Monday, July 15, 2013

Romance! And Robots!

By Victoria Chatfield (Executive Director)

In the words of Lio Sigerson: "Romance is all about filled silences."

The Circuits cast spent the day working on the love scenes between Emily (Dominique Thorne) and Hugh (Jose Useche). How do you create romantic tension between two actors who just met each other a little over a week ago? Lio uses the following technique to ratchet up the tension to an almost unbearable degree: she has all of her actors hold their moments for just a little bit TOO long. As she says: "The moment the actors feel uncomfortable is the moment the audience finally understands what's going on." So while you're onstage dying of awkwardness, the audience is just starting to think: "Oh! They're falling in love!"

As a non-actor, it's also remarkable to me how carefully directors choreograph love scenes. There's not a single movement, not a single meaningful glance, that hasn't been pre-planned and written into the script by a meticulous stage manager. I used to think that all of those moments shared onstage were spontaneous, much like romance itself. Nope. Left hand floor, right hand cheek, lean in three inches, and then kiss. (Stage Kiss Twister!) That's not to say that actors aren't then infusing those movements with genuine affection and desire. But everything starts out from the most unromantic spot possible.

Which brings me to an important topic for any director: keeping your actors safe. As previously mentioned, actors are incredibly vulnerable from the moment they step out onstage to the moment the lights dim at the end of the performance. Standing in front of an audience and revealing some of the most personal parts of yourself is the very definition of "unsafe." (It makes sense that speaking in public is the second most common fear amongst Americans.) So it's up to us, as directors, to alleviate that feeling of discomfort to the best of our ability. Blocking isn't just about creating thought-provoking images onstage (although it certainly accomplishes that); it's also about giving your actors a framework that they can work within. Even when they're having an extremely emotionally-charged moment, they can rest assured that they know their next movement. Keep your actors as safe as you possibly can. Make sure that they know their blocking.

Also: shout-out for Jose's makeshift robot schematics. Yes, these are what stand-in props SHOULD look like.

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