Saturday, July 13, 2013

In My Head

By Victoria Chatfield (Executive Director)

There are few people that I respect more than actors.

Last summer, as part of my graduate school program, I was required to take an acting class. Like an advanced acting class where you're graded on the quality of your performance. This turned out to be the single most terrifying and frustrating experience of my life. I now firmly believe that ANYONE who works professionally in the theater should be required to take at least one advanced acting class. Putting yourself out there in such a personal way, only to be judged by someone sitting in the audience, can be downright agonizing. I will never feel anything less than LOVE for my actors.

I watched the end of the warm-up activity in Circuits rehearsal this afternoon. Lio Sigerson, our director, asked her actors to reflect on something that they learned about themselves during the warm-up activity. Almost every actor said the same thing: "I get stuck in my head too much." How many times have you heard a teacher say: "Think before you write down your answer"? We're rarely encouraged to just write down ANY ANSWER, despite the fact that it might not be the most intelligent or the most creative or the most insightful. That's where the best acting comes from though: from allowing yourself to be open to any possibility that comes up. Sure, you're going to have a lot of times when you get up onstage and give a less-than-Broadway-worthy performance -- but if you leave yourself open to possibilities, you're also going to have times when you get up onstage and create something revelatory.

Lio said today: "We're all really smart people, but that's different from being a person who makes a choice." She observed that the cast performed well in warm-up activities that dealt with focus and collaboration. (Jose, who'll be playing Hugh in Circuits, reflected that there was a "really great energy from everyone in the room.") However, when they engaged in warm-up activities that required them to be shameless and unembarrassed, they struggled. "Where does fear kick in for each person?" she asked, before even she admitted that she's reluctant to just jump into the activity and say "who cares?"

Lio resolved to call out her actors on not making choices during rehearsal. Her solution was to give them five seconds to make a choice -- ANY choice. "The pressure can be freeing," she reflected before reassuring them that since we have more than enough rehearsal time, they don't have to worry about making the RIGHT choice the first time around. (On that note: I encourage producers to always block off as much rehearsal time as the budget will allow. You might end up cutting back later on in the process, but it's better to have too much time for rehearsal than too little. Help alleviate the pressure that your directors and your actors are already feeling. Give them the gift of time!)

Circuits is already looking great at the end of the first week of rehearsal. I can't wait to see how their performances develop and evolve over the next few weeks!

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