Tuesday, June 11

The Art of Acting

I'm in the process of learning a part for an actors showcase. Me and a fellow thespian were helping each other by "running lines". One person reads the part "off book" and other prompts them from the script.

People often ask, how do we remember your lines. Simple : repetition, practice, practice, practice. This day we were tangling with the business of how to remember lines by connecting words or phases together using any mnemonic trick we had. Using a word or phrase from the other actor to cue you to a response, this is especially helpful when your character is going off topic or in another direction. It might be a prop or a gesture that cues you to your next line. This is the nuts and bolts of acting.

The tenor Caruso once said that a singer required  "A big chest, a big mouth, ninety percent memory, ten percent intelligence, lots of hard work and something in the heart." He was right. An actor also learns the art of observation. We are very keen on understanding why people behave the way they do, so we learn to watch them.

In a film about a robot the actor playing the robot decided to turn to the other fellow whenever a certain word was spoken so it looked like he was paying attention in a natural way. A way I use is to reverse engineer a scene. I will literally read a scene backward to figure out how the character goes from one point to another. This helps me see the logic and flow of their thinking.

But sometimes a single word or phrase can trip you up. I was practicing Hamlet's "To be or not to be"  and kept getting stuck on one line every time. Like a singer who's struggles with a note or passage, you just keep practicing until you get it right.

People wonder if I ever get nervous or self conscious on stage, a natural fear most have. No, not really. Some performers never get over being nervous . Roger Daltry supposedly threw up before every performance with the "The Who'" but he channeled that energy into his performance.

Once on stage there's no turning back so focus on doing the work. My inner director takes over, reminding me of cues, to speak clearly, pay attention to the other actor, etc., all the while staying in character.

You can't perform, sing or give a speech if you are self conscious. Your doubts or ego will get in the way. You hand yourself over to the demands of the performance. In the play "Beyond Therapy" I had a dreadful outfit I would never wear but it was perfect for the character. I wasn't t bothered because it was her not me. Whatever you're doing on stage is the actions of the character not you- especially when you are playing a villain.

How do you play an evil person? An actor never thinks his /her character is the bad guy .Every actor must believe their character is right. Watch how an actor responds in an interview about playing a bad guy. They will always defend the characters actions as acceptable. We justify our actions in real life why should it be any different to a grieving Prince, a mad king or a suicidal salesman.

We have all kinds of tricks to relate to our roles, memorize lines and bring characters to life. It's called acting.

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