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  • Writer's pictureBrian Martin

Who's Uta Hagen?

May 21, 2020:

One hundred and twenty seconds. That’s all the time I’ve got to bring to you a day in the life of Brian “Big Skinny” Martin. No acting, no doing something impressive unless of course impressive is something I do on a daily basis (hmmm…not ruling it out), no conjuring up some pretend task that makes me out to be something I’m not. Just a simple undertaking in pursuit of an ordinary objective. Welcome to Uta Hagen’s two-minute exercise.

The first thought that comes to mind is “Who the hell is Uta Hagen?”, and the second thought that comes to mind is “If I’m going to be an actor I think I’d best find out”. Turns out her biography reads like an Encyclopedia Britannica. Acting (both on and off the stage and screen), writing books (Respect for Acting and A Challenge for the Actor), teaching classes that include many well-respected thespians, plus receiving numerous critics’ awards, medals and ultimately an induction into the Theatrical Hall of Fame. Well, I guess I’d better pay attention.

Since retirement I’ve been slowly plodding down the creative soul-searching trail on the old grey mare and I’ve met many acting students, directors, producers, and agents who play like guest stars in my little serial comedy. I’ve taken several courses (and some writing classes) and just finished a three-day “Directors Take” online workshop. I’m now starting my one day a week Scene Study class. This also is online, but hopefully within the next few weeks we’ll be more live than Memorex (dating myself again).

None of this means a hill of beans though if I can’t get up and produce a believable micro-instance of my own life for the camera that is nothing more than me just being me. This is what the Uta Hagen process is all about. You would think that it would be easy, but as I’ve experienced, being in front of the camera alters ones motives a little. So, I’m not so sure.

I was at my brother-in-law’s the other day puttin’ a hurtin’ on a large intrusive boulder with a hammer drill (nothing like a little destructive therapy). I asked him what he thought of the monologue I posted on my blog a couple of weeks back and he said that he didn’t recognize it as being me doing the oration. That I came across as someone else. I thought well that’s exactly what I was aiming for because who the hell wants to listen to me anyway.

The question that still lingers though is…Who am I? Well, at one time, I was an Air Canada Cargo Handler, then I became a Coast Guard Traffic Regulator and shortly after that an Air Traffic Controller, but that was never who I was as an individual, although when a car salesman or loan officer tries to qualify you, that’s the standard isn’t it. They put you in a box and wrap you up with a pretty little bow. It’s easier that way.

Of course, some people I worked with would be empty without their employment identity, but to me they were just jobs that paid the bills. Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful to have them, but I was also giving up on something else, even if that something else would never have materialized into anything industrious. It didn’t matter, I was still letting go of a dream.

Most of us, I would think, do what we have to in order to survive, and in my demographic anyways, the majority of us are parents with families and obligations, but when we strip away all that there is and walk around the homestead naked (metaphorically speaking of course, and preferably indoors) and we happen to come upon a mirror, well I don’t know if I’ve ever spent one hundred and twenty seconds staring at my reflection that intently, but if I did, maybe I'd find the person I'm looking for.

This one's for Uta.

Until next time.

P.S. Thanks for reading. And watching.

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