This week, I thought I’d write a little creative anecdote instead of my usual “creative advice column”-style post. It’s all about drama–theater drama, not emotional drama. 😉
Acting as a Creative Impulse
Bringing a character to life is just as creative as other art forms–you have to make this character feel real, human, believable. You have to make the audience believe you ARE this person; the best actors make you love them or hate them even off-screen and out of character, just because of the character you saw them play last.
The skill with which an actor does this comes partially from knowing the lines and knowing the actions, and partially from the actor’s imagination, imagining how someone would look and sound doing these actions and saying these lines. And we instinctively know good, believable acting when we see it!
My Small Contributions to Drama
Though I’ve never been a complete theater buff, I have done some minor roles in local productions here and there, mainly during high school and early college. I’ve done enough to know that I may not be a show-stopper (my disabilities and clumsiness keep me from that), but I do seem to do comedy pretty well. (My life is full of pratfalls and epic verbal fails…maybe that’s where I got the practice. LOL)
Experiences On the Stage
I’ve played a random assortment of supporting characters (a friendly old biddy, a young schemer, a couple of motherly types), and pretty much any role is cool with me–I actually like to play supporting characters more than leading characters; less pressure, and sometimes you get funnier lines because you’re the comic relief.
I’m more easygoing about my role, mainly because I enjoy taking roles that other people don’t like to play. But it’s also because I’ve acted alongside some supreme prima donnas who wouldn’t take less than the leading lady’s role (there’s at least one in every production, it seems). People like that make the whole set tense!
I prefer to keep my out-of-character acting out to a minimum, though I will admit that long hours of rehearsal on flat, painful feet make my tongue a little sharper than usual. Physical endurance? What’s that? 😛 That’s one reason I’m not in major dramas; my body just doesn’t care for the tedious bits of rehearsal (of course, all done while standing in one place for what feels like hours).
I’ve been lucky, however, that in all of the productions I’ve been in, there has been time after rehearsals for me to rest–professional actors are not so fortunate always! I’ve also been blessed that most of the local actors I’ve worked with have been fairly sweet individuals, barring a few who thought too much of themselves. Generally, I have been part of convivial and companionate casts who truly cared about each other; a rarity, from what I’ve heard from others who are more experienced in theater.
Backstage: Character Prep Work
One of my trademarks in acting is that I flesh out my characters before I play them–I tend to go home on the first night after receiving the script, and extrapolate the character out from the dialogue and actions into a full-blown short story. It’s something like an autobiography for the character.
Once I do that, I have a much better and easier time playing the character because I “know where they’re coming from,” so to speak. (I’m not sure if this falls solidly into much-maligned “method acting” or not, but it sure works for me. I just act better when I can find something to empathize with in the character–even if she is a crazy villain. :D)
I like to flesh out characters because I want my acting to be the best it can be for the sake of the whole production. When people don’t care about their characters and are bored with the lines, it shows, and it really brings the rest of the scene down. Populating the scene with a well-acted “supportive character” can often help the other members of the scene get more excited (and deliver better performances of their own).
Onstage Helping? Yes, it’s Possible!
I also like being able to keep tabs of others’ lines as well as my own (thanks to God for the good memory I have), just in case one of them forgets a line; I am pretty good at ad-libbing in a reminder line if I have to.
I remember in high school, one very young, very frightened fellow student I worked with in one production forgot her entire semi-monologue in one scene during the performance. There was a very tense, gut-wrenching, eternity of a second, and then I prompted her with a question that rephrased the first sentence of her speech. She recovered enough to say the speech, and I was so happy for her I accidentally complimented her onstage with an emphatic “GOOD!” The audience got a huge laugh out of my reaction, and we carried on. The teacher later told me that I had done well (and even made her laugh).
This is part of the excitement of acting–being able to help out and make the production good, or react and recover from gaffes. Like the time I completely bungled my whole dance routine up because I literally got off on the wrong foot–since I was playing a granny, I waved my arms about and shouted to my dance partner, “Lordy, sonny boy, don’t drag me ’round this ole dance floor like a dead fish!” Much, MUCH LOL followed–I don’t think anybody kept a straight face! Stories like this make for great after-party anecdotes; afterwards, you can all laugh about how you made it through despite the fails.
Ever Tried Acting for Yourself?
I’d like to hear from my fellow actors out there–anybody ever done any off-off-off-Broadway stuff, or gotten write-ups in the local paper? ^_^ It’d be fun to hear from some actual famous people!
And even if you haven’t acted much before, have you ever tried your hand (or voice) at it? It’s a lot of fun, if you’ve never experienced it. 🙂