Tuesday, April 3, 2012

First Chicago Workshop: Molly Lyons AND Rob O'Neill

The studio's great friend, Rob O'Neill, will be passing through Chicago in June so the big kick-off of Green Wood Studios in Chicago will be workshop co-taught by Rob & Molly.
Exploring the Impulse to Speak
Check back for more information. Date TBA but tentatively June 23 & 24.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Re-opening, Re-inventing

Green Wood Studios is joyfully opening its virtual doors after a hiatus while Artistic Director, Molly Lyons, took on the role of caregiver for her mother.
New home base: Chicago
New websites: www.GreenWoodStudios.org
New phone: 773-304-4321
We can teach in any city, just contact us.
We can offer private lessons around the world, Skype is the new private lesson arena.
Skype ID: mollylyons

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

work & play

You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.
~ Charlie Parker

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Auditioning: What are "they" looking for?

A colleague recently wrote me and asked:

On the subject of auditioning, I could use some advice. The audition I have coming up is a cold reading from the script. In that situation, what would you say the casting director is looking for most - character or ability? Also, do you have any tips for how to distinguish myself from the other audtioners?

I'll answer in order of what I think our focus in auditions can be if we make the paradigm shift to reverse the power structure of the audition. What I mean by that is, as a casting director, actors give the folks behind the table all the power which is not the case so, how do actors reverse that and feel they have some power? One: stop worrying about what "they" want and do the work. As actors, we can't get inside the heads of the CD's/directors, but we can do our work: read, read, read the text (however long you have it, spend as much time as you can with it: sometimes that's an hour, sometimes a week, be a detective in the time you have); analyze it; make choices; COMMIT; etc.

1. How to distinguish yourself from other actors? Great question. I used to read for a CD friend in LA who hired actors she liked because she said that 98/100 actors gave the same reading. I didnt' believe her until I sat through my first day of readings. Those who distinguised themselves, revealed THEMSELVES. The great acting teacher, Uta Hagen, says that we all have the possibility of all characters within us because, as humans, we are all capable of all things. It is only our limitations which prevents us from doing all things: evil or good. If we will reach down and pull out what drives the character from our heart and soul, play what I call the magic "if I were the character, I would....", and reveal that, we would be different from everyone else. Truly. The other distinguishing thing is to really REACT to what you're getting vs. what you think is what the character "should" be doing in any given moment (I should be angry now). The great film director, Sidney Lumet, always reads himself with actors he is auditioning. During the reading, he will do something like drop a page from the side or, better yet, toss it. If the actor doesn't even acknowledge it, he will politely finish the read. If they see it, he is interested. If they react, he is compelled. If they react and use it back at him, he is fascinated.

2. Do they want to see character or ability? Great question. I think a couple of things: the character will be "different", see above, if you can reveal your soul through the character's circumstances. Ability is tricky. When I hold auditions, I feel like actors are more concerned with showing me "range" or ability, than the character. I don't want to see technique, I want to see the character and I also want to see what kind of actor is going to play that character. A local director, who is now a Tony award winner, says he would rather see an actor have a discovery or, better yet, make a change, in the moment, than emote. Characters in plays (or whatever type of media it is) are in crisis with a major dramatic problem to solve, whether that's a sitcom or Medea, and are, therefore, constantly having to change their tactics, be opportunists, see if what they're doing works and, if not, change; they must REACT. Actors tend to come into auditions and smear one color of what emotion they think the character "should" be feeling all over it and play that one thing. Human beings change by the second based on what's coming at them and what they are trying to do to others yet actors will tell me they think it's "inconsistent" to change frequently. HUH??? HUMANS do it all the time. Are you playing a human? The same CD friend from above who told me actors all play the same choices says that she looks for the "3 C's": character, choices, change followed by a 4th: commitment to the former 3.

Just my two cents worth. Anything else?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Art & War

When Winston Churchill was asked to cut funding for the arts to finance the war effort, he asked,
“Then what are we fighting for?”

War is being declared on the arts in all kinds of ways. Here're some notes about that.

From me: Molly Lyons
Theatre Artist

I told my dad when I was little and we were arguing about Vietnam that I wanted to declare a Culture War. "A Culture War?" he asked, "How would that work?" When countries get annoyed about this or that, they should declare a culture war upon the other. He asked: "who wins?". I answered: "Everyone and, for once, the war would leave the world a better place.

Our friends in Canada are also writing about it which is really what inspired me today. Here are some excerpts from recent articles with more to think about in terms of funding, supporting and encouraging the arts in our North American culture.

Bruce Harvey
film producer, Calgary

When Winston Churchill was asked to cut funding for the arts to finance the war effort, he asked, “Then what are we fighting for?” Our culture is what identifies us as a people. The arts are what reflect that culture to ourselves and to the world. The Lougheed government was the first in Canada to establish a provincial funding agency for film and television. The Alberta Motion Picture Development Corporation invested in Alberta writers, directors and producers who could bring Alberta stories to the screen. With its help, the film and television industry thrived here. But during the extensive cutbacks of the Klein administration, the AMPDC was closed. The result is a much smaller film community in Alberta - one predominately centered in Calgary and focused on servicing out-of-province productions. Consider this: giving subsidies to the pulp and paper industry does not cultivate literature. Similarly, providing subsidies for labour and services on a Hollywood movie will not build a film and television cultural industry here. Québec followed the Lougheed government’s lead and established a funding body for Québec productions. That funding has grown so successfully over the last two decades that, for a majority of the world, Québec film is synonymous with Canadian film. Albertans, too, are proud of our heritage and place within Canada. We should be able to see our stories reflected in modern media and to have our stories told around the world. It’s time to re-establish the AMPDC.

Towards a Surplus of Meaning
By Colin Jackson
President and CEO of Epcor Center, Calgary.

The division of the art of daily life from the high arts of Western origin is only about a hundred years old. Picture a night at a European theatre in the 18th century. A cross-section of the population was there, behaving in a way we might consider unconscionably rowdy. The commoners in the pit heckled the performers. The wealthy in their boxes glanced up occasionally from their card games to catch an aria.

There were none of the march-on, march-off stage rituals of today. In the 1840s, when Hungarian composer Franz Liszt performed, he greeted patrons at the door and schmoozed with his audiences. Parisian papers criticized another pianist, Alexander Dreyschock, for playing so loudly, the ladies found it difficult to talk. These environs were doubtlessly hard on the artists, but attending a performance was a community experience – intimate, comfortable and shared.

In the 20th century, across Western cultures, we changed boisterousness into awe. Don’t clap between movements of a symphony. Sit down. Be quiet. Admire. This new code of behaviour identified the insider, the elite. It also amplified the authority of those few citizens who chose to denigrate the arts, artists and humanities.

The truth is Albertans, like all human beings, are artful and expressive. We sing, dance, bead, write, draw and paint. Statistics show we overwhelmingly want our children to be literate in the arts. We understand that fluidity with music, words, images and movement will add immensely to their happiness. Confident adults are those possessed with many means of self-expression.

Today the arts in Alberta are at a crossroads. In one direction lies innovation and influence. In the other, irrelevance and marginalization.

The path of innovation and influence amplifies the arts as a means for sharing ideas, values and emotions. Through them, we explore our empathy for each other. Arts enrich the character of our province. The achievements of Alberta artists burnish our pride.

Irrelevance and marginalization occur when the arts are perceived as elitist activities dividing the upper crust from the rest of the sandwich, a frivolity undeserving of serious attention and, at best, grudgingly supported.

The choice between the two paths lies with the province’s leadership and with us, the artists and the arts workers. We have degraded our ability to communicate with the wider community, a sad irony for people whose business is communication. We lost our confidence and, with it, our influence.

There is an urban myth beloved by the cranky that arts organizations are poorly managed. In fact, the failure rate among arts operations is exceptionally low, which is all the more admirable given that the field is notoriously poorly capitalized and the margins of error razor-thin. Another myth is that the public does not care. Also not true. A recent Ipsos-Reid poll showed that 84% of Calgarians think it would matter if there were no performing arts in Calgary.

Maybe because of embarrassment about emotions, maybe because of a desire to control the wild spirit of creativity, Albertans often talk about the arts in the language of the marketplace. There is an embedded mythology that to understand worth we must attach a cash value. Decisions revert to numbers and measurements. How misleading. The fundamentals of life are love, spirit, generosity, joy, well-being, values, rights. This is the language that takes us on our way to a more meaningful society.

The Lougheed government in the 1980s saw Alberta as an arts and cultural leader in Canada. The community responded, proud of the skill, talent and courage of our creators. Subsequent governments were the opposite, seeing the arts not as a community asset but as a private amusement. Some artists, rather than shrugging off such small thinking, internalized the notion of being marginalized. They acted as marginalized people often do – sounding whiny, clingy and entitled.

Alberta’s political parties have defaulted into service providers, promising to alleviate our traffic woes and fears of recession. Opinion polls drive policy. That narrow approach to politics ensures only one thing: that voters will decide nothing. Big political shifts happen because of influential leaders – good and bad – who win over their populations with the dream of a better society.

Boldness, vision, direction based on a blend of passion and reason should determine an election. Alberta, home to mavericks in business, arts and politics, is one of the jurisdictions where people would rise to a unifying call to action. People are looking for inspiration.

We can learn from American presidential candidate Barack Obama who, in a recent speech, said: “Unity is the great need of the hour – the great need of this hour. Not because it sounds pleasant or because it makes us feel good, but because it’s the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exists in this country. I’m not talking about a budget deficit. I’m not talking about a trade deficit. I’m not talking about a deficit of good ideas or new plans. I’m talking about a moral deficit. I’m talking about an empathy deficit. I’m talking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another, to understand that we are our brother’s keeper; we are our sister’s keeper. That, in the words of Dr. [Martin Luther] King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.”

And, here lies our opportunity. We Alberta artists, citizens and artist-citizens can co-create our culture based on the best of Alberta’s heritage. Together we can write beautifully, speak eloquently and create film and images that move the hardest of hearts.

We can drop the labels of lesser or more worthy, elite or plain folks. And, in place of judgment, see each other as creative beings sharing a journey of wonder and delight. We are a people, most of whom are blessed with material wealth, health and education. We recognize what an unusual opportunity we have. There are very few places in the world with as robust an economy as Alberta. And fewer still of those wealthy places – think Dubai, Shanghai, Singapore – have the personal and political freedoms we enjoy. All that is missing is a shared dream and the self-confidence to execute it.

The British cultural thinker John Holden observes that throughout history great places did two things very well: they made money and they made meaning. Alberta is a world leader in creating wealth of the pocketbook. Now is our opportunity to create wealth of the soul.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

AIRE 2008 post-poned

Dear Friends, Colleagues and Supporters of the Actors International Retreat Experience (AIRE),

The Green Wood Studio is currently in what I will call a “Development Year” and we have decided for a variety of reasons to postpone this year’s annual AIRE event scheduled for January 2008. I am in the process of making some important decisions professionally and am actively pursuing teaching, directing and acting jobs outside of my usual communities which may involve some big professional & personal changes.

That said I am working closely with our beloved faculty and administrators on refreshing and reinvigorating our experience so that when we do produce our next event it will be an even more rewarding experience for all involved. One of the things we are actively doing is scouting new geographic locations in the hopes that we can reach an even wider array of artists to come play with us. If you have any recommendations or suggestions we would welcome your input. Please send any and all feedback to Emi Clark at chicago@greenwoodstudio.org .

I know for many of you this is sad news as you were no doubt looking forward to, as I do every year, exploring, growing, and working with instructors and classmates you’ve come to love. I thank you so much for your dedication to our community and I can assure you we will be back and better than ever for our 10th anniversary season in 2009.

I will of course keep you posted, via email, website and blogspot, as details develop about the exciting changes we have planned. In the meantime I encourage you to take classes or privates with me in various cities I already visit, with any of our other instructors (Ted Hoerl, Steve Scott – Chicago, Rob O’Neill – New York, David Smukler – Toronto, Vancouver) or with someone you find in your own city so that you can keep at the top of your game. Martha Karl and Madeline Muravchik are planning to bring me to teach in Washington DC as soon as possible in 2008 in lieu of attending the retreat and if you’d be interested in bringing me or any of our other instructors to your town for a workshop I’d be more than happy to help facilitate that event.

If you have any questions, please contact me or any of our area coordinators. This week, I am both training actors & in training (YBB for those of you who know!) in Los Angeles so may be slow in responding.

Thank you all again for your friendship and support and I look forward to working together again soon.

With love,

Molly Lyons
Artistic Director
Green Wood Studio
Actors' International Retreat Experience -A.I.R.E.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

First Registrations for A.I.R.E. Actors' International Retreat Experience

As we head into our 9th annual event of the Actors' International Retreat Experience and are already receiving registrations from as far away as Washington DC, I thought I'd post our 2008 instructors and some quotes from A.I.R.E. alumni.

2008 A.I.R.E. Instructors

Ted Hoerl - Act One Studio instructor & Casting Director, teaching Auditioning with prepared monologue from contemporary theatre.

Molly Lyons – Director of the Green Wood Studio, international director/classical teacher, teaching Playing the Classics with prepared soliloquy or monologue from classical theatre.

Rob O'Neill – NY based Performer & International Movement Coach teaching Embodiment.

Steve Scott - Associate Producer of Chicago's Goodman Theatre teaching Scene Work with prepared scenes.

David Smukler - York University and Canada's National Voice Intensive teaching Voice.

You can read full bio's on the instructors and find a ton of information at:
www.greenwoodstudio.org and follow the links to A.I.R.E. on the home page.

Actor Quotes

Describing A.I.R.E. is difficult because I tend to feel as though I am exaggerating and simultaneously not even getting close to communicating the impact of the experience. Let's just say: I now measure my artistic life in terms of Before A.I.R.E. and After A.I.R.E. I expected it to nourish me as an actor; it did that, but it also fed me as a writer, as a musician, and as a human being.Come ready to work. And work. And work some more. But also to rediscover the absolute joy of this work, and to approach your entire life with a new sense of purpose and truth.
Elizabeth Bagby, Chicago actor, writer, artist

Thank you for the wonderful experience. Thank you for filling up my tank with all that good stuff.
Kenny Hull, LA actor, director, producer

I have never before been so immersed in my art -- constantly creating while also being creatively filled. The instructors are truly gifted, insightful and specific. They teach with love and respect, while being fully willing to jump in, play and learn along side you! The environment itself also fills the artistic soul. I definitely recommend it.
Lisa Benner, NY actor

I learned more in one short course with the Green Wood Studio than I did in two years at a training institute.
Melina Pyron, Soprano, actor

If you're serious about your craft, willing to do the work, and unopposed to having some fun in the process, you'll not find a better learning opportunity, or value for your money. The setting is sweet, the meals tasty, the staff welcoming and helpful. But it's the program that'll keep you returning year after year ('07 will be my third). The instructors are superb, the best group of teachers I've ever worked with. They're not simply knowledgeable, perceptive, humorous and fully human, they know how to teach.
Norm Stamper, Orcas Island actor, writer

This acting retreat focused my passion and sharpened my skills. I was given the truth about what I was doing in a useful constructive way. Your Integrity is Respected.
Tom Pickett, Vancouver actor

Every person should attend this retreat, whether they’re an actor or not. Molly Lyons and her incomparable team of instructors not only teach us to be stronger actors but better people. Through their combined genius they encourage us to face our fears and embrace our passions. Together we strengthen our work as artists and our spirits as human beings. I recommend everyone to experience what I have had the joy of experiencing, a safe, enlightening and joyous atmosphere in which to grow, learn and laugh with people who are truly inspiring.
Dan De Jaeger, Winnipeg/Vancouver/Prescott actor

I never would have had the confidence (to play the part) without having worked with these great teachers.
Annette Clark, South Carolina actor

I don't know when I've felt more alive. This work is magical and transformative.
Louise Carnachan, Orcas Island/Seattle actor, improviser, producer

The retreat is an experience I give myself as a gift as often as I can. As an artist in this unforgiving world at times it is easy to lose focus and lose the wonderment of the craft. I come to the retreat to stretch my creative muscles and fill my spirit with the magic of the work. Every year I have attended the retreat I have left feeling full of inspiration, with a new and renewed awareness of my craft, my instrument and my artistic self as a whole. I am absolutely nervous, excited, and blessed to have this opportunity. The retreat to me is a sacred place to nuture the artist within by working with people who have the same passion an love for this work. I come to refill my well!!!
Betty Lorkowski, Chicago actor

The whole week was beyond belief. I loved the commitment and the intensity we had. Everybody worked so hard; I learned so much. I came to [the retreat] alone, not knowing a soul, and left with new friends and a wonderful experience of theatre.
Robin Hall, Washington DC actor

Nowhere else have I found such immediately applicable and long-lasting coaching and career advice than this week-long intensive.
Ian Farthing, Vancouver actor

I had my first audition since I've been back and I got the part! I cannot tell you how different my experience was. I was so much calmer and 100 times more confident. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Stephanie Pottruck, LA actor

Thank you for the life lesson.
Abe Brown, LA actor

This is where I go every year to re-open as an artist and sharpen my skill set. Plus you simply can't find better instruction - all assembled in one intensive week - anywhere else in the country. These are instructors who are Masters and it is inspiring to work with them. I can't recommend it highly enough!
Emi Clark, Chicago actor

I used to think your marketing materials claim of "life-changing event" could not be true. Now that I've attended the retreat, I know it is true.
BD Freeman, LA actor, comedian