What I learned at a Raul Esparza Master Class
Why would a writer audit an actor’s workshop? Curiosity, a desire to see how performing relates to writing, and to meet Raul Esparza
Here are the things I took away that would be useful to writers:
- Pay attention to punctuation. Raul made the people who used Sondheim music to audition go over the piece, speaking it, sticking an extraneous word such as “pins” to indicate a comma or period. Sunday in the Park with George might sound like this: “Stop worrying where you’re going. PINS If you can know where you’re going PINS you’ve gone. PINS Just keep moving on. How could this help a writer? If you’re a poet, you can really get a sense of line breaks, etc. by sticking in pins to help you read the line as the reader will.
- Don’t close your eyes. It shuts people off from you because eyes are the windows to the soul. When I think about all the poetry readings I’ve gone to where the poet has his eyes open, but is fixed on a point above the audience, he might want to make eye contact to see where folks are yawning. Might be a good place to edit.
- Don’t give yourself away right off. In writing, you have to constantly be a slight-of-hand artist, leading the reader one way, and then purposely misdirecting them. It’s how you keep tension going, how you keep attention going as well.
- Raul pointed out how Chekov uses gestures to convey intentions or psychological needs. Writers, don’t forget that in your own characters. Setting gestures on the page is a real art form. If you read Eugene O’Neill’s descriptions of how the drunks in The Iceman Cometh slump over their tables in the bar, each one distinct.
- “Who are you singing to?” was a question Raul frequently asked. Even in a soliloquy, the character is thinking of someone as he speaks, even if it’s to describe himself.
- Every line has a subtext.
- To deliver a song (or a piece of writing) you have to think of an actable moment. If you say a writer wants to get his feelings across, you would do better to sit on a whoopee cushion. At least then you’d get a laugh. Think of what you want to make the other person do that is actually doable, for example: to confess, to beseech, to argue, etc. Think verb!
- Separate yourself from what you’re selling. If you don’t get a part, if you don’t publish, you’re still a worthwhile person on a worthwhile pursuit.
- Don’t worry about style. Just think about the human being, the character. If you do this, great writing always takes care of itself. (I HOPE.)
- Here’s something I wrote down in caps. KEEP A WIDE DEFINITION OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN ARTIST. In other words, if my new novel that’s in my agent’s hands at this moment doesn’t sell, I’m still publishing essays, poetry, and short stories. I’m still blogging. I’m still breathing. (For now.)
To take a master class go to firstname.lastname@example.org