Snapshots on a few things I learned this past term, outside of class time…
What I learned from acting in This Property Is Condemned:
- To always play my characters as being intelligent – as having intelligence behind their eyes. By doing so, I immediately become more observant, and look for new tactics and ‘ins’ in order to achieve my objectives. And eyes are the windows to the soul, after all. Gotta open up the curtains.
- Playing objectives strongly (which means knowing them really well, first), creates better, stronger listening.
- You’re listening for what you want to get.
- Sometimes, it works to, before a performance, embody all the pain another character feels in order to get them in the right place – to interrogate them, mock them, demand of them, belittle them. This was hard for me.
- Directly resulting from the prior thought, sometimes you’ve just got to let the gal REALLY HIT YOU before a show for her to really get into the emotional truth of her character. Thankfully, TPiC wasn’t a long run. 😛
- When the audience reacts/distracts, listen even more intently to your scene partner.
- React. Even if that means the blocking changes. If this feels too uncomfortable, you may not really know your character well enough, or be listening strongly enough.
- When you listen for ways, avenues, possibilities to pursue your objectives, the show will work.
What I learned from acting in a scene from Picnic:
- My instinct is to shy away from the sleaziness of a character, to not play it, even when it’s there in the text. There’s a difference between being an advocate for your character and ignoring what’s on the page. Learn to revel in the sleaze. 🙂
- I realize I am now perfectly comfortable kissing someone while in character. Back in high school, I wished I would get cast in certain roles so that I could do a stage kiss, because I didn’t have nearly the courage to kiss someone in the real world. Would have been nerve-wracking, back then. But I am older, wiser, more experienced now. I’ve even occasionally kissed in real life! 😛
What I learned from acting in Titus Andronicus:
- Audiences are less likely to laugh than usual, after just witnessing a 15-year-old girl be raped and have her tongue cut out and thrown at a tree.
- Don’t try push the comedy. Didn’t work.
- Running on several nights of 5 hours of sleep makes it difficult for me to pay attention to everything happening onstage and get my lines out with decent pacing.
- For certan roles, it’s fine to start finding them by using characteristics from a pre-set template. In my case, I modeled the minor character Aemilius, a government bureaucrat who crowns Lucius as emperor, after Mike Novick from The Jack Bauer Power Hour (aka, 24). Piercing eyes, stern disposition, primary desire is the stability of the administration.
- Fellow collaborators muchly appreciate personalized thank you cards. 🙂
What I learned from acting in a scene from A Doll’s House:
- (note: last year, I had performed the exact same scene, but as the woman, Kristine Linde (in a corset, no less), whereas this time, I was playing it as Krogstad.)
- I have a better recollection of the lines my scene partners say than I thought I did! Didn’t take long at all to get back into the words of the scene.
- It is A-OK to experiment with different blocking options each time you run the scene, so long as the director knows that’s what you’re doing, and so long as you’re keeping aware in the moment of each decision and feeling which one works best.
- Sometimes you need to give your scene partner permission to touch you.
- I’m getting better at seeing when I, or my scene partners, aren’t following through on our impulses. Figuring out why that is, requires communication.
What I learned from assorted Improvised Theatre shows and events and whatnot:
- It is really satisfying to jump back into a previously created and established role, and to continue on with that person’s story and arc. Pretty much why I enjoy collaborative storytelling (often with D20s). (Die-Nasty auditions.)
- If an opportunity seems too good to be true, take it! It may just be silly-awesome-unbelievable. (The butler gig.)
- Some shows are doomed from the start, but if that’s the case, take a moment to assess the situation, and figure out how you can put your best effort in to make what you can of it, because the original plan just ain’t going to work. (An Impromaniacs gig where the audience had been sitting around, listening to award speeches for over two hours, and then… well, as Chris Gabel so accurately captured:
Thank you ladies and gentlemen… that concludes tonight’s awards presentation. The bar is now open and there’s cake at the back of the room. Feel free to help yourself. Oh… and now… the Impromaniacs.
- Some nights, everything goes right. (Theatresports/Theatreshorts.)
- Some risks pay off so much better than you ever hoped. (Improvising a song to the title of “Stars on the Horizon” at the Phoenix Coffeehouse.)
- Theatre is ephemeral. (not having any recordings of said song. I was certainly too much in the moment to remember it. So it remains just an experience for the people in the room, as theatre, especially improvised theatre, so often is.)