Thursday, 10 January 2013

Actors on Acting

Actors, why did you get into acting?

Was it to play yourself in different situations?

Or was it to play different characters in their situations?

I'd like to hear what draws you to this art form, as there are differing opinions about actors and the roles they ought and want to play.  There is a school of thought that the person you are is who you can play. I call this stereotyping and I am against this.  I think that the person you are should never limit the roles you play.  An actor is trained at being empathetic and open to a myriad of situations and types of people, and it is their talent and job to relate this combination to the audience.  To be clear: The actor does not have to already be the character in real life to best portray the role.  (Actually, perspective often creates a more 3 dimensional and emotionally layered character. It's more difficult to do this when you are playing a role similar to yourself, although a good actor can do this.)

I'd like to tell a story about my theatre school days.  Our class had a project assigned to us.  It was to create/ write our own monologue based on a painting (U of W students may know what I'm talking about.  Ye olde "Painting Project" it was called).  

I had decided that I wanted to write a dramatic piece that was really emotional because it was something I hadn't done before and I wanted to challenge myself.  

The piece ended up being about France during the war and a daughter losing her father.  (I also had a secret desire to cry in the piece, as I had never done that before, and I wondered if I had it in me to get there emotionally blah blah).  SO at the end of the piece the girl finally lets herself feel the pain of losing her father and I broke down and it totally worked.  

During the end of project / grading interviews where the Prof. and student discuss the work and the reason the grade was given I had a strange experience.  I received an A on my project and we discussed the material and why I chose the painting etc.  At the point in the interview that we discussed the "tears" moment, the following exchange occurred (to the best of my memory it went something like this):

Prof:   It must have been very difficult, with your father gone, to go to that place.
Me:  ?
Prof:  Your father dying.
Me:  My father is still alive.  I was acting.

That is approximately what I remember happening.  I also remember being a little confused and hurt that the Prof. thought I would put my reality on the stage for a school project.  I was in an acting class.  I was practicing acting.

It didn't take me long to find the whole thing very funny, and interpret the experience as an example of the power an actor has to transform themselves and commit to the reality of the moment in order to transport the audience into the world of the piece. 

This brings me to my final point.  I truly believe you do not have to be the type of person to do the things your character would do.  You do have to be an actor.

So, Actors, What do you think?

(Please note: I don't believe crying onstage equals good acting.  It can be a result of good acting, and can be great.  But a lot of people (actors and non-actors) can cry on demand without emotional investment, so one does not equal the other. I happen to think that sometimes it is more moving to watch someone try NOT to cry than to watch the waterworks.  In the words of the great Winnipeg actor Doreen Brownstone "If you (the actor) cry, they (the audience) won't.")

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

It's a scary scary scary SCARY musical world

Thought of the day: As we settle into January (and it's new weather format) I have a few things to say on the subject of fear.  Apart from some obvious uses of fear in our world, in our country (most recently the Harper government attempting to cast a shadow on the Idle No More movement and discredit Chief Spence by releasing that Attawapiskat audit early is out of, you guessed it, FEAR!), and closer to home, personally I feel fear plays an enormous part in a person's creative self.

Since I was very little I wanted to be a performer.  It scared me half to death, but something inside of me (and sometimes my mom, outside of me) pushed me onto that stage for fear that, if I didn't I would never be happy and always regretful.  Actually this did happen one time, I was supposed to recite a poem for a festival and I let my fear take over.  I made my mom take me home before we even made it through the door, and I never want to feel that feeling again.  I could feel it coming from my mom too, I think she was disappointed or at least frustrated with my stubbornness, but I was really paralyzed with fear. 

Since then, I continue to believe that if something that is interesting to  me scares me that much, its probably worth doing, if only to alleviate the energy that piles up when being anxious about it.  Since then I have continued pointing my career aspirations towards that scary wooded area that isn't lit.  Which brings me to the present moment.  I find myself in Sondheim's Into The Woods, a musical with District Theatre Collective. 

The key word in this is "musical".  I don't do musicals.

I've done a lot of things that have been scary for me.  Aerial dancing, clowning, producing theatre, etc...


I love singing, I sing all the time at home, I have done little songs in shows I've produced (mostly silly, joky, simple stuff), but I don't do musicals. 

To better clarify the point of this, I have stopped auditioning for musicals and have adopted a "no musical" policy in my auditioning circuits because it never goes well.  In fact, it usually turns out awful.  All of my audition nerves live inside my throat and show themselves when attempting to sing, for people, who might give me a job.  I have voice training FOR SPEAKING, and music training FOR INSTRUMENTS, but I DO NOT have singing training.

Isn't this just perfect?  Somehow the universe has thrown me into this scary thing in order to face my fears.As the musical director of the show said, when I decided I couldn't sing "that high" and that the show director told me I could just speak these lyrics, "I think you're just scared".  YES!  Nailed it!  I was/am just scared.  It doesn't make me a better singer to admit that.  But, what it did do was fuel my desire to not let fear take over.  I am practicing my little bits of singing every day and am getting better at hitting the notes.  By no means will I be an amazing singer (like the singers in the show, GO SEE INTO THE WOODS IN SONDHEIM FEST!) , but at least I won't have to live with the feeling that fear won.  It's only fear because I haven't experienced it yet.

Now all I have to do is sing, for people, who have paid money to see the show.  GULP!

(Please check out all of the talented people involved in Sondheimfest this year.)