Allen Levin

My problem with many actors who don’t train with me is that they don’t feel that they are acting until they are screaming. When they begin screaming they continue for far too long. They get to the top of their range and stay there. Guess what? I know now your limits. I also am unimpressed. Most people don’t scream forever. They might lose it in a moment and scream a sentence or word. People in the world may scream entire paragraphs but they don’t have an audience. They don’t need the rule “The more you feel the more you reveal.” They are just communicating. We are tackling more than just this communication. We are trying to reveal the entire truth. So much for relying on what people do to defend our work.

Be judicious with the amount of time you spend at the top. Very judicious. If you get to the top and come back down, trying to control yourselves you may very well thrill the audience. If you get to the top and stay there, you’ll lose us. If you start at the top you have no where left to go. Keep that in mind. Try not to get angry. Find the humor. Fight the urge to fight…. but then go. When you go, go for it. Let go. Now try not to fight once again. “Subtexturaly” apologize by putting a hand up and turning your head away, ashamed of your outburst. Once again, you are unpredictable. You are riveting. We are in! Don’t attempt to get us in by becoming interesting. You simply remain interested in all that’s going on. We won’t be able to blink for fear of missing a brilliant moment.

I have a technique I teach called the “purge.” One of my excellent actors (truly brilliant for how new she is to all of this), Jennifer, is doing a shoot (today I believe) where she’s playing a sexual violence victim. I gave her direction to purge on a word in a non-obvious line. I told her to take all her anger, demons, stored up aggression and release into one word. Everyone will yell a line like “This is YOUR FAULT!” (all caps are where the actor yells, if not the entire line). That’s too obvious. I like to throw away that line (deliver it with a quiet truth, effortlessly) and yell on the next line “I’m sorry we don’t see this the same WAY!” No one else is going to yell the word “way.” They are all going to yell the first line and throw away the second. I’m going to throw away the first. Yell the word “WAY” in the second line and purge there.

I had another actor ask the question, “Why purge at a place that doesn’t make sense?” I answered her, “If it didn’t make sense, you didn’t do your job as an actor.” I can get mad at any point. We humans tend to get mad and use intonation on lines that are less obvious but create more subtext. On an artistic level I don’t allow writers to create the emotions I choose. I’m excited about going my own way. I want my interpretation to stand out from the others. I demonstrate the courage to bring my own sensibilities and creativity into my work. If a director directs me otherwise I’m like water. I can fit any container. I’ll happily take any direction and go another way (even if they are directing me in “on the money” acting, which is unfortunate). “On the money” simply means it’s obvious. It’s lacks any sort of originality or subtext. It’s yelling “FUCK YOU!”

I love yelling lines like “I’m SORRY!” or “I am CALM!!” Purging in an opposite is a great way to create subtext. If you have a line “I am calm.” Why play that as the truth? Remember that we determine what the truth is and we put it into our work. I adore the line “I’m not drunk.” Guess who will play that scene drunk? You got it! I may purge into laughter. Keep in mind that you can purge (completely release) in more forms than just yelling. This article focuses on screaming, however, you can purge into other colors as well.

Keep in mind, even if you are on the money, don’t yell too much. Purge on a phrase or better yet one word. I like to watch as the room jumps when I purge. I watch in my peripheral and I never break character. My goal is to get people (even the casting director) to jump or at least have their heart skip a beat. I like to bring in colors they forgot might be brought in. After my purge I fight my own reaction and usually create a subtext apology like a finger up while I “try” to contain my emotions. My purge happens fast! You won’t miss it. I’ve also built up power in my vocals. It would be fun to get a decibal reading. I’m certain it’s high.

Enjoy the process of purging in non-obvious places. They will become booking moments. People won’t forget you. Even if you don’t book this project you’ll be called in again and possibly direct booked in other roles. If someone didn’t like your choice and told you so, don’t worry. That happens. Do not let others scare you away from your art. Go boldly in your own direction. Stand out.

Scream. Not too much. Purge and come back down.

Aside: In life, why ever scream? Save all of it for when someone is calling “Action!”

Onward and UP.


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