Thursday, January 17, 2013

Imagination, Concentration and Stayiing Focused

I am often contacted by students who have trouble staying in character or being nervous when on stage.  It sounds to me as though this is just a matter of imagination and concentration. Whenever an actor is acting with someone in a class scene or audition or in a play or film, the first thing they have to do is accept the circumstances of the play--where it takes place, when it takes place, who they are and who the other people are. This is an exercise in imagination.

  You must make-believe that the circumstances are true and you are this person in them. I advise taking a moment before doing any acting to switch on your imagination just as you do at home when you are imagining you are on stage or that your life is a movie. Wm Esper calls this daydreaming. It is a good way of looking at it. Harrison Ford says that when ever he acts, he says to himself, "OK, Let's pretend." He means that he is going to accept the circumstances of the scene as real-at least in his imagination. This is what you must do to be effective as an actor.

  Second, staying out of your head will keep you from being nervous and allow you to focus on the scene.  It is simply a matter of concentration and listening. You have to be completely focused on the scene and what is happening in it. You 'listen' with all of your senses to fully be immersed and so you will react fully and emotionally to the scene.  If  you have an audience and you are thinking of being in front of them,  you are focusing on the wrong thing. You are focusing on you being an actor in front of an audience when you should be focusing on being in the scene.

It is concentration that allows you to focus on the proper things and eliminate those you should not be thinking about.  Concentration is hard work. You have to make yourself do it and keep doing it without taking a break.  That is what makes a performance without any breaks in it.  When concentration is broken, actors often forget their lines or call other characters in the scene by the wrong name. This is one reason why stage acting is such good training for film actors

It takes a great deal of imagination and concentration to be an effective actor.  . I hope this brief explanation is helpful to you and that you will start having more success being effective in your performances. God bless, Doc

Friday, January 11, 2013

Great New Source of Information for Actors

Hi Everyone,  I just wanted to share with you a great new source of information for actors. It is a web site very much like my own and covering many similar subject.  It provides much information for free. Give it a try. is the name of the web site.  I recommend it.  Doc

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I have a couple of complaints.

You know what makes me angry?  Teachers who assign students to write scripts without giving them training in how to do so!  And Teachers who assign acting students to either write a monologue or go find a published monologue are just as bad!

Script writing, even a short skit if it is to be effective, requires training.  Play scripts are not like any other kind of writing. There are certain special qualities that the lines of a script must have.  The students also need to know about the basics of story telling.  Things like a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  And things like a script tells a story in terms of what is happening, not in terms of what it being said.  A script is not conversation.  It is the emotional and physical responses the characters have to the situation.  Things like these are often neglected in the instruction of a student prior to his being assigned to write a script. And that is an educational sin of omission. 

Then acting teachers who assign students to write a monologue to perform in class also gripes me.  It is an acting class, not a play writing class. Monologues are parts of play.  If a teacher wants his acting students to perform monologues, the teacher should have a supply of appropriate monologues on hand to distribute to the students who best meet the qualities of the characters speaking the monologues.

Same for teachers who just assign their students to find a monologue and perform it for class. They need to have monologues on hand and distribute them as above.  Beginning acting students have not read a lot of plays and if they are in high school they haven't seen a lot of plays, either..  So where are they going to find monologues suitable to do?  They will waste hours looking for them.  The same is true for scenes for a class.  The teacher must have the scenes on hand and cast them.  I always had the entire class do the same scene and rehearse the scenes in class which helped everyone learn the scene and what they were supposed to do in it. Then there came a day when the scene was performed and graded.  After that we went on to the next scene.

Another of my pet peeves is doing monologues for high school play auditions or for musical auditions.  What a waste of time!  Play tryouts should be conducted in front of the entire group, the candidates have filled out tryout sheets and submitted a photo. The director casts brief scenes from the play and has those candidates read the scene. Then the director recasts  the scenes with different candidates until all have had a chance to read for a couple of roles. This may take a couple of sessions, after which the director should be able to cast the show.  Where did the nonsense of doing monologues come from?  Might be a good idea to use when doing Shakespeare, but otherwise, I have my doubts. 

Another casting peeve is callbacks.  Why bother? Make up your mind. In school theatre it is unlikely that those auditioning will greatly improve for a call back.  They only build up hope and then cause heartbreak.. I loved it when I moved from educational theatre into semi-professional directing.  I didn't need auditions.  I just called actors I knew who would be good for the roles and asked them if they would like to do it for a few bucks.  The only heartbreak was mine when I couldn't get an actor I wanted. But that never lasted very long, there was always another actor who could co the role.

These things may not make an impression on the educational theatre, but at least my steam has been vented.