Don Grigware Talks Theatre
5 OUT OF 5 STARS
Acting The First Six Lessons gifts to theatregoers a rare opportunity to see a famous actor/father and budding star actress/daughter live onstage together. The illustrious Beau Bridges and daughter Emily have spent the better part of two years piecing together a soulful story about acting and living through the activities of Richard Boleslavsky's book. The resultant work of art @ Theatre West is a beautifully written and acted gem for the theatre community and world at large.
Under Charlie Mount's loving direction The Bridges create a very intimate story of a teacher and student of acting, circa 1933, and trace the development of their relationship over five years. We see the student (Emily Bridges) blossom under the tutelage of the master teacher (Beau Bridges), from her floundering and insecure initial audition, to an actress of consummate poise and stature as she follows her teacher's insistence on Boleslavsky's six steps: concentration, memory of emotions (sense memory), dramatic action, characterization, observation and rhythm. The scenes involving each are richly evocative of daily living. Take, for example, the student's aunt who visits the teacher's studio for tea to check on her niece's progress. Ms Bridges creates a stuffy, pompous character who can gossip in minute detail about the atrocities of other ladies' apparel. The teacher, pulling her into his world via a little game, tells her that an actor can make the very same observations... but silently. He proceeds to replicate every movement of her pouring a cup of tea for him without saying a word and challenges her to do the same. This is but one instance of an absolutely delicious humor conveyed throughout the 90 minutes. Actors will relish the subtleties from moment to moment, but even those outside the profession will delight in their candor. Life's lessons from which everyone may glean at least a particle of truth!
Beau Bridges is at the top of his form, like a wise prophet who has been cautiously taught. Emily is so captivating at every turn. It is simply beautiful to watch her grow into Ophelia after being given some simple directions on how to change her character's movements and intentions.
Both actors listen intently to one another, challenge each another and over the course of the brief time that we see them, solidify an intensely bonded relationship....kind of like a father and daughter, which is what we have in real life. Art imitates life, and life imitates art. The two become lovingly intertwined.
A very stimulating and uniquely entertaining evening of theatre not to be missed!
On Stage LA - Michael Sheehan
Acting: The First Six Lessons
In a curtain speech Beau Bridges and his daughter, Emily, take the stage to a hometown welcome. Beau’s been a member of Theatre West, he says, for at least forty years and this is his first time on stage there. He’s affable and tells the story of how he was introduced to the company by his godmother, Betty Garrett and as a young man did scenes with her. He told the audience that his parents (his full name is Lloyd Bridges III) always supported his being an actor and his dad, Lloyd, gave him, at the age of ten, a copy of Boleslavsky’s Acting: The First Six Lessons. The play, as adapted by Beau and Emily, has been in the works for a couple of years. They designed the set, a well functioning unit that serves as the Teacher’s (Bridges’) study, as well as a movie set, an elevator and the top of the Empire State Building.
At rise The Creature (well tuned Emily Bridges) arrives in The Teacher’s (equally impressive Beau Bridges) study with a burning desire to act. She wants to create art, to live art, to BE art.. The teacher is mildly sympathetic but tells his new charge that Talent is the key to success on the stage .. one must not only become completely observant, but adapt to the nuances of each character one is challenged with and to find a way to Concentration.
In the course of the ninety minute production, we see the Creature expand, contract, fumble and grow. Emily, a Fordam grad, shows that talent must run in the family and under the tutelage her mentor (her proud father glowing under his stage persona) finds nuance after nuance in her work (after some chilling stuff at the top of the show as she limns King Lear.. not one of the daughters, but the King himself), later advancing to a more suitable role: Ophelia. She performs the scene once which sounds mature and well prepared, though she says it’s not right. She then finds grace notes and subtle fineries suggested by The Teacher. She does the scene again that reaches to the depths and heights of Ophelia’s deep and dark feelings. The audience is swept away.
For actors, students of acting and aficionados of the art and craft of theatre the Bridges bring Boleslavsky’s First Six Lessons to life.
The production is dedicated to Betty Garrett, a founding member of Theatre West, whom I was fortunate to sit beside and hear stories of Beau’s early days with the company. Initially, Beau was rejected for membership because he was so young! This, his first effort on the main stage of Theatre West ably directed by Charlie Mount is, simply, a must see.
Rare and wonderful opportunity--Beau and Emily Bridges in 'Acting: The First Six Lessons'
Theatre West offers a rare and wonderful opportunity for audiences with Acting: The First Six Lessons starring Beau Bridges and his daughter, Emily. Adapted by the father/daughter team from Richard Boleslavsky’s book of the same name and directed by Charlie Mount the show opened on Friday, April 9.
At the beginning of the piece the Bridges break the fourth wall charmingly, Beau sharing the history of his name and Emily keeping him on track. His famed father, Lloyd, gave his sons Boleslavsky’s tome when they expressed an interest in acting. The only book on the subject he ever gave them proved invaluable. In turn, Beau gave Emily a gift of the book when she turned her attention to the footlights.
After this brief exchange they transformed into their characters, he The Teacher of acting and her The Creature a young actress in need of guidance and shaping. Their choice to set the play in 1933, the year the book was written, was inspired. While the themes are universal much was added in mood and texture by placing the action at the time when “talkies” were new territory for thespians.
Through 10 scenes beginning with “an empty stage” and ending atop “the Empire State Building” the teacher shares his wisdom, wit and experience as he shapes raw young talent into a successful actor, both financially and critically.
Veteran actor Beau Bridges disappeared as entered the world of his character. His performance was warm and multi-layered as he conveyed the Teacher’s commitment, intellect and humor.
Clearly Emily has inherited the family acting chops. There were moments when she was riveting such as when she grasps the importance of “memory of emotions’ and “character” two of the six lessons.
Onstage chemistry was evident as the relationship between teacher and student developed also into friendship.
As an added treat after the show the duo fields questions from the audience.
Ideally Acting: The First Six Lessons should be seen twice, once to enjoy the story and again to learn the lessons that work equally well in life as on stage. But that might be hard to accomplish because the show has such a short run. Plans for a move to Broadway may be postponed as Beau has been pegged to play the Noah Berry role when television revisits The Rockford Files.
Stage Scene LA
There’s an old black-and-white fan magazine snapshot of TV star Lloyd Bridges and his then teenage son Beau circa Sea Hunt. In the shot, Bridges Sr. and Bridges Jr. are reading a copy of Richard Boleslavsky’s 1933 guide to Acting: The First Six Lessons. Now, some fifty or so years later, 68-year-old Beau and his 23-year-old daughter Emily are staging Boleslavky’s classic text at Theatre West, and the result is an often enthralling and edifying hour and a half of theater, brought to life by a multi-award-winning actor at the peak of his gifts and a exciting young actress just beginning her journey.
Boleslavky’s book is written as a series of dialogs between two characters, the “Teacher” and the “Creature.” I don’t know if it has been presented as a full-length play before or not. Whatever the case, under Charlie Mount’s imaginative direction, Acting: The First Six Lessons makes a smooth transition to the stage, especially with mood-setting original music by David Loud and an extremely effective (though uncredited) lighting design.
The performance begins with Beau as himself, telling Bridges family anecdotes as Emily goes about setting the stage. (Director Mount and the two Bridges are credited with set decoration. The design itself, of a sort of multipurpose circa 1930s living era is uncredited.) “Tell them about the book Dad,” Emily interrupts, and Beau proceeds to do just that. He informs us that it is the only book his dad ever gave him, and that he himself gave it to Emily when she was twelve (in 1998, the year of Lloyd Bridges’ death).
Following several Lloyd Bridges anecdotes, we flash back to 1933 and the height of the Great Depression. We are in the front room of the acting teacher’s apartment where he imparts his wisdom. Enter the “Creature,” who enthusiastically informs her teacher that all she wants to do in life is “Play! Play! Play!” Young as she is, she’s already done King Lear—in the title role, no less. He asks her to show him how she played the line “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!” and the result is god-awful. “Try saying it without ‘cursing the heavens,’” advises the Teacher, but try as she might the poor young thing can’t manage to say the words plainly and simply. “You’ve destroyed the very conception of the word ‘theater,’” accuses the Teacher. Worse still, when asked to define acting, the lovely but pathetic young creature is at a complete loss.
Fortunately, her teacher is there to set her straight. “Don’t start with a Chopin nocturne,” he advises. “Start with scales.” Good advice to both aspiring pianist and aspiring actor.
The six lessons are Concentration, Memory Of Emotions (She: “How can I play a murderer when I’ve never murdered anyone? He: “Why does everybody ask me about murders?!”), Dramatic Action, Characterization, Observation, and Rhythm.
There are laughs aplenty in Acting: The First Six Lessons, thanks especially to Bridges père and Bridges fille’s splendid performances. When Teacher asks Pupil to “Listen to the sound of an imaginary mouse in the corner,” Pupil can only reply, “Where’s the audience?” When Teacher explains that Pupil will need talent, technique, education, and training if she wants to call herself an actor, it’s simply too much for the young thing to process, and she runs away, as far away as possible. Later, when she returns, she’s completely out of breath, having nearly been run over because she was “concentrating on the happiness of my existence,” as Teacher had instructed her to do.
There’s an interesting segment on acting “for the talkies,” in which the Creature expresses her frustration at having to do short takes between constant interruptions, a dilemma which is as relevant today as it was during the first decade of sound motion pictures. Another segment talks about an actor’s need to be always spying on others and to learn from this eavesdropping.
Both Bridges double as other characters. The elder Bridges is a seen-it-all, done-it-all Stage Manager, who instructs Auditioner #17 (Emily) to “Let the character speak through you.” Emily has a great turn as the Creature’s aunt, out for tea with the Director, in which she informs him rather haughtily that she doesn’t believe at all in the exercises he’s giving her niece.
Over the course of ten scenes, the action moves from the Teacher’s studio to a small theater to a film set to Central park and back, and finally, to a moving denouement atop the Empire State Building in 1936.
Both Bridges are terrific, and it’s not every day that one gets to spend an hour or two with an actor with over six decades in the biz (Beau’s first screen appearance was at age six in No Minor Vices) who is a household name as well. The simple act of watching Beau Bridges’ facial reactions to his daughters’ lines is an education. The captivating Emily Bridges is an actress of considerable talent and great promise, whose role allows her to transition step by step from clueless newbie to accomplished vet. In one particularly memorable scene, she plays Ophelia quite movingly opposite an invisible Hamlet. Then, following suggestions by the Teacher which allow her to physically become Ophelia, she plays it again, even better the second time.
Each performance is followed by talkback with father and daughter, a treat in and of itself. At Opening Night’s talkback, an audience member remarked that she had learned more about acting that evening than she had in her entire MFA program. An exaggeration, perhaps, but a reflection of just how effective and affecting Acting: The First Six Lessons is.
Whether you are a student of acting, or simply a lover of good theater, Acting: The First Six Lessons has many tips to offer and many life lessons to bestow. With its big name star and broad intergenerational appeal, it is likely to be a big, big hit for Theatre West.
Carol Segal, Stage Happenings
Beau Bridges is a veteran actor, the son of an actor (Lloyd), brother of an actor (Jeff), and father of two actors (Dylan and Emily). What an enjoyable experience being able to watch him in a performance with his daughter Emily in a play based on a 1933 book by Richard Boleslavsky entitled Acting: The First Six Lessons.
Before the actual play begins, Beau and Emily appear before the audience to introduce themselves and tell a little about the book Beau explains what it means to him and why he chose it as a vehicle for him and Emily to perform. Then they drift into the two characters they portray, as well as each of them taking on the roles of several others who make up the story. There is not much of a plot to this play; that does not seem to be the point of Boleslavsky’s book.. Emily portrays The Creature, an aspiring actress who turns to The Teacher for help. While learning her craft from The Teacher and becoming successful as a professional actress, her lessons teach her more than how to be a thriving performer; she learns what life itself is all about. This is what Boleslavesky was aiming for in his book, Acting: The First Six Lessons.
Emily Bridges is a skillful and charming actress, and she and her father make a charismatic appearance together under the expert direction of Charlie Mount. Original music is by David Loud. Following the play, Emily and Beau remain after their performances for a question and answer period with the audience, an added bonus to the show.
You wouldn’t think you could make a theater piece out of a textbook on acting, but Beau Bridges and his daughter Emily have done it---beautifully. The book is Acting: The First Six Lessons by Polish director and actor Richard Boleslavsky, and if all teachers were as articulate and emotionally charged as he, we would all be award-winning actors.
Boleslavsky’s book has been the acting bible of the prolific Bridges family: patriarch Lloyd used to press it on his children, and his son Beau passes it along to every young actor he mentors. “It is,” he says, “not just about acting, but about how to live.”
In bringing the book to the stage, Beau and Emily have assumed the roles of Teacher and Creature, and his lessons, rendered in language that is more poetry than pedantry, serve to guide her through her burgeoning career. We see her blossom from a wildly gesticulating King Lear to a quietly heart-broken Ophelia. We are taught the value of stillness and the art of “being alive” to every emotion and sensation---as valuable in life as it is onstage.
The message is the same as the one proffered by Thornton Wilder in his classic play Our Town. In the scene in which the newly deceased Emily returns to her home to relive her 12th birthday, she laments that her family takes life for granted and doesn’t really live “every, every minute.” Boleslavsky’s play takes you gently through the process of “realizing life” as you live it, “every, every minute.”
In another “lesson,” Beau, as the Teacher, instructs Emily, playing her own mink-clad aunty, on the powers of concentration and observation. She pours him a cup of tea and he challenges her to duplicate all the movements she has made in performing that act. She pretends to pick up the teapot and then stops, unable to remember her next move, whereupon he demonstrates how she had conducted this simple act, from holding her sleeve out of the way of the teapot’s spout to looking around for the creamer to fishing a lump of sugar out of the sugarbowl with a pair of tongs. It’s a powerful lesson in paying attention and one that is not lost on “aunty.”
“All life is open and familiar to you,” the Teacher tells the Creature, and acting is “the harnessing of dreams” and “the memory of emotions” rendered with precision, economy, and power.
Richard Boleslavsky, whose 1933 textbook is still in use in acting classes to this day, was the first to bring the teachings of Stanislavski to America and is credited with developing the technique for what would later become known as “Method” acting. His early students included Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, and Harold Clurman, founders of the famed Group Theater in New York. He also directed many American classic films, including Rasputin andThe Empress, which starred Ethel, John, and Lionel Barrymore, Les Miserables with Fredric March and Charles Laughton, and The Garden of Allah with Marlene Dietrich and Charles Boyer.
Boleslavsky died in 1937, shortly before his 48th birthday. He is interred in a cemetery in East Los Angeles and commemorated with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. If he were alive today, however, you can be sure he would be gratified and thrilled to see how Beau and Emily Bridges and director Charlie Mount have brought his teachings to life. And probably surprised that nearly three-quarters of a century after his death, he and they have provided a modern audience with a moving and entertaining evening in the theatre. How’s that for immortality?!