbelievable.  There is no way a famous, powerful, and savvy public figure would ever do that or get away with it.  Power, in the modern world, is so hard to defeat, specifically because it is so good at insulating itself from its worst crimes.  We could only hope that one of our modern leaders, the obscenely corrupt men and women in our political and corporate criminal class, would do something that blatantly evil.  Usually the corrupt hide behind self made laws that give their crimes a legal and therefore “decent” facade.

What is Scarier Than The Walking Dead?

Headed out to Fort Worth for a gig tonight.  Playing the Capital Bar at 9pm.  Posting will probably be slow today.

About an hour or so south of Fort Worth.  The landscape is flat and brown.  As close to fall and October as anything I have seen this year so far in Texas.

I watched a couple episodes of The Walking Dead  while doing taxes last night as I mentioned.  My favorite episodes are the character driven ones.  The writers do a great job of creating fully realized characters and ratcheting up the tension between those characters as their aims and beliefs differ.  I finished season two before bed. 

The show is great at keeping you invested as it is super entertaining.  I wouldn’t say it is scary though.  As an adult there is much worse things to be scared of.  While I was watching it, I compiled a mental list of things I find scarier than zombies (In no apparent order):

1.  Doing my taxes
2.  Monday morning at a day job
3.  The fact that people voted for Ted Cruz
4.  The fact there is now two naked reality shows
5.  The music on the top of the pop charts
6.  The fact that people watch Fox News
7.  The fact that more than half of Americans believe in gaurdian angels
8.  A Supreme Court that treats corporations as people
9.  The fact that people are basically jacking off to their guns now
10.  Rush hour traffic

If something could be done with the things on that list, for starters, I would gladly romp with the dead. 

And Now For Something Completely Different…

 

I like to mix it up on this blog.  I just got done writing about the death penalty.  A heavy subject, especially if you are at work and your boss is giving you the hairy eyeball.  One of the songs that fills me with pure joy is Mama Cass Ellliot’s Make Your Own Kind of Music.  I know that I have posted the lyrics before, but one should see this fantastic video from 1969, with a great Sammy Davis Jr. introduction at the beginning!  It’s campy, but it is camp of the most wonderful kind.  You may be flying around your office soon enough!  Don’t let the bastards get you down.

The Danger of Too Much TV

I just read a quote the other day, and I believe it to be by Werner Herzog, that “Those that read gain the world, and those that watch TV lose it.”  (I am currently in a van with limited Internet service so I have no way to check the source.)  Today while in the hotel breakfast room the local news was on.  I overheard the local yokel anchors, or cue card reading Ken and Barbie dolls as I like to call them, reported that Mitt Romney might run for president again, they were building a waterslide in the area.  After that the Ken and Barbie dolls feigned mock surprise at legalized weed in Washington State.  “Jesus Christ,” I thought, “this shit is fucking depressing.” 

Last night on I took a beautiful brilliant ferry ride across Lake Michigan.  After awhile it got to cold and windy on the upper deck.  Downstairs, before I was able to escape into my headphones, I heard a clip from Fox News where Bill O’Reilly and some other faceless stooge talked about how President Obama might be the worst American President ever.  Really?  Worse than Herbert Hoover and George W. Bush?  Even if you don’t like Obama certainly you can comb the annals of American History and find several presidents whose use or misuse of power make Obama look like an ancient sage. 

You often hear that this is the golden age of television.  In terms of the long form drama this is definitely a time where there are many worthy and intelligent shows.  Comedy is also not restricted by so many puritanical rules, and therefore there are several really great programs in this form as well. 

However, overall TV remains a place of soul stealing degradation.   It so often plays to the lowest common denominator,  champions meaningless consumerism, and beats the drums for mindless patriotism and barbaric foreign policy.  When it is not doing any of that it takes full use of the culture wars and keeps us divided and ignorant.  The jury is still out, as far as I am concerned, as to whether this is just the inevitable result of the free market or purposeful manipulation by the powers that be.   Someone like Rupert Murdock is actually doing both.  He is fulfilling a demand of the market and furthering his political and economic interests at the same time. 

I can’t help but feel that if more people read and less people watched TV, that we would be a more enlightened and intelligent nation.  Maybe this is just wishful thinking. 

I am currently reading Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy.  It is his account of his time spent in jail and reform school as a young prisoner.  Behan was a vociferous reader.  What strikes me is his empathy for others and his tolerance for those different than himself.  He is serving time because he was caught with I.R.A. bombs in England.  However even at a young age he sees complexity rather than simplicity.  He comments that it is the system of the British Empire that he is against.  He befriends many English prisoners and realizes that some of the Irish that are part of the British Empire and British legal system are some of the worst of the lot.  He judges people as individuals and not based on predetermined catagories.  He even defends Oscar Wilde’s homosexuality to other prisoners, Wilde was a favorite writer of his, at a time when such behavior made one an outcast. 

There seems to be a strong political debate going on about guns in our country right now.  Maybe we need a strong debate about the role of TV in our society, which may be far more dangerous to us as a nation in the long run.