They form a circle and stand basically motionless, and she tells them that stillness doesn't mean nothingness. She gives a gentle push to their midsections and their backs to make sure they're balanced. Then she tells them to run and stop and run again, all as one, as an ensemble. And she's always slicing through the silence with lessons that should teach them about themselves, about how to react--about how to act.
Marilyn McIntyre prescribes her acting lessons in short Zen-ful doses now and again, as an adjunct professor of an acting class composed of 12 students in the Elon in Los Angeles program. The weekly course that meets on Mondays is open to all students, regardless of whether they are training to be actors. And it’s a class that’s new to the second-year program.
This year, the Elon in Los Angeles program accepted 28 students, who are majoring in fields ranging from Communications to English to music technology to acting. J. McMerty, the coordinator of Elon in Los Angeles, says that adding performing arts students to the mix was a perfect fit for the program.
“It was also in response to our Los Angeles alumni, who are 50 percent performing arts graduates,” McMerty says. “The actors bring a new energy to our program that makes this a university program not just a program in the School of Communications.”
McMerty says the acting class was initiated once 10 theatre students expressed interested in Elon in L.A.
McIntyre is a 40-year veteran of stage and screen, having appeared in such films and TV shows as “The Ring II,” “Very Bad Things,” “Lie to Me” and “Cold Case.” She currently teaches parttime in California State University-Northridge’s Theatre Department and at the Howard Fine Studio, where she holds court with the Elon students. So far, she says, she has enjoyed working with her dozen Elon pupils.
“It’s been great. I threw them right into it,” said McIntyre, who holds degrees from Guilford College and the North Carolina School of the Arts. “They had no hesitation to jump up. They were prepared, and they went for it.”
McIntyre hooked up with Elon through alumna Jen DeMinco, who works as an actress in Los Angeles and also directs the cultural and program events for the students in L.A.
In the nine weeks she’ll have with her class, McIntyre says she hopes the students will focus on finding personalization in their acting.
“Personalization is the fusion of your personal experiences and imagination,” she says. “They work hand in hand. The bottom line is it’s all got to be that absolute core of the truth of being completely comfortable in your own skin. That’s the main focus.”
Despite having taken only one class from McIntyre this summer, students are already noticing changes in their behavior and their approaches.
“The atmosphere and teaching style are completely different,” says junior acting major Brandon Curry. “It’s refreshing to have a teacher who’s not judging what you do. It’s easier to be fearless and vulnerable when you’re acting.”
“Coming from the broadcast side,” says junior broadcast and new media major B. Copeland, “it’s a great opportunity for non-acting majors to mesh with actors. (McIntyre) does a good job explaining it in non-acting terms. It’s just refreshing as a non-acting major to jump right in.”
Throughout the summer, the students will learn to center themselves, to carry themselves as actors, to perform monologues and to act on camera. They also collaborate with the production class to make short film projects that will test what they’ve learned in McIntyre’s class. It’s a long way to go in nine short weeks.
“I would like to leave this summer being able to watch myself on film and not hate it,” says junior music theatre major Chelsea LeValley. “I want to watch my real behavior in an imaginary situation.”
And that’s an important lesson to learn, McIntyre says. Will the students learn how be truthful and honest in front of a camera? Will they be in the moment?
“Tiger Woods doesn’t golf for the camera,” McIntyre says. “LeBron James doesn’t play basketball for the camera. Yo-Yo Ma doesn’t play cello for the camera. He just plays the cello.”
In other words, just be. There’s something Zen about that.