Tuesday, April 16, 2013

You have to have it.

Got an email this morning in which a young actor I know said that he had more and more recognized that acting is all about money.  And of course it is in the business side of acting.

I am constantly amazed that youngsters think that without and experience and training they are going to get a major role in a major film.  No way can that happen except for the super extraordinary person who leaps from being in a high school play to stardom as Ann Margaret did when she was cast in "Bye Bye Birdie."  She was recognized as having all the unique qualities needed to be a bankable star.

Theatre and making movies is not about being a good actor.  It is about making lots of money. Productions cost millions and millions of dollars and no one is going to gamble on an unproven person who does not have all the unique qualities needed. The reason so many actors never become professional in spite of having a great deal of talent is that they lack the charm, personality, and look that people want to pay money to see.

The look is not always beauty or handsome. Jack Nicholson is not a handsome man. But he has so much charm that we will pay to see him again and again.  And his look is so unique that he always is distinctive in his portrayal.

The reality of becoming a professional actor is not that you need an agent or training or experience so much as it is that you need to be able to give a unique rendering of the character from your look to your charm to your talent.

Money talks.  You have to be an actor that producers know will help bring money in at the box office.   This is also true in the amateur theatre where the producers want to at least break even on their productions.  So the actors cast in the leads and major roles are those that the audience will want to come an see because of the actors' reputations of being effective in previous plays.  Yes, money is often the reason why someone else got the role you wanted.  You have to be unique and pleasing to the audience--an asset at the box office to succeed.

The few actors who are unique and pleasing as those that make it.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

An Actor Prepares

This morning I heard from a student I had in class forty years ago.  He wote to comment on a post I had made on Facebook regarding the sorry state of acting in today's theatre.  Most of that post was an article by Arthur Penn, the famous director.  My former student wanted to let me know how he has achieved success as a professinal tenor, performing opera.  His message is one that actors need to take to heart-- that it takes courage and conviction, dedication and perseverance to succeed as a professional performer.  What he has experienced is not unlike what a good actor experiences in preparing for his career.

I am greatful to this former student of mine for reminding me that training is important in the search for success.  I have perhaps downplayed that importance in much of my writing. But it is necessary for the actor to keep his voice and body in tune through constant coaching and instruction in classes.

Here are the portions of his letter to me that are most applicable to actors:

"I AM a great guy, and this fact has NEVER helped me find work! Perseverence and drive, living like a Bohemian, showing up to every audition and spending everything on lessons and coaching is what works. No one cares, at all, that I have had a more than colorful life. They only care about how I sound and how I look and whether or not they can somehow use me in their house. I am only what I can offer at that very moment and all the rest does not make any difference whatsoever.

"I have been monumentally lucky in that I am FINALLY making my big-assedTiroler Festspiel Erl this summer singing the Duke from Verdi's Rigoletto. This offer was made following my FORTY-FIFTH audition. What a boon! What a coup!"

It is difficult for us to imagine attending 45 auditions for a role.  I have read of actors attending half a dozen or more, but never so many as this.  It is a tribute to the directors who want to have the best possible production, and it is a tribute to the singer/actor who endures and succeeds!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Acting and Playwrighting

Some concepts about plays that a playwright and actor need to know:

a. Plays are not conversation, nor are they discourse(Discussions of an idea).

b. Plays are stories told in action. Everything Aristotle wrote about play writing (which he called Tragedy making) indicates that.

c. Plays are stories about someone's emotional reaction to a situation and what that reaction causes him or her to do.

d. A playwright fashions a play, he does not write it. He expresses the fashioning of the play by writing down what he has created in terms of stage directions and dialogue..

e. Thus the fashioning of the story is what the playwright does first. He tells the story in theatrical terms, which means he creates an situation and places a person into it. That person has an emotional reaction to the situation and does something that expresses the reaction. (either the situation or the character's response to it is a disorder that must be repaired) A chain reaction of his action causing an emotional response that causes an action that causes an emotional response......and so on until the story is complete by order being restored. The playwright creates no dialogue until he can tell the story in terms of action/reaction with no dialogue at all.
As an actor, you need to be an emotional responder to the stimuli of the play moment by moment.  Those responses will also contain the action of the play (what you need to do as an actor).