Calling all actors, TV stars, and film stars! What if I told you that there's a technique out there that will help you increase your believablity by up to 35% in the first 30 days? "Impossible," you're probably thinking. "Total bullshit," I can hear you saying. And you're right! But with this technique you'll think you're getting better—just like some of Hollywood's biggest stars! Kate Walsh used it to help her pretend she was driving a Cadillac in that commercial. Meg Ryan used it to help her portray Meg Ryan in films like The Women and You've Got Mail. And Harvey Keitel used it too!
These Hollywood actors dream, dream, dreamed their way to better acting—and now you can too, with the Way!
From The NY Times:
Dream work grew largely out of Method acting, and it is now being taught at the New York home of the Method, the Actors Studio, and by several teachers in Los Angeles and elsewhere.
Teachers say that at least 1,000 actors have been trained so far and that interest is growing in the technique, which is inspired by the theories of Carl Jung, who believed that dreams are the expression of the unconscious, and the images and symbols in them communicate crucial information to the conscious mind.
Dream work is used by such stars as Ms. Walsh, Meg Ryan and Harvey Keitel, who said in interviews that it was essential to preparing for their roles.
“I see a place for this in all the acting schools across the country once they come to know about it,” said Mr. Keitel, who, along with others who study dream work at the Actors Studio, knows it as the Way.
Dreams! Of course. Why didn't anyone think of this before? Obviously, your dreams hold the key to making you better at any art form. For example: just last week, I couldn't dance a step. I was awkward, uncoordinated, and completely unable to follow even the simplest choreography. But then I had a dream that my best friend gave birth to a litter of puppies and hid them under a bench in her backyard. As I transcribed the dream in my velour-covered dream journal, I realized that the puppies were symbols for the dance steps I was trying to learn. All I had to do was just pull the wet puppies out from under the bench and follow them (metaphorically speaking)! Now I can get through the dance without crying. Thanks, the Way!
So what, exactly, does this new dream-based acting technique entail? Writing letters to yourself, simulated horse breathing, and emotionally receptive yoga mats. What? Yes:
Acting teachers using dream work instruct their students to use dreams to help them connect their own personal struggles with the struggles of the characters they are playing. An actor preparing to play Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire” might write a letter to herself asking her “inner self” to reveal in a dream how her own emotional experiences may be similar to those of the tortured Blanche…
At a recent class in Manhattan taught by Kim Gillingham, a protégé of Ms. Seacat, 15 students lay on yoga mats, their dream journals beside them. Incense burned, candles flickered and musical selections from Chopin and the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt helped muffle the street noise outside the Chelsea studio. Students had been told to bring with them a dream to work on individually. Other times, they act out one another’s dreams.
“Whisper into the mat what you wouldn’t want anyone else to know,” Ms. Gillingham said. “Tell it where you’re scared, tell it where you’re stuck.”
After the mat work, the students stood up and Ms. Gillingham said, “Breathe out like an old horse.” They did so, followed by a guttural chorus of “ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.”
“Travel to the place, the thing, the energy that you most don’t want to deal with,” she instructed.
Is it strange to feel sorry for a yoga mat? Because nothing, not even an inanimate, non-sentient piece of foam rubber, should have to sit there and listen to people whispering, "How do I unlock the key to Blanche DuBois, oh yoga mat?" or "I'm scared I won't be able to breathe life into Nosy Bartender on Law & Order: SVU next week. Help me, yoga mat, be a believable nosy bartender."
Really, though, a lot of this "dream work" sounds like an oversimplified version of my time-tested acting technique "the Cul-du-Sac" in which I have students exhale deeply while crab-walking, paint champagne flutes the color of their fear then smash them, and mind-travel back to the womb.
Thankfully, not everyone is buying the Way. Although some are more skeptical than others:
Robert Brustein, the founding director of the Yale and American Repertory theaters, said it was another example of actor training that was self-absorbed, in which focusing on a player’s own psyche and emotions can turn written characters into the people playing them, rather than the other way around…
Later, Keith Nobbs, a television, stage and film actor, said he had been skeptical when he showed up for the workshop. “When I first read about it — dream work, body work and voice work — I thought, Put the gun to my head, please. You imagine a first-year acting class where people are acting like dogs for 45 minutes.”
But he said the workshop had been helpful for him as he prepared to play an autistic man in an independent film.
Oh, Keith Nobbs. You probably should have gone with your first instinct. As the casting director in Showgirls said to the aspiring dancer who had taken lots of training classes, "This show is called Goddess, not classes. See ya."