What we are reading in Acting class From Michael Shurtleff’s Audition

Guidepost 1: Relationship p 33-34 Start with the question: What is my relationship to the other character in the scene I am about to do? Facts are never enough…once you know the fact of the relationship, you are ready to explore how you feel about this other character…you must go further, into the realm of the emotion.You need to ask feeling questions about your emotional attitude toward the other character. Do you love him? Do you hate him? Do you resent him? How much? Do you want to help him? Do you want to get in his way? What do you want from him? What do you want him to give you? These are the most important questions to ask. The answers to them will allow you to function emotionally in the scene. That is your goal.
Guidepost 2: What are you fighting for? Conflict. P42-44 An actor is looking for conflict. Conflict is what creates drama. Maximum conflict is what you should be looking for. Who is interfering with what you are fighting for? Do battle with her, fight her, woo her, charm her, revile her. Find as many ways as you can to go about getting what you are fighting for.
Guidepost 3: The Moment Before: pg 67-69 Every scene you will ever act begins in the middle, and it is up to the actor to provide what comes before. In order to create this moment before, before he enters, the actor may have to go back ten or twenty years in the life of the character. It is like priming a motor to get it started. You have to do a number on yourself, you have to talk to yourself, flay yourself into feeling, so that you are aching to get on that stage or film set and start to fight.
Guidepost 4 Humor p 74-76 Humor is not jokes. Humor is not being funny. It is the coin of exchange between human beings that makes it possible for us to get through the day. Humor exists even in the humorless. There is humor in every scene, just as there is in every situation in life. ..I have trouble believing in the seriousness of a scene in which there is no humor; it is unlike life. And yet actors will say to me, “How can I find humor in this scene? It’s very serious!” For the exact same reason one would be driven to find humor in the same situation in life: because it is deadly serious and human beings cannot bear all that heavy weight, they alleviate the burden by humor.
Guidepost 5 Opposites p 77-78 Whatever you decide is your motivation in the scene, the opposite of that is also true and should be in it. Think about a human being, in all of us there exists love and there exists hate, there exists creativity and an equal tendency toward self-destructiveness, there exists sleeping and waking, there exists night and there exists day, sunny moods and foul moods, a desire to love and a desire to kill. Since these extremities do exist in all of us, then they must also exist in each character in each scene.
Guidepost 6 Discoveries p 81 Every scene is filled with discoveries, things that happen for the first time. No matter how many times it has happened in the past, there is something new about this experience, this moment. Acting is a whole series of discoveries…The more discoveries you make in a scene—the less you rely on “we do this every day”—the more interesting your scene will be.
Guidepost 7 Communication and Competition page 87-88 Acting is supremely a task of communication. It is not enough for the actor to feel, if that feeling is not being communicated…Communication is a circle, not a one-way street…It takes two to communicate: the sender and the receiver. The receiver has to acknowledge the message by sending a reply back to the sender, thus completing the circle before a communication has taken place.
Guidepost 8 Importance Page 92-93 Most people would walk a mile or sleep a week to avoid confrontation. We are trained as children that the most admirable conduct is that which causes the least trouble, so most of us spend our lives avoiding the conflicts of which drama is. It’s important for an actor to realise that what he must use in his acting is the opposite of what he has been trained in life to seek. Peacefulness and the avoidance of trouble won’t help him in his acting. It is just the opposite he must seek.
Guidepost 9 Find the Events page 105-106 I call what happens in the play the events. One of the actor’s chief tasks is to create the events of the play. What are events? An event can be a change. That is the strongest kind of event. An event can be a confrontation—and for every confrontation there is always a result, a consequence for the actor to present. An event can be a climax, which is a major turning point in the lives of the characters.
Guidepost 10 Place page 114-115 Most readings take place on a bare stage, which is not the most useful environment for an actor. It’s up to the actor to create a place, and it’s well worth doing, for it will help him immeasurably in creating a reality for his reading. The immediate reality of a bare thatre or sound stage is a real down; an actor would do well to lift himself up, with a place of his own. The physical nature of a place is only the beginning. The most important element is how you feel about the place. The feeling is most important.
Guidepost 11 Game Playing and Role Playing page 117-118 When we play games, it is for real; when we take on different roles, it is sincere conduct for it is a way of dealing with reality, not of avoiding it. It helps an actor to ask himself in each scene: What is the game I am playing in this situation? What role do I assume in order to best play this game? The answer depends on the circumstance; what people want from you, what you want from them, what you are offering and what you expect. Ask what the stakes are, what you are playing for. But don’t get the idea that you will therefore be unreal or insincere. Games are real, roles are necessary to deal with reality.
Guidepost 12 Mystery and Secret page 131-143 In every lecture I give to explain the twelve guideposts I find the concept of mystery and secret the most difficult to explain satisfactorily. The concept is mysterious too! Let me put it this way: After you’ve done all the eleven guideposts in your preparation for your character, then add what you don’t know. But the most fascinating acting always has a quality of mystery to us. Garbo, Brando, Olivier, Davis, Guinness—these actors provided us with a dazzling array of answers (they all do the eleven guideposts thoroughly every time they performed), but then they add that quality we cannot explain, that exploration in relationships of what is wondered at but not answered, perhaps cannot be answered. No matter how much we know about the other person, there is always something going on in that other heart and that other head that we don’t know but can only ponder. And no matter how we explain ourselves to someone else, no matter how open we are, there is always still something inexplicable, something hidden and unknown in us too. I am suggesting you add this wonderment about this other person. I am also suggesting you add, too, this wonderment about what is going on inside of you.

Playwright’s intentions defended

Two recent articles spoke of the issue of playwrights defending their intentions in production.

Australia’s Belvoir theatre company based in Sydney has, over the years, faced a number of cases of opposition from playwrights (or their estates/ rights holders) over their re-interpretive productions of plays.  The recent article talks of their cutting of the Requiem scene at the end of Death of a Salesman, and mentions previous run-ins with the estate of Samuel Beckett over the music used during the production of Waiting for Godot and their attempt to de-contextuaralize Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

On a slightly different note, playwright Bruce Norris recently shut down a planned production of his Pulitzer winning play Clybourne Park in Germany over his objection to their intention to have non-black actors to perform the African American characters in his play, but to have them perform in blackface.  NY Times article here.  This is not unlike another recent incident where playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis objected to the casting of a regional production of one of his plays where the characters were intentionally written to be minorities.

Often, the argument of making changes for a production comes down to a legal issue – by purchasing the rights to produce a work, the producer is contractually obligated to stage the play as written, with no changes to the text and as close to staging it as described as possible.  Many well-established playwrights tend to be sticklers about how true a production must stay to the written text (including staging) – often because the staging (the set, the blocking) are integral to the meaning of the work.  Other writers are welcoming to the idea of making adjustments, and are happy to alter dialogue, allow for casting variations (gender, race, etc), or make other concessions simply because they want to have their play staged in as many venues as possible.

The important factor is that any adjustments that a producer might want to make should always be discussed with the writer and/or the rights holder before putting them in place.  That’s more than a legal obligation, that’s an ethical one.

Emerging Scholars

 submissions is approaching = Thursday, Nov. 1st

Call for Papers Emerging Scholars Symposium Mid-America Theatre Conference St. Louis, March 7-10, 2013
The 34th Annual Mid-America Theatre Conference will host two debut Emerging Scholars Panels designed for both undergraduate and graduate students who have not yet presented at a conference.
Paper submissions for each panel are welcome on any topic in theatre history, theory, or dramatic literature. Papers that compliment the conference theme of “MYTH” are encouraged, but not required.
Up to three participants will be selected for each panel, and each panelist will have fifteen minutes to deliver his or her paper. Students whose papers are accepted will receive free conference registration, free admission to the conference luncheon, a one-year membership in MATC, and a cash prize of $50. Undergraduate winners will also be paired with a conference mentor.
Papers should be 7-10 pages in length (1750-2500 words), and will be evaluated on their originality, the quality of their writing and research, and their critical/theoretical sophistication.
For consideration, please e-mail all submissions as Microsoft Word attachments to both symposiums co-chairs: Jeff Grace (jgrace@knox.edu) Will Daddario (dadda002@umn.edu)
Submissions should include the following: (1) Your name and the name of your academic institution. (2) Contact information (including mailing address, e-mail, and telephone number). (3) A brief bio (4) Indication of whether you are submitting to the Undergraduate or Graduate Debut Panel. (5) Completed paper (no abstracts, please).
Deadlines for submissions are: Undergraduate Panel = November 1, 2012
Attached is a .pdf of the CFP. Please feel free to distribute to your interested students. For more information about MATC, please visit http://matc.us/

Translation: Novel into Film

David Mitchell, author of the novel Cloud Atlas, wrote a very clear article in the Wall Street Journal this week on the necessity of translation in adapting a novel into a film – and talking about how his novel pushes the limits of what’s possible to portray on the screen.  If you’re wondering why “the novel’s always so much better than the film,” or ever hoping to adapt a novel yourself, check out his 5 main points.

Week 2 of HENRY V!

It has been so rewarding watching the storytelling deepen.  Hearing the language used more richly.  Seeing the physicality of the actors become more specific.  Today, I’m thinking about what it means for a show to grow.  Too often when one is learning the craft of acting and they are in an educational production of some kind the actor may think growing is “trying something different” or “saying my lines differently” or “getting bigger” or “getting more laughs” etc.  If acting is living believably in imaginary circumstances then the growth of a play becomes simply living deeper; richer.  The audience is the final ingredient in understanding the story you are telling as a theatre artist.  They inform us. We grow in our understanding of the story.  Notice I don’t say the audience controls the story.  The play and the production are 2 of the 3 elements that make a theatrical event.  A production should be like a tree, deep roots to support the beauty above the ground.

In honor of SAINT CRISPIN’S DAY (which is today!)  I give you the St. Crispin’s day speech from Henry V. Read it.  OUT LOUD.  Live it.  You are King Henry.

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

National Stage Combat Workshop


2013 National Stage Combat Workshops

2013 National Stage Combat Workshops

University of North Carolina School of the Arts Winston Salem, NC

Dates for the next NSCW will be announced soon.

Internationally recognized as the premier stage combat training program featuring training conducted by the best instructors, directors, and fight masters in the business!

Don’t miss this opportunity. Learn more about the 2013 NSCW.

Also, don’t forget to join the SAFD or renew your membership today!

We stand

We in theatre today stand on the verge of a crisis. As we emerge out from postmodern realism, a new form pleads to be invented. What this form will look like has yet to be decided, but the up and coming generation of theatre artists must decide whether to continue on the path already set out by the ones that came before, or revolutionize or radicalize theatre as we know it, much like Andre Breton, Maurice Maeterlinck, and Hugo Ball did in the early 1900s- Today’s theatre yearns for a change . Who will be the one to lead it?

Cabaret performance

Here’s a brief article in the Guardian that talks about the rise of “cabaret” performance over the past few years – particularly in England.  An interesting perspective on a much maligned form of performance, along with a little ‘what traditional theatre can learn from cabaret’ – plus an interesting connection made between this current cabaret resurgence and the rise of vaudeville in times of financial stress and recession.

What I Love about Acting

There is something to be said in having the opportunity to play a pirate, judge, villain, hero, fighter, possessed, or tormented soul. It is the opportunity to be something I am not—to be more than my usual self- I can be extraordinary. However, despite the truth in playing a role different from myself, there is an underlying truth that emerges as I play these fanciful roles: Am I not the one that guides this character and chooses their objectives, creates the role, and with my uniqueness informs the character as to how to move, how to speak, and is it not myself that creates the objectives and life of this lifeless character. It is me who makes this character come alive. It is the choices I make that embody the role; therefore, is this character that is seemingly so different from me really just me making choices based upon my own feelings and experiences. Is it not me that just raises my own stakes, reacts according to what I feel this character would do? This is the great paradox of acting: I play me/ not me. The dichotomy of the character and myself. What is the difference between them? If there is than what is it?