(15 comments)

Acting Class, Satan, Kevin Spacey, Mortality…

I just finished an “embodied acting” class.

My friend David Wood (who you might know from the
Authentic Sexual Power “Stroking” program…) invited me
to take it with him, and I’m so glad I took him up on the offer.

I’d taken improv classes before, but never a straight-up acting class – and at times, it was INTENSE. Acting can be a very powerful tool for self-awareness—it’s like “emotional weightlifting”, building your capacity to authentically feel emotions.

It was interesting to explore how “pretending” to be someone else could feel so emotionally authentic — I found myself so plugged in to the characters I was playing, that I could cry their tears, or feel their anger… it was amazing!

Also, discovering which roles were more challenging for me to play made me more aware of places that are vulnerable or edgy in myself.

For me, being actively cruel or unfeeling was particularly challenging for me – because I think there is actually a “mean” part of me inside, that I’m still only beginning to discover and “own”…

DEBATE BETWEEN TWO EPIC MONOLOGUES…

One assignment we had was to choose a monologue from a play or movie to work with for several weeks. At first, I was set on Satan’s (played by Al Pacino) rant on God, in “Devil’s Advocate”:

But as entertaining and dramatic as that scene is, in the end I chose a scene
from “American Beauty”.

I love that movie. It explores some of the darkest aspects of humanity…
And yet, we’re invited to see the inherent beauty and perfection in the mundane moments, as well as the tragic…

Case in point, the protagonist (played by Kevin Spacey) is murdered, shot in the
head at the end of the movie…and his final, post-mortem monologue is the
one I memorized and performed.

Along the lines of this theme of mortality, and making the most of your life,
I’m sharing it with you:

Me and my acting teacher were debating whether the intention of this last monologue was to just simply SHARE about his experience of what it’s like to die, or whether he’s somehow REASSURING the viewer, from a place of Compassion, that it’s OKAY… What do you think?

If you’ve ever been curious about acting, I encourage you to explore some of the local or community college classes in acting, and check it out!

BTW, final note on the mortality piece — if you haven’t completed the “Cold Shower” Quiz, do so now, I’ll be taking it down soon — check it out here.

15 Responses to “Acting Class, Satan, Kevin Spacey, Mortality…”

  1. All great movies. I loved every one of them…and the messages behind them lol.

  2. Acting is way to tap into your primal emotions and express them with skill and passion, this is related to a man’s confidence and assertive nature of self-expression. This might be worth exploring in relation to being a congruent man. I recently got up and tried to learn to flamenco dance in front of several people, this was an act of confidence, playfulness and expression.

  3. Lacy Atkinson May 16, 2011 at Reply

    Wow, the power of detachment.
    Thanks.

  4. Jason Cabassi May 16, 2011 at Reply

    The American Beauty scene is incredibly beautiful, IMO. I think the whole movie is about waking up from the numbed-out trance of what life is “supposed to be” and appreciating what actually is. Lester had woken up from the trance, but until that last moment, he hadn’t opened into appreciating his life. I don’t think the end scene can be neatly summed up, but for me it was a powerful gift – it was like getting a little taste of what it would be like for my life to be suddenly cut short, and a reminder to let go and relax and appreciate the beauty of the world while I still have the chance.

    American Beauty has been my favorite movie since I first saw it in ’99. The writer, Alan Ball, went on to write the HBO show Six Feet Under, about a family that runs a mortuary. It’s equally messy and poignant and hilarious and beautiful, and I recommend watching it!

    Thanks for posting, Brian. I thought maybe we’d get to see you acting out these scenes :)

    J

  5. Casey Choate May 16, 2011 at Reply

    I’m not sure what the point of the monologue is, but I tell you what…I’ve watched this movie probably over 10 times and not once has this end scene impacted me like it did just now. I had goosebumps throughout my whole body, not just topicalt but on the inside and was brought to tears watching it. wow. I’m going to watch this movie again soon.

    btw. it’s nice to have some new posts on the site Bryan, keep it up :)

  6. Josh Sumara May 16, 2011 at Reply

    American Beauty has a powerful message to spread.

  7. I saw “American Beauty” so long ago that I had forgotten it. I often feel that same way, as if there is so much beauty my heart will explode. Thanks, Bryan.

  8. Eivind Skjellum May 16, 2011 at Reply

    Boy, that American Beauty scene remains forever mesmerizing. I can understand why you chose it, Bryan. How did it feel to embody Lester’s character?

    I don’t feel so inclined to address your question I notice. But having noted that, I feel there’s much more to the monologue than simply reporting the death process.

    I did a piece on this movie on my website Masculinity Movies. It is one of the most popular ones. You might want to check it out: http://www.masculinity-movies.com/movie-database/american-beauty

    • Embodying Lester’s character was challenging — he’s so deadpan about the last half, “I guess I could be pretty pissed, but it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty”…

      The way he brings it, it’s like he’s Reporting rather than sharing his experience, and Allowing Impact….When I’m doing this part, I allow myself to feel the tears and the emotion there… and I think the piece is much more potent that way…

      Thx for your question Eivind!

    • Eivind Skjellum May 23, 2011 at

      So let’s see if I got this part right – it was challenging to embody Lester because he was reporting rather than sharing his experience? And because you are more used to allowing yourself to be impacted in such a way that it feels more personal?

      Did it feel like he was detached to you?

  9. When I first saw this movie way back when, I thought it was kind of dumb. At the time I was a severe homo-phob and was slightly offended to find out that the kid’s dad, a Former Marine Colonel (or something like that), was gay. And the kid, videotaping a plastic bag “dancing” in the wind and describing it a “beautiful” was stupid to me. However, years later with multiple experiences in bad judgement resulting in unbearable emotional pain causing me to embark on a journey of personal development, my attitude has changed. I don’t remember the last time I saw the movie but I do remember being moved. I never have been very good at formulating my own opinions on what message writer is trying to send in a book/poem/passage/movie ending, what have you, so I never analyzed this ending before. However watching this clip got me thinking, and I am inclined to agree that rather than explaining his experience of death he is indeed trying to reassure us that its ok, but also admitting that he may be talking to a wall because he’s describing something that you may just have to experience to fully understand, and since it is true that we are all going to die, one day, we will understand what he is saying. Maybe we never really will fully appreciate our lives until that very last second, and this may seem like its too late, but maybe not. Maybe we need to experience everything just as we do, whether is joyful or miserable, and in that last moment, we will still recognize the beauty of it all.

  10. I think he was letting you know that there’s so much beauty in the world it makes your heart ache, and that you don’t have to wait till your last moments to experience it.

  11. This post really resonated with me. As soon as I saw the word “Acting” in the subject line, I knew I would like it.

    I took the “Cold Shower” Quiz a week or so ago (think it was called something else then) and it made me realize that I wasn’t doing the thing that I really wanted to do, which is acting. I’ve now taken tangible steps towards making that shift in my life. I’ve met with other actors, applied to several schools and I’m looking into short courses as well. Acting is what I want to do in my life but it has taken me years to realize that and get the balls to go out and do something about it. Now I know I will do whatever it takes.

    Well, onto the question. I don’t know where Lester’s coming from when he speaks, but I do know that this is one of the most beautiful movies ever made. I always get goosebumps all over my body and a huge lump in my throat whenever I see the ending scene.

    • WOW — so cool to hear this this has had such an impact on you! Thanks for sharing — it inspires me to keep writing these kinds of articles.

  12. Craig Jaffa May 21, 2011 at Reply

    Wow… That closing monologue is so true and profound. I watched American Beauty when I was young, and just like he says, I really had no idea what he was talking about – and didn’t even know it. Now, year later, after exploring meditation, life, etc.. Everything he says makes perfect sense. Gave me goosebumps reflecting while listening. Thank you Brian – Mr. Hollywood! yeah! ;)

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