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October 4, 2012 | 7:18 p.m. CST
Kirsten Olson Malinee watched her acting student, Christopher Gould, prepare to leave his character’s mistress. As he prepared his speech, the actress playing his mistress interrupted him to announce she was pregnant. For a moment, Gould forgot he was acting.
“When she told him the news, the floor just dropped out from underneath him,” acting instructor Malinee says. “Students can learn so much from the element of surprise, but first they have to stop trying to control their performance.”
During Malinee’s 10-week acting classes, students learn a wide range of exercises under the Meisner technique, which focuses on acting spontaneously. The method clicked for Malinee while she studied for her master of fine arts in theater at Penn State, and she now teaches it in her class as part of her business called The Performance Lab.
Gould’s father-to-be scenario was part of an acting exercise called “Knock and Enter.” Malinee’s students take on a character and have an improvised conversation about a pre-determined situation. Sometimes, one character holds a secret that the other actor doesn’t know. It sparks an honest reaction when it’s revealed.
The method isn’t improv, but acting natural. “It’s not about saying the lines at the right time and standing in the right place at the right time,” Malinee says. “It’s about all of that happening naturally because you’re doing what the character is committed to doing.”
Malinee wanted to provide an opportunity for adults interested in theater to learn more about acting. She noticed there was training available for children and students but nothing geared toward adults in the community. Malinee also hopes to reach those who crave a creative outlet but don’t feel like they have the time or support to pursue it.
“Everyone deserves to be the star of our own lives,” she says. Malinee balances her love of theater with a full-time job and raising a 13-year-old daughter.
“It’s about giving yourself the permission and audacity to tell your story however you need to tell it,” she says. “Whether that’s through acting, singing, dancing or writing. I think if you add whatever your passion is into that mix, it will give your life energy.”