It’s not every day that a co-president of SAG-AFTRA says thanks to someone for their work – so Gary Spatz and The Playground are very proud of this announcement:
Their conclusion? “The Best On-Camera Classes for Child Actors”
The Playground congratulates graduate student Megli Micek who was awarded the Best Actress Award for her role in Liars Fires and Bears at the Vegas Independent Film Festival (VIFF) in May 2013. Megli was nine and a Playground student when she filmed this feature film. “Liars Fires and Bears” has been selected for nine film festivals and has won numerous awards.
The Playground congratulates student Jack Essner who was cast in the role of “Matt” in the short film WELL PLAYED directed by Emmy Award winner Jeremy Kagan. WELL PLAYED is a SAG/AFTRA short film about kids with ADHD and their soccer coaches. The film is being made by The Change Making Media Lab at The University of Southern California www.cmml.usc.edu with a grant from the School of Psychiatry at the Keck Medical at USC.
The film will be initially distributed around the country to organizations that train kids and to coaches in all sports as well as organizations helping ADHD children.
As part of the work of The Change Making Media Lab, this is meant to change behavior, utilizing methods of Entertainment Education in creating an emotional story that confronts these problems. It can make a difference.
The Playground graduate Leah Weissbuch who received the prestigious 2013 – JRAY-John Raitt Award for – “Featured Actress of the Year” – for her performance as Mary Lennox in the Beverly Hills High School Musical – “The Secret Garden”. JRAY is a group of 13 participating High Schools with some of the finest Performing Arts Departments of both the Los Angeles County and Orange County regions. A distinguished panel of judges attended performances of the theatrical productions of each of the participating schools to establish their list of Nominees and then carefully decide upon the final award winners. The JRAY-John Raitt Awards are the High School
equivalent of Broadway’s Tony Awards for High Schools in our Southern California Region
Our dear Leah was too modest to pose for a shot holding the award but nothing can contain her joy in this picture
Imagination building is an important part of learning the craft of on-camera acting. You might think that all children would be able to use their imagination easily. However, that is not always the case. At Gary Spatz’s “The Playground” A Young Actor’s Conservatory it is a staple of the curriculum that the students explore their imagination every class. One way we do that is through working on specific exercises to explore imagination building. Now the funny part is that the kids just think we are playing crazy games and having too much fun. The teachers know that these crazy games are really exercises designed specifically to work on building their imagination.
One of these exercises/games that we teach in all the classrooms and for all levels is this extraordinary game that Gary came up with called ‘Emotional Family’. This is how it works. Four students come to the stage and must ‘Act Out’ their mornings breakfast as if they are a very specific family. The fun is that no matter what type of family the teacher says you are, you MUST try and explore your imagination and become that type of character! Sit like them, talk like them; eat a breakfast that they would eat. You get the idea. Then when the teacher calls out another type of family, now you MUST try and use your imagination to become that type of family. No hesitating. No thinking about what to do. Just try and see if you can be that type of character. There are such crazy families that there is no way to avoid the fun that follows! Class favorites for this outrageous exercise: Ninja Family, Robot Family, Shy Family, Zombie Family, Loud Family, Quiet Family and Paranoid Family. However probably the all time favorite family is the Super Old Family (like 112 years old family). Like seen in the photo of this recent last day of a Children’s Beginners Class taught by Emily and Sarah K. Notice how other classmates have come up behind them to act like the nurses and caregivers for this really old family. Doesn’t it look like all the kids are having fun? Yet the teachers know that they are actually learning!!
Then throughout Beginning Class as well as Advanced Class and the second year program called the Professional Class, we come back to ‘Emotional Family’ to see the growth of each actor in using their imagination. And finally on the last day of class we play ‘Emotional Family’ again. It’s a great way to challenge the actors to ask themselves if they can tell how much they have grown in using their imagination. Every single student always says yes!
Learning acting can be fun!!!! Just use your imagination!!!
Let’s talk about why it’s so important that The Playground Professional classes have scene work shot on camera while framed in a Close Up. First two definitions.
Close-up: (CU) Camera term for a tight shot of the shoulder and face of the actor.
Sub-Text: The personal thoughts of the character that the actor is thinking.
In this picture you can see that the young girl playing the role of ‘Alex’ is sitting on her mark on the couch and that she is framed in a close up. She is talking to two fellow students who are playing the roles of her parents. You will also see that the other students are able to watch the entire scene on the TV monitor in the classroom. The scenario for the scene is that her parents are telling her that they are getting a divorce and the Father is moving out tonight.
Every student in class that day had the opportunity to play the role of ‘Alex’. They made an entrance, hit their mark, and said their lines. However, it was the thinking and emotional responses of the actor portraying ‘Alex’ that I am looking for.
In a close up, we are so tight on the actors face that if the actor is thinking thoughts that the character of ‘Alex’ would be thinking, then we will be able to see it on the monitor. These thoughts are called Sub-text. Thoughts such as: What is happening? Why is Mom crying? Did Dad just say they are getting a divorce? Where am I going to live? However, if the actor is thinking his or her own personal thoughts such as: What’s my next line? We will be able to see that on the monitor as well. Acting isn’t just saying lines; it is when we are able to see the personal inner thoughts of the character as well.
So in class, everyone get a chance to act out the role. We shoot the performances all in a tight Close-Up. Then we watched them all back. Each student got to really see ‘up close’ how his or her thoughts traveled through the camera lens. As if we could almost hear their thoughts. It’s an awesome exercise.