Today was a pretty good day.
Our instructor is Mel Gordon, who is one of the few remaining instructors in the world officially designated by students of Michael Chekhov. He talks a lot about himself, but i don't mind, because he has interesting stories to tell; he keeps casually dropping the names of famous people he's worked with — for instance, he told Adam Sandler to drop out of acting. (This is apparently the basis for a scene in Billy Madison.)
He told us about Stanislavsky's belief that the most powerful performances depend on showing authentic emotion, which actors can generate in themselves by recalling their own emotionally moving experiences. As one of Stanislavsky's students, Chekhov was asked to do this in an exercise but refused. When he was finally forced to do it, he relived his father's funeral with a degree of intensity that surpassed all the other students in the class. But then Stanislavsky found out that Chekhov's father was still alive; he had performed the entire scene from his imagination.
We got to hear other amazing stories about Chekhov. Unlike actors that preceded him, he didn't want to imitate great performances; he wanted to perform characters as no one had ever done before. Directors were infuriated when he would take a tiny part and turn it into the star role of the play even though he might be on the stage for only five minutes. He was so compelling that audiences would walk out if the actors who played that tiny part on other nights didn't imitate what Chekhov did. He would say that he skipped the script and went straight to heaven to find the character and bring him down to the earth. Incredibly, when Chekhov came to America, he became fluent in English in six months; his explanation was that he became like a baby and relived the process of growing through childhood as he learned the language.
There are 20 people in the class. He had all the students introduce themselves. When i explained that i had a computer science background and no acting experience, and came to class just because i wanted to do something scary and different, he said he expected me to be the best student in the class. We finally got to do some exercises near the end. The first one was a simple lunging motion; as soon as i moved he immediately turned to me and said, "That's really good. Are you sure you haven't had any acting experience before? Soon you're going to be the one teaching this class." I was pretty startled and told him not to put me on the spot. Perhaps he was trying to bolster my confidence to dispel my anxiety and get me off to a good start.
There's a new e-mail worm going around today on Windows computers. I was deleting a few dozen copies of it from my mailbox when i noticed that some of them were coming from smccd.net, the San Mateo Community College domain. And then i noticed that these were addressed to my addresses at craigslist and paypal, which i only used recently with the person who stole my ThinkPad. The only way the virus could get those addresses is to be on a computer that them in the address book. So my hypothesis is that the thief has caught the virus, and the virus is picking random addresses from his address book to use for both the From: and To: lines. I called an IT guy San Mateo Community College named Eric; he was smart, articulate, and immediately understood what i was talking about. We weren't able to get anything from the IP address on those messages, but i'll look into it further tomorrow. The From: addresses on the messages belong to staff members; if there is someone they have all received e-mail from recently, i'll have a probable suspect.
Hava, Andrea, Galen, Melanie, and Whitney came over for dinner today because no one was cooking at Loth. It was great to see them again. I ended up walking back to Loth with Hava, and as soon as i got to the kitchen i ran into Ingrid. Then Chris showed up — she'd just arrived back from Mexico last week. It turns out she's living in the Rainbow Room now (where Hava and Laurie have both lived). We hung out there and had a nice little snuggle while she treated me to the story of her trip and the history of the Zapatista farmers in Chiapas.