Monday, October 26, 2009

Charlie Adler Weekend

Charlie Adler is pretty much a force of nature wrapped around an immovable object being met by an irresistible force. Repetitively. With extreme dispersion of energy. Visible shock waves. That sort of thing.

Exactly how that plays out has a little to do with how close you are to the blast zone.

There were two opportunities this past weekend. The first was Saturday night, with Charlie speaking at the "Inside the Voice Actor's Studio" event that Voicetrax put together. I'd never met or seen Charlie in the flesh, but various folks had mentioned that the language tends to be, um, visceral and the energy at 11. It was.

He told the tale of how he came to be an actor - the tough years and crap jobs, the breakthroughs - and how he came from stage acting to the world of voice acting. All through the night, it kept coming back to the acting. Not surprisingly, as that's the board that keeps hitting most of us over the head anyway. But, Charlie really distilled the importance of that ideal, and managed to inspire us towards it - all while sharing anecdotes with language that would make a sailor blush. It's been a while since I just stared at someone thinking, "did he just say that?...."

But, it wasn't gratuitous. Well, ok....a few things may have been gratuitous. But, it did underscore the energy which he brings to his craft. And it did manage to give strength to the recurring theme of "get over your damned self and ACT!" Which is always a good lesson.

The next day, in a smaller classroom setting (13 students) I also realized that he's a zen master.

I want to be careful in this description, because it's important to understand what I mean by that. He is not the measured ascetic monk sitting in a mountaintop cave, calmly posing koans that may lead to enlightenment after extensive ponderings by the student. No. He is the powerful figure that whacks you over the head with his walking staff when you are least prepared, causing that moment of blankness - that moment wherein conscious thought ceases and all things are possible.

And you make the jump. You get out of your damned way.

With one exception, the other folks in Sunday's Character Class were voice actors I've gotten to know pretty well. We've all heard one another's work in classes, and know where people tend to operate. Comfort zones, maybe. Or, places where we've had successes and have gained confidence. Charlie had us working totally off the scale in the other direction - finding those places where we didn't easily go. He pretty much grabbed us by the belt and hoisted us up and over those walls and we jumped out into...well, nothing. And suddenly, free-falling didn't seem so bad. In fact, it was pretty danged exhilarating.

It seemed like to the very last person, everyone came out of the booth blinking and realizing that the limits they'd put upon themselves were quite artificial, and had Charlie to thank for it. It was a pretty powerful workshop.

So, thanks again, Charlie!

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