Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Acting 101-Don't upstage yourself

A Simple Way to Upstage Yourself

Often in community theatre, high school performances and university performances, actors will upstage themselves, neatly destroying any effect that they might have on the audience.

What is upstaging?

An actor is upstaged when he or she delivers his lines upstage away from the audience.  Careful choreography is needed to map out the ebb and flow of dialogue and movement so that actors don't upstage themselves, or each other.

An actor can upstage another actor by moving further away from the audience and forcing the actor closest to the audience, the downstage actor, to turn away from the audience to deliver his or her lines to the upstage actor. I would suggest that an actor that is frequently being upstaged on purpose by another actor, simply turn away from the offending upstaging actor and face the audience to deliver their lines. Unfortunately in theatre, there are actors who will deliberately upstage other actors to garner more attention from the audience, to weaken another actor's performance.

Another way for two actors to upstage themselves simultaneously is for them to conduct their scene in profile, face to face. Theatre is a highly artificial medium and the audience usually sits behind the fourth wall, outside of the action. The actors need to engage the audience with what they are saying and feeling.
The audience needs to see their faces. While many theatre people mistake profile acting for chemistry, it does little for an audience. An easy and natural fix is to have the speaking actor cheat towards the audience and the other actor focus their attention on the speaking actor. When the other actor gets their turn to say something important, he or she can cheat towards the audience while the other actor focuses their attention on them. Acting is like a game of chess where moves have to be plotted out in order to gain the best advantage for the audience.

Another simple way for an actor to upstage themselves is to make a gesture with the downstage hand across the body. This effectively masks the actor from the audience and weakens his gesture. To correct this simple mistake an actor should use his upstage hand to unblock his body and let the audience see the actor.

An actor that opens up to an audience is far more effective and engaging than one that closes themselves off either physically or vocally.

Upstaging is a problem because it minimizes an actor in their role and the whole play suffers. The play becomes less than what it could be. It becomes small.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monologues for Teens

Preparing for an audition
To prepare for an audition, an actor needs a monologue of approximately two minutes in length. A monologue is a short speech by one character. It is a monologue and so there is no interruption by another character. That would be a dialogue. A monologue is a great opportunity for an actor to show off their acting skills. A well-rehearsed monologue will give the aspiring actor an excellent chance of landing a part. a poorly prepared monologue will sink an actor's ship in the director's eyes.

Often I have cast actors who gave bad auditions, but only in cases when I knew the actor and knew what they were capable of. If an actor is unknown to a director then the monologue will be the only chance an actor will have to show the director what he or she can do. So if an actor really wants a part they had better prepare. The monologue is an opportunity, as I have said before, to show off an actor's skills. The monologue should be rehearsed and understood.

The play that the monologue has been drawn from should be read a couple of times so that the context and the meaning of the monologue can become clearer to the actor. The actor should plan out moments of discovery for the character he is playing at the audition. The actor knows what the character is going to say next. The character doesn't. What is the character like physically and vocally? How will the actor make the director believe in his or her performance? An actor should use imagination, research and hard work to mine the gold that lies in the character they are portraying.

An actor should always give their audition their best shot, being as prepared as possible so that there can be no excuse for failure. Excuses are for unemployed actors.

For some great free monologues go to Bottle Tree Productions teen monologues

Ghost of the Tree

Video Trailer for Ghost of the Tree

A One Act Play For Women

Ghost of the Tree is a one act play for one to seven actors, and a musician. With a simple set, consisting of a chair and a simplistic representation of a tree, this play is easy to transport. It is an ideal play for fringe festivals and other drama festivals. The play follows the lives of seven generations of women in the same family tree. It catches each woman's life as she contemplates her unborn child and the mother that bore her. The play moves inexorably back in time as the audience is taken on a journey of discovery. Each woman's life has been shaped by the women that came before, and as the years melt away, we discover the tragedy that hangs over this particular family.

United by blood, but separated by generations, the women can only tell their story in pieces and it is the audience that gets to put the pieces of this family mystery together, it is the audience that gets to put the story together.

A poignant tale of a doomed family line.

"Ingenious" David Prosser; Stratford Festival

"In 35 tears I have never seens anything like it" John Van Burek; Pleiades Theatre.

To purchase a script for ten dollars go to Bottle Tree Productions/Ghost of the Tree

For a free monologue from the play go to Bottle Tree Productions/monologues for teens

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Acting Out Loud Workshop at The Wellington Street Theatre

Tony Babcock discusses his 'Acting Out Loud' workshop

At Bottle Tree Productions we are excited to have Tony Babcock run a two-day workshop at The Wellington Street Theatre Saturday and Sunday on December 4th and the 5th. Both days begin at 12 noon and end at 6 pm. Tony is a high-energy guy who has tremendous drive, and a tremendous work ethic. He is the epitome of an actor that will make work for himself, the kind of guy that agents love. Tony has been in commercials, on Much Music, done voice-overs for games and been involved in theatre in Toronto.

Tony started taking acting classes with me when he was eight years old, and he loved being on the stage. He would always check out the audience to see if they were enjoying his performance. When he was older, in his late teens, I gave him the part of Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream. I gave him free reign to improv and he didn't disappoint. He was hilarious. Tony always wanted more parts much like Shakespeare's Bottom.

I remember dropping Tony off in Toronto for an audition in his rented tuxedo. The tuxedo was called for. At the time he looked very small and lonely. Fast forward a few years and Tony is gainfully employed in the biz. He never lets a moment go by that he isn't actively involved in furthering his career. He designs websites for fellow actors as well as running workshops. He doesn't let the grass grow under his feet.

If anyone wanted to know what it takes to succeed in Toronto, then Tony's drive and energy would be a good template.

His new acting workshops titled 'Acting Out Loud' is being offered at a fifty per cent discount in Kingston as he beta tests his new program. For only $100, students get acting help and advice from a great guy. Tony has taught across North America so the weeekend of December 4th and 5 th promises to be a treat for the local acting community. Tony's humour and energy has got him through some tough times in Toronto, and his experience can only help others.

'Acting Out Loud' at The Wellington Street Theatre December 4th and 5th 12 noon-6 pm. For mor info go to Acting Out Loud