From David Mamet's MasterClass

Actors (Cont'd)

David tells us what he believes great actors should and shouldn't do.

Topics include: What Actors Should Do • Ruth Draper

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David tells us what he believes great actors should and shouldn't do.

Topics include: What Actors Should Do • Ruth Draper

David Mamet

Teaches Dramatic Writing

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Actors, unfortunately, they have to be biddable, because it's part of their job to be both biddable, because you're directing them, and gracious. And they're generally very, very gracious people, you know, an actor, or anybody in show business. Not gracious is an anomaly. And it's such an anomaly that, when we see it, it becomes the-- a gossip for every-- oh my god, I can't believe what this guy did on the set. Actors need to be biddable. But the other thing that actors, I talk to actors about, they said, wait a second, we want-- sometimes like in a class or something, they said, I need to discuss this-- the script. And I said, well, OK, well, did you understand it when you read it? They said, well, yeah. And I said, OK, well, let's go do it. It's a recognition scene. Off you go. It's really not that difficult. And that's what makes it so hard, right? Stand still. Speak up. Say the words. And if you do, and pick up your cues, something will happen to you that you did not foresee. And if you don't, nothing will happen to you that you did not foresee. And if you couldn't-- if you could foresee it, the audience could, too. Our pal William Shakespeare, right, said the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players, and they have their entrance-- exits and their entrances, and each man in his time plays many parts. And so of course, it's appropriate to act in certain ways in certain circumstances, and inappropriate in other circumstances. And we all know that. And so we gauge our behavior to the circumstances. But acting on stage is a little-- it's a little bit different. Acting on stage is-- in its perfect form, is-- it has to be an attempt to get something from the other person, but it cannot be an attempt to get something from the audience, even understanding. We have to say, you're over there, I'm gonna do my job, which is getting something from him, and I trust, and it will be prove to be true, that you will give me your attention. And so people, currently, a lot of them misunderstand the purpose of the curtain call. The purpose of the curtain call is to thank the audience. That's why, traditionally, the actors at the end bowed. They said, thank you for your attention. It is not to receive praise from the audience, but to thank them. That's what Puck says, right? "If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is mended, that you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear, and our weak and feeble theme, no more yielding than a dream. Gentles, do not reprehend if we-- if you will pardon, we will mend. Give us your hands, if we be friends and Robin shall restore amends." And then the actor would bow, saying thank you for your attention. Well, the relationship with the actors, I mean, you know, Shakespeare said you're better to have a bad epitaph than their ill report during your life. ...

Write great drama

David Mamet sat in on a poker game full of thieves and left with the inspiration for American Buffalo. Now, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of Glengarry Glen Ross takes you through his process for turning life’s strangest moments into dramatic art. In his writing class, he’ll teach you the rules of drama, the nuances of dialogue, and the skills to develop your own voice and create your masterpiece.

Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

David is very spiritual and philosophical. Thank you for sharing the mindset that you've lived for.

Mamet's overwhelming passion , knowledge of the craft, and sincere exuberance made this my favourite masterclass course yet. Glad it stayed away from workshops or similar and stuck to solo lectures.

Given that I have just injured my favorite leg, and wouldn’t want to offend David with flattery, what can I say but bippity boppity boo. It was a wild ride to grandmother’s house. Let’s go meet Lieu in the vestibule.

This was an excellent class. I really loved Mr. Mamet's style. Some things he said I did not agree with it but this was based on opinions and experiences. Every body is different, which is something he acknowledges too. I feel a lot more confident as a writer now that I have taken this class. I will go back as I continue in my works to some of these valuable lessons.

Comments

EK T.

Because he is more than a dramatic writer, his process is affected by all the elements of film and theatre that has allowed him to work for fifty years.

STEVEN B.

I understand that some people would like to see what David, a well-known play writer with a large experience in stage productions, has to say about actors as actors are responsible for bringing the characters we write to live, but the Masterclass is called Dramatic Writing and it is only an average length Masterclass so I would have rather seen another lesson on writing than two lessons on actors.

Mia S.

"Ruth Draper worked in the late '20s and throughout the 1950s. She was a monologist, she would go all alone onto the stage, and she would do monologues. The monologues would be at a garden party, or in the middle of a snowstorm in Fargo, or an Irish immigrant arrives at Ellis Island. She would just do one part of the conversation, she's recorded - she would do these monologues such that she created a whole world around her, the marvelous whole world around her. She's one of the great American playwrights, although she's not recognized as such, and one of the great performers of all time. One of the routines she did, she plays the three women, each one takes about half an hour. They're talking about the same thing from the same point of view - it's one of the great pieces of dramatic writing. Where does it come from? Not only did the content not exist, the form didn't exist until Ruth Draper stood up at a party and started making up these silly little characters."

Mia S.

"Acting on stage is - in its perfect form - it has to be an attempt to get something from the other person, but it cannot be an attempt to get something from the audience - even understanding. We have to say, 'You're over there, I'm gonna do my job, which is getting something from him, and I trust and it will prove to be true that you will give me your attention.' So people, currently, a lot of them misunderstand the purpose of the curtain call. The purpose of the curtain call is to thank the audience. It's not to receive praise from the audience. The relationship with the actors - you know, Shakespeare said, 'You're better to have a bad epitaph than their ill report during your life, they are the abstract and brief chronicles of our time' - and indeed they are. If you look at Myrna Loy, for example, they inform the way we think about life - we say, 'Oh yes, I understand, that's what courage is, that's what grace is.' Look at Cary Grant. 'That's what graciousness is.' Bette Davis, 'That's what intensity is.' James Earl doing Great White Hope, you say, 'Oh my god, where in the world did that come from? Who is that man?' 'I've been blessed in my life with working with the best actors in the world. The point is not writing for them, but knowing that, if I write it, they'll inhabit it. Their talent is being able to do not one thing, so one doesn't have to write for them. One has to write, and then they'll play it.'"

Mia S.

"Actors, unfortunately - they have to be biddable. Because it's part of their job to be both biddable, because you're directing them, and gracious. Not gracious is an anomaly - and it's such an anomaly that when we see it it becomes gossip for every - 'Oh my god, I can't believe what this guy did on the set.' The other thing that I talk to actors about, they said, 'In a class or something,I need to discuss this, the script.' I said, 'OK, did you understand it when you read it? Well, let's go do it. It's a recognition scene. Off you go.' It's really not that difficult. And that's what makes it so hard, right? Stand still. Speak up. Say the words. If you do, and pick up your cues, something will happen to you that you did not foresee. And if you don't, nothing will happen to you that you did not foresee; if you could foresee it, the audience could, too. Shakespeare said the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players, and they have their entrance - exits and entrances, and each man in his time plays many parts. So of course, it's appropriate to act in certain ways in certain circumstances, and inappropriate in other circumstances. We all know that. We gauge our behavior to the circumstances."

Terri F.

Curtain call bows...first time I heard that it was to thank the audience for their attention, not for actors to receive praise. Interesting. I don't think any of the community theatres I'm familiar with know that. As a writer, I can only direct the actors actions through dialog. The rest is up to the director and actor to create with the scenes I have written. If I sit in on a rehearsal I would correct something by talking to the director, who then should correct the actor if necessary. David talks as if the writer always had control of the stage. It may happen on Broadway, but not always in Podunk, USA theatres.

Blake Lawless

Looking at a person or subject from different points of view is fascinating particularly since there is not one 'reality. DM's statement that such dramas are compelling gives me license and comfort even in conducting my own life.

jorge isaac

My daughter is a young actress. I am a fiction writer. We have both listened to the lesson. I want to thank David for his guidance.

Kathryn M.

Listening to you talk about Ruth Draper, I got a wonderful idea for a monologue. Time to sit and bleed... :) You, dear Mr. Mamet, are a powerful teacher and inspiration. Thank for you teaching this Masterclass. (I will be taking the lessons repeatedly, to glean the treasures that I miss the first time through.) I hope you'll do a Masterclass II.

Kimberly S.

These lessons have been gold. Especially in the context of the other classes. Mammet is both respectful and respectable. I have experienced the same truths in my limited career. Always the best actors and artists were the most humble and gracious. Memorizing great text is not only good for actors. It is good for the soul.