Field Notes: Dream of Being on Broadway? This Acting Class Can Help You Get There
Field Notes explores Honolulu’s vast and varied scenes and subcultures. This month: acting classes.
Photos: Brandon Smith
What it is
At 5:30 p.m. sharp, Consulina Wong locks the doors, closes the curtain dividers for privacy and begins class. Her students stand up, stretch and do a bunch of different moves to amp up energy, from jumping jacks to dancing in place.
This is an acting class held every Tuesday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at The Arts at Marks Garage, taught by Wong, a veteran actress who’s been acting for stage, television and motion pictures for 20 years. Classes range from $95 to $450, and she also offers private coaching.
After the warmups, groups of two or three students perform a short scene that Wong has selected. The students are responsible for rehearsing together prior to class. They also have to block, or set, the stage, and bring their own costumes and props. Tonight, the group is running through scenes from Wong’s own Arizona Bordertown, and from the films The Grand Budapest Hotel and A Few Good Men. Each scene is short, five to eight minutes long.
“Acting is an incredible art form, and it takes a lot of intelligence and hard work,” says Wong. “Talent helps, but it’s all about dedication and working hard to get to that point.”
Tonight, there are eight students: five men and three women ranging from their mid-20s to late 30s. Occupations include an attorney, a CEO, models, high school/college students, an elementary school teacher and an electrician.
Some are pursuing careers in acting, while others are taking the class to hone their presentation skills. Some actors have been with Wong for more than a year, others for six months or less. For each scene, Wong tries to mix up levels so that beginning actors are able to learn from the more experienced ones.
How it works
After each scene, Wong critiques. She can be harsh, and students have cried from her criticism before. Tonight, she’s particularly unhappy with The Grand Budapest Hotel.
“Where’s the energy?” she asks. She has everyone get out of their chairs and jump around. “Let’s help them out, guys!” Energy, it seems, is a big deal. The mantra “Keep your energy up!” is repeated by Wong multiple times.
“When I critique them, it can be hard to hear, and the students came come to tears. But when they come to tears, that’s when they are close to a breakthrough and every actor has several stages of breakthrough,” says Wong.
For Arizona Bordertown, students Eric Maravilla and Cynthia DeCory act out an emotional scene in which they’re running away from a drug cartel. The guy wants to separate so they have a better chance of escape, but the girl doesn’t want to leave him. It’s a movie script Wong wrote herself, but she’s not happy with the performances she’s seeing.
“OK. Good job, but you’re both only memorizing lines. You’re not acting yet,” Wong says. “Allow yourself to feel the emotion,” she urges. “Don’t act intellectually; authentic performances never come from the brain. And always keep in mind your characters’ objectives.”
She makes them do the scene again. This time, tears are shed. F-bombs are dropped. Raw, real emotions are there, and as they finish the scene, there’s genuine applause from Wong and the six students watching.
Acting is tough. You can see that when people are self-conscious about the lines, and struggling to stay in character. Others, the more experienced ones, seem to have a natural knack for slipping into a character’s personality, mannerisms and line delivery. But it takes a lot of work to
Plays ages: 28–50, Kāne‘ohe, General contractor for custom homes, kitchen and bath remodels
“Acting has been a great way to reset and get refreshed. I’m able to take on the role of a character that allows an escape from the anxieties of life.”
Plays ages: 18–28, Hawai‘i Kai, Actress, singer and performing arts teacher at Kāne‘ohe Elementary
“I love everything about acting. It’s real freedom, and it’s storytelling.”
Plays ages: 20–35, Honolulu, Hospitality
“I love the art of acting because of the great challenges. Creating a character from the scripts to bringing them to life is what draws me to the art.”