AUSTIN, Texas — Alongside rooms peopled with visions of technological futures and carefully calibrated self-promotion, Jeffrey Tambor is urging two young actors to scream and wrestle with each other.
This has become an annual tradition at South By Southwest, the yearly tech, film and music gathering in Austin. Tambor, the booming baritone character actor of "Arrested Development," ''The Larry Sanders Show" and many films, has hosted his acting workshop, "Performing Your Life," for the past five years.
The contrast of Tambor at SXSW can be stark. Tambor's only gadget is a microphone. He has little interest in hyping his career. And he refuses to present himself as a divined oracle of certainty.
Instead, he simply coaches two young actors before a crowd of SXSW attendees, repeatedly insists on disrupting his elevated platform by having the house lights turned on, and rambles through an inspirational and intentionally chaotic 90-minute riff on acting and, ultimately, one's attitude in life. He denied ownership of the lessons he teaches, noting they're ones he's "tripped on all my life."
"I cannot tell you how important attitude is during this little thing that we're doing," Tambor said. "What I'm interested in is attitude on the set and care and maintenance of directors, actors, writers. Especially when you have no money, especially when you're behind. Just especially."
In what followed, Tambor touted, above all, the importance of confidence, friendly collaboration and positive reinforcement. He urged his two actors to push outward in different directions — everything from "over-act" to "do a French accent" — make mistakes and mess up their performances to find them.
A sampling of his encouragements:
— "There's no such thing as a finished performance."
— "You know what I think of sincerity? I hate it."
— "Resistance is hard. ... 'Atta boy' is easy."
— "Don't make waves? Make waves."
— "Confidence is the game. ... It's the game in life and art."
— "Just play. Lighten up."
This year's workshop drew hundreds of SXSW attendees.
The crowd, easily filled by more non-actors than performers, had questions about Tambor's old late-night sidekick character Hank from "Larry Sanders" ("He's kind of real to me. ... I loved him very much") and the planned "Arrested Development" movie ("They better hurry because I will be in a walker").
But most were transfixed by Tambor's candid musings, and applauded the workshop he had sucked them into.
He closed: "See you next year."
Follow Jake Coyle on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jake_coyle