Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Patricia Heaton on acting

Last month I was driving to rehearsal and listening to the radio.  Our local NPR station, WCPN, has an interview show called "Around Noon" devoted to arts and entertainment that was on.

The show I listened to was a re-broadcast of a television interview with a local Cleveland audience by NPR host, Scott Simon with actress Patricia Heaton.  I knew she was a television actress ("Everybody Loves Raymond", "The Middle"), but I had never seen either of these shows.  She's from Bay Village (on the west side of Cleveland), so I thought she might tell some good stories with local interest so I listened.

In fact, much of the interview is devoted to her talking about the tough early days of her career before she hit it big on television.  She has lots of wise observations about acting, auditioning, and life that a young musician taking auditions can learn from.

Here is a link to the mp3 of the show.

You can listen to the whole thing (about 53 minutes long) or start in about 10 minutes where she begins to talk about her career. 

I found it very trenchant and filled with good advice for young artists.

If you listen, let me know what you think!  It's informative and entertaining.

1 comment:

  1. Here's a comment by a friend of mine, Stan who emailed, saying:

    "The blog picture is VERY flattering. Makes her look a lot younger than her 53 years.

    I have served on the jury of probably about 100 auditions in the Weiner Staatsoper. I have a pretty good idea of how these things work and how a jury thinks (at least in the Staatsoper). I think it's important for candidates to understand the detachment of a jury. As Heaton suggests, a jury is not terribly interested in you as a person, they just want to know if you can be a really, really good member of the orchestra.

    I liked the part about being true to yourself. No need to try to make yourself different, to find a unique way to sell yourself. It's playing really well, stupid. No more, no less. A synthesis of all those things your teachers and — just as important — your friends have been telling you since you decided to take music seriously.

    And in the same vein: performing is all about established and reliable technique. It's about the kind of rock solid professionalism that is not affected by how well you've slept, whether you have a headache, you've had a fight with your wife, your best friend is having a crisis, etc. (Remember the story about David McGill who performed the Mahler 10th in Vienna after having had an emergency wisdom tooth extraction in Berlin the day before? He could hardly open his mouth.) I was very much impressed by the incident of the young actor who had to play a role in which his girlfriend didn't know he was gay, much less him knowing it himself. Heaton points out how the young actor playing the role played it EXACTLY the same way matter how often the scenes were repeated. Acting is far more about the CRAFT of acting rather than feeling. There's that famous, but likely apocryphal, story about Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman when they were working together on Marathon Man. To prepare for a scene, Hoffman had gone for a few days without sleep and looked pretty rough. Olivier asked him why he was putting himself through such an ordeal and Hoffman replied that he was trying to be convincing in the role. Olivier replied, "Try acting dear boy". (I understand that particularly well because part of my professional activity as a member of the stage orchestra was performing incidental music at the Austrian National Theater, where I was present at several hundred rehearsals of, literally, some of the best [German language] actors in the world. The predictability of the rehearsals — and performances — was awesome. The length of even 3 or 4 hr performances would vary by less than a minute whereby the difference depended more on audience reaction [laughing or applause] rather than the actors' individual performances.)

    Interesting that she said that performances (takes) were often not rewarded with applause. The only indication that she was doing well was occasional snickering by the crew. Just like in the stage orchestra!

    The lessons about not losing faith (in the literal sense) and believing in yourself are pretty important, too. Also about relying on friends when you don't have a good job yet — and afterwards particularly when you're on your probation year(s).