Saturday, June 25, 2011

Articulation-Bottle Tree Productions

A comment was made about my obsession with articulation at the expense of other forms of acting techniques. I certainly appreciate the dialogue. The comment suggested that articulation alone does not work in big theatres. It sure doesn't hurt. An audience wants to hear the story. They want to hear the words the writer wrote. At least I do. Sometimes, a small theatre can have worse acoustics than a large one. Sometimes the theatre has an echo, or dead spots. The audience can affect the actors words, often swallowing them up with their presence. What sounds good in rehearsal can be inaudible during performance.

But what to do in a big theatre, assuming that the acoustics are fine. Well, turning out is a good start. Turning out aims the voice at the audience. Use your diaphragm, the muscle below your rib cage, to push the words out. You can't move your upper jaw but you can certainly drop your lower jaw when speaking. An open mouth will effortlessly take your words throughout the theatre. Imagine an egg in the back of your throat to keep it open during speaking(singing as well). Learn to breathe and to relax so that there is no tightness in the avenue of your vocal arsenal that will inhibit speech.

Practice in the theatre, on stage, before the show. Warm up vocally. This will allow you to be able to find the range of the house. If you have lines gto be delivered to the wings, or to the back of the stage, make sure you are that much stronger in vocal delivery. One reason, working on your consonants is important in theatre is that articulation of the words with emphasis on the consonants takes a lot of breath and energy. It is a workout in itself. This trains you for work in bigger theatres.

And one simple trick to let your voice carry to the back row, is to look at the back row when you are delivering your lines. We all know about actors looking over the audiences heads. One reason is to keep in the moment without succumbing to an inadvertent connection with an audience member. Another reason is to aim that voice at the back row. It is like throwing a ball. If you do not look at the person you are throwing the ball to, it is very difficult to get the ball to your partner, unless your name is Dan Marino. We look at who we are talking to, and our brain alters our vocal volume without us really knowing it. If you want to reach the back row of a big theatre, make sure you are warmed up, you articulate, drop your bottom jaw, use your diaphragm, keep that egg in the bag of your throat, face the audience and look over their heads to the back of the theatre.

What is ironic is that more amateurs will likely play in big theatres than professionals, at least in Ontario as 800 seat old opera houses have been converted to community theatres, while professionals work in smaller venues due to the unfortunate costs in maintaining professional theatres.

The Black Swan struggles to keep afloat. Bottle Tree Productions Movie Review

The Darren Aranofsky directed The Black Swan is a fascinating look at the disintegration of a personality.
The ugliness inside the beautiful cover was made memorable in Roman Polanski's disturbing 1965 film; Repulsion which starred Catherine Deneuve. Natalie Portman's beautiful ballerina Nina has a repressed personality which cracks under the stress of her playing two different leads in a ballet; The Black Swan and the White Swan. The camera is close up on Portman's beautiful face creating a claustrophobic feeling. Her careful control slowly cracks, like the mirrors she is obsessed with. Barbara Hershey is a wonderful worn beauty as the controlling stage mother. You can see why Portman is drowning psychologically.

Mila Kunis is charismatic as Nina's rival. Vincent Cassel is wonderfully narcissistic as Thomas Leroy, the Artistic Director. Perhaps more of a stereotype than a fully fleshed-out character, but compelling nonetheless.

The film is a horror film with special effects, but it is psychological horror, an interior horror. Nina is running from herself.  We see the world through Portman's eyes, and so the audience cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is not. As she is overwhelmed with dark fantasies that threaten to destroy her, Nina battles for her life against the monster within. Portman portrays Nina's obsessive compulsive behaviour with scratching and her eating disorder truthfully. For dancers, the person in the mirror is so important and so controlling, that it owns them, it can destroy them. In the end that piece of mirrored glass makes Nina's performance as The Black Swan a once in a lifetime experience.

Though I liked this film there are caveats.

This film is more film than movie, more art than craft. While Portman walks a psychological tightrope between sanity and the abyss, the film walks a tightrope between silliness and wonderfully disturbing. As an audience member you will make the decision whether the film is laughable or whether it works as a personal horror story. For me, Nina's transformation at the end, into a bird is pretty unbelievable. The end as well is very stagy. However it was compelling until it actually dealt with the performance on the stage.

The film seems to have some great ideas that remain only great ideas, perhaps because they weren't carried out as well as they could have been, weren't as convincingly realized on the screen as they might have been. They had a tight schedule for filming and it shows.

Rating ***stars

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Group Sales for Romeo and Juliet

The Wellington Street Theatre Project is offering discounts to groups of 6 or more that wish to attend Romeo and Juliet at Sydenham Street United Church, Wednesday July 27th at 7:30 pm.

William Shakespeare's popular story of young love as told by many of Kingston's top young actors. Take part in this great event by gathering a group of friends and saving up to 50 percent on ticket prices.

Live Theatre is a great opportunity to get out in the community, see old friends and make new ones. To get started go to Group Sales  Live Theatre is a great opportunity to get out of the house and check out some of the best young talent Kingston has to offer.

Stay after the show and meet with the actors!

We have general seating. Doors open at 7 pm.