Monday, December 17, 2012

Out With the Old & In With 2013!!!

What a magical and eventful year for theatre and life!
I can't wait to see what the New Year has in store.

In 2013
I had the honour to play the role of Anne in "Goodnight Children Everywhere"
I was blessed with a friendly and talented cast in "the TWIDDLE PLAYS"
I began volunteering at the local art gallery "the Arts Project"
I started my own business
I began working with a friend on a top secret theatre project for kids
I was accepted as 1 of 7 members of the new GAB program at the Grand Theatre
I began volunteering and now sit on the board for "Artistically Speaking Out Against Bullying"
I've made some wonderful new friends through the Source, Theatre and Arbonne
I attended my cousin's wedding
I am directing for the Palace for the first time ("Swing Dance" - Feb 2013)
I've continued working as an actor for Murder for Hire Murder Mysteries
I was the maid of honour at my mum's wedding
I reconnected with a penpal in the UK from my childhood
I have planned the next Maybles' Poductions ("Six Funny Ladies" - May 2013)
Darren and I got a dog together
and I'm sure there's many more excited things I'm forgetting.

I thought I would share with you why I do theatre and why I think it is an important part of life...

~ ~

I have been involved with independent theatre across Southern Ontario and India for almost 15 years now. My discipline of theatre would be Comedy as a Director and Comedy/Drama as an actor.

I founded my own theatre company in 2009 called "Maybles' Productions, Because Funny Feels Good" because I saw there was a gap in the local theatre community - Comedy.
It wasn't just Comedies that this city was lacking but also a theatre company which truly worked together, was 'drama'-free and helped each participant to learn as much as they can and give the best performance they can. I have always been a believer in "two heads are better than one" and this is true for theatre as well.

Theatre has been an outlet for people to grow, learn and build on skills that can flow into areas of daily life. Through theatre, I have seen individuals overcome stage fright, reading and speech impediments as well as become self-assured after accomplishing something as great, wonderful and magical as a play.

To me, Theatre means an escape or break from "life", a safe space where people can explore what it means to be human and a place where individuals can be a part of something wonderful.

Through the years, I have had many inspiring Theatre experiences. I have built a drama club in an all-girls' school in India, I have worked as a director with blind actors, I have seen actors overcome with joy because they "didn't fail" and had someone who believed in them. I have seen a room brought to tears because a 12-year-old girl (who found a love for herself through drama and music) stated "she didn't want to die anymore". I would say my most inspiring life experience has BEEN theatre.

When I direct or produce theatre, I create comedies with real and believable characters because it feels good to laugh. I create a space that is supportive, all-accepting and trusting between the cast & crew.  Sometimes as an audience member, we don't want to think or rack our brains for references and we just want to sit back, relax and laugh.

When I am performing as an actor, I try to create a character that has had their own experiences and that the audience can relate to in some way. I also try to find something in each character I portray that explores a specific part of myself.

When I am teaching a workshop (Culture Days, Concordia College or Artistically Speaking Out Against Bullying), I try to inspire my students to challenge themselves and their comfort zones. It is magical to see someone, who thinks they cannot do something, work towards it then finally do it. A sense of accomplishment is one of the greatest gifts one can give to a child or adult who has self-doubt and I can do this all the time through theatre.

My general philosophy on theatre is this: Theatre is not a hobby, it is a way of life and if we can teach individuals how to be supportive and accepting of each other on a stage - maybe we can teach the world to so the same.

I will end by saying that though theatre can teach people many things - it cannot teach people passion and it is Passion that I have. I have been told that I eat, breathe and sleep theatre and that I may be on the borderline of "obsessed". Theatre can do so much ~ let me show you what I can do with theatre.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Goodnight Children Everywhere" comes to London, Ontario!

~ a post World War II play about lost childhood, familial roles and human nature ~

written by Richard Nelson
coming to the Palace Theatre in London, Ontario
October 4-13, 2012

Cast (clockwise from top left): Tim Condon, Kevin Curnette, Whitney Bolam,

Elizabeth Newman (Director) & Heather May (Anne)

This play is not for the faint of heart or the easily offended.
Goodnight Children Everywhere takes the audience into the home of Anne, Vi and Betty (3 sisters) and Anne's husband Mike in Clapham, South London England during the Spring of 1945. These four have been living together in this small flat for some time and have become accustomed to the way of life in such small quarters.

The play starts on the day these three sisters are reunited with their brother Peter who was sent away during the Operation Pied Piper Evacuation to live in Alberta, Canada in World War II. Peter is now returning to England to live, once again, with his three sisters.

How does a family put back all the pieces? What do the words "Mother" and "Father" mean to children who were robbed of a propper childhood? How do siblings cope with the loss of both parents in war? How does one differenciate between "right" and "wrong" when so much of what has happend to them has been wrong? What happens between a brother and sister who were parted when they were children and reunited as young adults?

Each of these characters have a back story that is (by far) abonormal and challenging by today's standards. 

Mike, Anne's husband, met her through her sister Betty. Betty worked with Mike and had a crush on him. She brought him home to meet her sisters. So how did Anne end up being his wife and pregnant with his child? How does Anne cope with the ongoing flirtations between Mike and Betty?

Betty is a nurse. She is strong and responsible. She would make the perfect wife. She cooks, she cleans - so why did Mike choose Anne over Betty? Why does Betty fall for Hugh?

Hugh works with Mike at the surgery. He's loud, obnxious and like his whiskey. He sings too loudly, talks too loud and never seems to say the right thing. Are these the reasons why his wife left him for someone else or is there more to Hugh than meets the ear?

Rose is Hugh's daughter. She's pretty and obedient and "loves to go to the pictures". She is polite and always seems to say the right thing. She's realistic and has a plan for life. Peter would be crazy to pass her up - or would he be?

Peter is Anne, Betty & Vi's little brother. He has been separated from his sisters for years and is finally being reunited with them. All this time he's spent living in Canada. His accent has changed, his clothes have changed and...his body has changed. He's not the little boy he was when he left.

Vi is Anne & Betty's sister. She's young, fun and an actor. She could be considered the light in this family's darkness. What ends is she willing to go to in order to make a better life for herself? What past experiences has made her able to push through so many obstacles? What will it take to push her over the edge?

Anne, Vi & Betty's sister is, amongst other things, five-six months pregnant. She's tired, exhausted and never in the mood to 'go out'. You would think such a happy occassion as being reunited with her little brother would make her happy and jump for joy and yet, she remains quiet and still. It appears Anne is shy or afraid of saying the wrong thing. Maybe she's afraid of her husband or maybe it's just hormones. Then again, perhaps it's something deeper, that words cannot begin to describe.


"Goodnight Children Everywhere" promises to challenge it's audience. It is the kind of play London, Ontario has not seen for a long time. This is NOT a play for children and patrons should be warned of the mature subject matter and shocking moral content.

May this production be a reminder of a time passed that we (thankfully) do not live in or have to endure on a daily basis. May it be a tribute to all the lives affected by war in the past, present or future.

"Goodnight Children Everywhere" opens at the Palace Theatre on October 4th & productions are as follows:
October 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 11th, 12th & 13th in Procunier Hall at 8pm.

For more information or for tickets, please call the Palace Theatre Box Office at (519) 432-1029.
Tickets are $15

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

2012 ~ Going into Business for ME!

I have seen the light!
Working part-time, on-call, on a temporary basis for minimum wage
is NOT going to fund my theatre company.

Earlier this month, I was invited to a business launch party for a local theatre friend of mine, Martha Zimmerman.  Martha is an equity actor who lives in London, Ontario and for as long as I've known her - she's been an actor. Acting is what she loves to do and is something she is truly passionate about. She has been an inspiration to me and others in the local theatre community.  I also attended one of her classes on Shakespeare and was truly amazed at how she got me and the other students excited about a text I never thought I'd understand let alone be excited about.

Martha's business launch party was to announce her start with a skin care company which sells botanically-based, 100% Vegan & PETA-approved products. She has decided that she wants to continue her work as an actor but refuses to work a 9-5 job where she must report to the "head cheese" and do what they say when they say it for as much (or as little) as they decide to pay ~ in order to pay the bills.

I had decided before arriving at this business launch that I would purchase one or two products to support Martha in her new business but that I wouldn't let myself get too excited in the business opportunity.  That changed very quickly.

When I learned that the products were Vegan - at first, I didn't really see just what that meant. Then I learned a company can sell a product which was not tested on animals but still contain animal bi-products. Gross! I am not a vegetarian however the thought of lathering up with a body lotion which contains animal fat, for some reason, grosses me out! I also discovered that none of their products contain artificial colours or frangrances which have always seemed to cause breakouts on my body.
I have decided to join Martha and her team on this journey to something better.

There are 3 reasons why I am sharing this exciting news on my theatre blog:

#1. I want to tell everyone my plans and goals and reasons for joining this company publicly.

#2. I want to set-out clear expectations for myself and keep the goal of improving my theatre company in sight.

#3. I want to ensure all my friends, family and theatre supporters that I will not become a "crazy Avon lady" and I will not knock on anyone's door to join my business or buy the products.
I've tried the products and love 'em and I believe in Martha. That's why I've chosen this fresh start.
Here are my goals I am setting out to achieve:
-be able to offer theatre workshops locally without charging the participants.
-be able to produce (at least) one comedy each year.
-be able to volunteer more time and donate more money to local theatre.
-volunteer more time and money to the following groups and organizations:
-have the freedom to rehearse, direct and teach theatre without "getting time off" from an employer.
-purchase or rent a larger rehearsal space for Maybles' Productions.
-have my choices NOT be limited by my paycheque or an employer.
-never kiss someone's..."feet" or pretend to be grateful again during an interview when they offer me some crap position for minimum wage on evenings and weekends (when I do most theatre!).

STAY TUNED for a blogpost about an upcoming production of "Goodnight Children Everywhere" written by Richard Nelson, directed by Elizabeth Newman and going up at the Palace Theatre October, 2012 ~ starring yours truly as Anne.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Characteristics of a Children's Audience

~ the differences between an audience full of adults and one filled with children ~
inspired by the book: Theatre for Children by David Wood with Janet Grant

When performing in a theatre, actors can expect an adult audience to remain seated for the entirety of the show (unless they think the performance is SO BAD or need to leave for an emergency). Actors can also expect the audience to clap and possibly give a standing ovation at the end of the show. The cast can also expect the audience will remain quiet and not talk during the performance.

When performing in front of an audience of children - the game changes.
Children will yell at "the bad guy", leave if they think the play is "stupid" or "lame", they will talk to their friends seated beside them when they are excited or don't understand something on stage AND children know what they like. They will clap if they like it and will show their appreciation only when they truly enjoy the play. If they do not enjoy the performance, they won't clap or cheer "just to be polite".

Indeed when it comes to comparing adult & child audiences there is no doubt that children are the honest ones while the adults are the polite ones.


#1. Children eagerly respond to Justice.
-when one character wrongs another
-what's "fair"
-justice prevails and good triumphs over evil
-gives children hope during times when they are wronged
*adults respond to characters responding to justice (good or bad)

#2. Children like to be frightened - within limits.
-being exposed to a negative force or evil character within the safety of a theatre
-the opportunity to interact with evil, stand up and save the day without being caused any trauma
-the supernatural, monsters make-believe or magic
-introduction of evil realities they may have to face in the future or in adult life
*adults have been exposed to more evil than children and need more "umph" to be frightened

#3. Children are healthily subversive.
-anything rude is found funny
-things that are considered inappropriate by adults in polite society are entertaining
-bodily functions, smelly socks, underpants, etc.
-daydreaming, disobedience, talking back, concealing one's thoughts/feelings & making fun of school & family
*adults are repulsed, turned-off or become disinterested if a production is not "tasteful"
[that is, if the adult audience is expecting a professional & serious show -
sometimes adults also like the crude. Surprise.]

#4. Children are logical.
-children do not enjoy, like or understand sub-plots or loose ends
*adults usually don't either but will be polite and say "nice show" even if they wanted to know what the hell happened???!!!

#5. Children act differently and unpredictably.
-children won't always yell out the right answer when asked for
-children may chant something unexpected like "teach him a lesson!" or "not that way!"
-try to predict what they will say & when but know that may not be the results you get
*adults do not tend to yell out or chant anything during a production and are difficult to encourage to do so

#6. Children make noise during productions.
-children may find the urge to copy a character's movement (ie. hop like a kangaroo)
-tip-up seats are NOT recommended for children's audiences
-children will speak with their friends when they get excited or don't understand something
*adults will sit still and silently to be polite...even if they think the play is awful

#7. Children respond to action.
-conversation must be linked with action or some kind of movement
-characters simply sitting and speaking is BORING
-children don't want a debate, they want things to get done!
*adults can remain attentive to a conversation and follow along more easily

#8. Children don't like being patronised.
-don't speak sweetly or down to them like a dog. Kids will TURN OFF
-if you question the intelligence of your audience you are sure that they will not respect you or the show
*adults don't like to be patronised either. Duh.

#9. Children don't like "lovey-dovey" stuff.
-children are more interested in the plight and challenges of two lovers than how they fell in love
*adults appreciate a good romance or a story of intense passion

#10. Children love animals and toys.
-children often imagine their toys or pets are alive with their own personalities & enjoy seeing this concept come to life on a stage
-children feel safer if the characters are animals or toys rather than someone that looks like themselves
*adults prefer stories about human interaction and relationships as our imagination has more limits than that of a child

#11. Children love stories
-play must have a strong, coherent, logical, basic and interesting plot with well-defined focus and characters
-children understand action & reaction better than reflection
-a journey from A to B is a simple concept but the conflicts amongst the characters and the obstacles along the way are what makes it interesting.
*adults love stories too. That's why we have live theatre!

Remember my friends and local thespians that if we do not cater to our children's audiences today and get them hooked on live theatre at a young age - we will not have an adult audience in the years to come.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"An Introduction to Dramatherapy"

 written by Dorothy Langley

Dramatherapy (sometimes "Drama Therapy"):
"a type of psychotherapy encouraging patients to use dramatic techniques
to deal with emotional and psychological problems."

While browsing the Drama section at my local library, I came across this book.  I have read it and am determined to purchase it for my library.

In order to become a registered Drama therapist (RDT), one must attend an accredited school under the National Association of Drama therapists (NADT). There are only 4 universities recognised under the NADT which are in California, Montreal, New York and the United Kingdom.

I have always had an interest in Dramatherapy and try to incorporate methods and concepts into my rehearsals and drama games I conduct with both adults and children whenever possible. Needless to say - living in London, Ontario - I will not become a RDT anytime soon. I am not a registered Drama therapist, I do not claim to be one nor do I call what I do "Dramatherapy". I am simply inspired by the logic behind and the concepts of Dramatherapy.

I wanted to share with you all what I got out of reading this book:

-Dramatic Play: games, trust exercises, environment exploration, etc.
-Scene Work: script/improv, structured scenes, focused characters & situations
-Role Play: real-life roles, safely portray someone else
-Enactment: real-life issues and conflicts
-Dramatic Ritual: structure, occurs every session/rehearsal, set expectations & schedule

-Start a rehearsal or drama session with a warm-up (duh), followed by a focused activity (ie. based on a specific idea or concept) then bring the session to an end with a cool-down activity/a ritual (ie. a song or dance which ends the session/rehearsal every time).

-always state clear boundaries of space, time & rules
-always use clear instructions & goals that are achievable
-always state that it is safe to play
-explain relevance of each activity

-Developmental Model, Jennings
-Creative/Expressive Model, Cattanach
-Integrated Model, Jennings
-Para-Theatrical Model, Grotowski
-Role Model, Moreno
-Theatrical Model, Brenda Meldrum

WARM-UPS: sets mood, theme & focus
~warm-ups break the ice, make introductions, prepare body & mind for activity, focuses on the physical being, awakens imagination & creativity~
-Bean Bag Toss (say a name and toss them the bag, gradually add more bags)
-Tag, Red Light/Green Light, Musical Chairs, Follow the Leader
-Balloon Pass (form 2 lines facing each other and lightly bounce the balloon back & forth between partners)
-Run n' Touch (sit, everyone stands, runs, touches something of a certain colour then races back to their seats, leaving one person left in the middle to choose the next colour)
-Scarf? (pass a scarf around the circle, use imagination to turn it into something else ie. a cape)
-Statement (make a statement on the chosen topic/theme ie. if senses is the theme one could share something that they have tasted or smelled in the past)
-Tableau (one person places all the other members into a tableau/still picture then tells a story)

~group cohesion & trust~
-2 Truths & a Lie (in partners tell each other 2 truths and a lie about yourself and see if your partner can pick out the lie)
-One person at a time or in partners describes to the other(s) their happiest place and takes them through an imaginary tour
-the group becomes a car or boat-making team. They must collect items within the space to create a boat/car that will actually be able to move around the room/space

-eye contact while speaking
-sit in circle, one hints to another that they wish to trade places with them only using eye contact
-in partners compliment and say "thanks" back n' forth and repeat
-create a scene on a park bench: one person wants to quietly read the paper and the other wants to chit-chat. How do each deal with the conflict?

-explore room with senses (please don't have them lick anything :) to discover what they see, hear, feel and smell in the room. What do they like the best? What feels nice? What looks menacing? What is humming?
-walk around the room banging and tapping (respectfully) on items within the space. After exploring everything, have each person go back to the thing they think made the "coolest" sound and see if, as a group, you can create a rhythm or song. One-by-one they join in.
-study and observe shapes, angles and objects in the room - then recreate them with your bodies
-Number and name all the colours you see in the room. Which is your favourite & why?

-listen and focus on the sounds within the room, then expand to the sounds in the building then outside
-pass a bag with a  textured object inside around the circle and have them guess what it is. They can describe the texture and how it makes them feel (gross, scared, funny, etc.)
-pass around little pots which each have a different scent. Have the individuals share what they think it is and what it makes them think of (if anything)
-get into partners numbered 1's and 2's. Study each other's appearance then have all the 1's leave the room and change one thing about their appearance as the 2's do the same. Everyone comes back and tries to figure out what's different in 3 guesses.
-have individuals think of their happiest place or memory and make a list of the colours in that place/memory. Then have them create a rainbow/abstract piece using those colours (art supplies needed)
-show the group/circle a picture and have each describe what they see and tell a story about the picture

-have a check-in board with date, time, current news & weather
-share with group how you got to the session/rehearsal
-look out the window and state what you see (can use this to create characters & setting for improv)
-look at the clothing that people are wearing outside. What does it say about the weather?

-storytelling around a theme
-story/scene/improv something that everyone knows (ie. a scene from a Fairytale)
-picture display from their past (art & photographs)
-plays/skits & improv surrounding an everyday object (ie. a spoon)
-plays/skits & improv based on experiences of individuals/group
-song/rhythm circle

-each person moves around the room expressing their current emotion/mood without words
-imagine your favourite picture or image and create a movement that expresses it's essence. Create a rhythm/dance using that repeated movement
-have the group write their own name in the air and build upon those movements
-in pairs, recreate a task (ie. washing dishes) and turn these movements into a sequence

-lie down, relax and tense the various muscle groups starting with the face and moving down to the toes
-lie down, breathe in all the good things you would like to absorb, exhale and blow out all the negative things you'd like to rid yourself of

-play as/ become another person, animal or thing
-play as/be yourself but in a different place/situation
-isolate something about yourself and create a character around that one thing (ie. Mother)

-walk around the room concentrating on how you feel in that moment. Who else walks like that or who could? Create a character around this walk and give them a name and background/history. Change the setting of the room (ie. into a grocery store) and have all the characters interact as they would in that environment
-everyone are members of a shipwrecked crew on an island. Interact and organise yourself with others to find food and shelter. How will you get home? How do you interact with others? Do you want to go home? How do you interact with the locals?

1-main character & where they live
2-mission or task they must fulfil
3-person or thing that will help the main character
4-obstacle that stands in their way
5-how the main character copes/deals/overcomes the obstacle
6-how the story ends (does it end?)
*individuals may also create a storyboard to help show the group what their story looks like

-told to and shared with the group & reflected on
-told without the ending which members of the group can provide before finding out the original ending
-narrative can be performed by the group as it is read, rehearsed then performed
-members can add/change stories in group/partners before presenting
*stories can be a source of group/individual exploration revealing unspoken issues

~getting "out" of character and back to be being themselves~
-sit in 2 chairs (back and forth) one is the "character" chair and one is the "me" chair. While sitting in each chair they state the differences
-place a bucket/chest in the room for individuals to place within what they would like to "keep" from the role they played and a trash can for what they would like to "toss away"
-have the individuals think of ways they would like to "keep" and "toss away" feelings and emotions from the role they played (ie. "keep" it in a locket and "toss it away" by burning it)

-brief reminder that the session/rehearsal is coming to an end
-look towards things that are coming in the future
-concluding ritual (occurs at end of every session/rehearsal)
-reminder & time of next session/rehearsal
-ask individuals as to where they are off to afterwards
-group stands in circle facing outwards, clap, turn to face outwards then leave when they're ready
-restore room to order before returning to circle to say "goodbye" or "until next time"
-stand in circle and one-by-one state what they would like to take and what they would like to leave. After everyone has shared, they may leave
-"Hey-ho, hey-ho, it's off to _____ we go!"

"the Healing Drama" by Bannister, A.
"Drama, Psychotherapy & Psychosis..." by Casson, J.
"Drama for People with Special Needs" by Cattanach, A.
"Dramatherpy for People with Learning Disabilities" by Chesner, A.
"Drama Therapy Process, Technique & Performance" by Emunah, R.
"Dramatic Approaches to Brief Therapy" Gersie, A.
"Reflections on Therapeutic Storymaking" by Gersie, A.
"Drama and Healing:the Roots..." by Grainger, R.
"the Glass of Heaven" by Grainger, R.
"the Play's the Thing" by Jenkyns, M.
Dramatherapy, Theory & Practice (Vol. 1,2&3)" by Jennings, S.
"the Handbook of Dramatherapy" by Jennings, Cattanach, Mitchell, Chesner & Meldrum
"Drama as Therapy, Theatre as Living" by Jones, P.
"Drama Therapy" by Landy, R.
"Persona and Performance" by Landy, R.
"Dramatherapy Clinical Studies" by Mitchell, S.
"Discovering Self Through Drama & Movement: the Sesame Approach" by Pearson, J.
"Psychodrama" by Wilkins, P.

Somewhere along the way, we stopped playing,
letting loose and being silly.
Dramatherapy is a safe and supportive outlet
for people to express themselves freely
without fear of judgement or ridicule.
Through laughter and play,
we can heal ourselves from within.

More information on Dramatherapy can be found here:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Drama Games for Kids...AND Adults

~ ages 5-12 ~

When we were children, we were encouraged to laugh, play, dance and sing.
When we were children, it was "cute" for us to put on a little play or sing a song for Grandma.
As we grew-up we were told (more and more often) by society, that singing and dancing is for children and that we are "too old" for such childish games.
These games focus on giving children and parents an opportunity to be a little silly while improving listening skills and self-esteem.
Though these games are specified for children between the ages of 5 and 12, they have been tested and proven beneficial for adults as well.
I strongly encourage parents, guardians and teachers to get involved with our children.
As adults, we should all have the opportunity to play, laugh and dance little.
Let loose and enjoy these games!

"Run a Marathon"
No materials needed, works great in a large group. Imagination and physical warm-up.
Have everyone stand in a circle facing inward and tell the group that they are about to run a race.
They are just behind the starting line and they need to stretch their legs and pump themselves up for the win!
"On your mark! Get set! GO!" And your Off! Everyone is running on the spot as fast as they can, they're being cheered-on by their fans on the sidelines, they pass one of the other runners, they turn a corner, they jump over a log, they swim across a lake - It's up to you! Have them react to whatever you tell them and then - you cross the finish line! Walk it off, take some deep breaths and raise both your arms up in the air because you are the champion! This is a great warm-up activity to get everyone moving and hearts beating.

"Explore Your Environment"
No materials needed, works in any size of group. Imagination & physicality.
Everyone starts by walking around the pre-determind space in a random fashion (rather than in a circle or in one direction). Once everyone has explored the physical space - change the setting. "You are no longer in this room - now you are in the Arctic and the cold wind is blowing, snow is sticking to your eyebrows and nose hairs, you pull your coat tighter around you but the cold just keeps getting colder, your nose starts running as all the bones in your body start to freeze and SUDDENLY you have become a frozen statue." Continue to change the setting, environment, tempurature, situation, etc. This game is a great way to get children out of "life mode" and into "play mode". Something I like to add to the end of this game is tell everyone you are walking in a park and you are surrounded by friends you haven't seen in a long time. Tell them to approach everyone in the group with a warm smile, a handshake and a greeting like "Oh, I haven't seen you in such a long time!" or "It's so nice to see you; how've you been?" etc. This game encourages group involvement and respect for others.

"As the Wind Blows"
Tape or chairs needed, works best with a larger group. Focus on things in common vs. differences.
Everyone stands on a taped "x" in a circle or sits in chairs placed in a circle. There should be enough chairs or "x's" for everyone except one person. This person stands in the middle of the circle and says "As the wind blows, it blows everyone who has ______". It could be something they've done, something they have, their favourite colour or something they're wearing. Everyone in the circle who has whatever the person in the middle stated, runs from their spot into someone else's spot. There will always be one person left in the middle for the next round. After playing this game a few times, I like to add another dimension - have everyone give each other a high-five before finding a new seat. This is encouraging for kids to see and hear what they have in common with who. A great way to introduce children into a group or individuals to each other.

 One hoola-hoop, works best with a medium-large group. Teamwork & accomplishment.
Everyone stands in a circle holding hands. A Hoola-hoop is placed on one person's shoulder so that it is resting on their right or left shoulder at the top and is in between their legs at the bottom. Without letting go of hands - pass the hoola-hoop all the way around the circle. While doing so, encourage the group to cheer-on their group members. Individuals can help their neighbors get the hoop up and over them by lifting their arms or lowering them closer to the floor. It's fun and everyone is so excited after they did it! It's really fun to time it the first time then try to beat the time as a group.

"Human Machine"
No materials needed, works in any size group. Teamwork, focus, rhythm & listening.
Everyone stands (or sits if they choose) in a circle. One person starts by making a movement from the person on their left to the person on their right accompanied by a sound. This movement with the sound is repeated from left to right, left to right until a rhythm is heard and seen. The person on that person's right then makes a motion that continues from the motion presented to them. If the person who started, picks something up on their left and drops it in the air over the person on their right then THAT person needs to make their own movement (in some way) catch the object being dropped over them so they can continue the motion around the circle. Eventually, everyone in the circle will be receiving and passing an imaginary object around the circle with repeated movements and sound. If working with younger children - using a real object, such as a ball, might help them imagine the object but also keep track of where it is in the circle. A great game which encourages working together and "give & take".

"Led By the Nose"
No materials needed, works in any size group. Exploration, imagination & physicality.
Everyone begins by exploring the space provided. Once everyone is spread out and walking within the space (not in a circle or in any given direction) instruct the group that they are now being led by the nose. They will in turn push their nose forward as if their nose is steering them about the room. Change it up as often as you like. Be led by the elbows, the fingertips, your toes, your ears, your teeth, etc. This is a great exercise to get children (and adults) out of their minds and warm them up for physical activity. Individuals will also learn to show their actions outward rather than simply standing and talking - they allow their bodies to be primary expressive factor.

"Silent Mimes"
No materials needed, works in any size group. Imagination, listening & physicality.
Everyone begins by exploring their environment as in the previous game. Direct the group through various activities meanwhile having them remain silent without any words spoken or noises made. Some activities may include: your eating an ice-cream, you're walking a dog, you're picking strawberries, you're washing the dishes, you're picking flowers, you're trying on clothing, you're admiring yourself in the mirror, etc. This is a great game to have towards the end of drama games as it tends to calm down the group and prepare them for leaving the "play world" and getting back into "life mode".

"You're in the Middle of an Ocean..."
No materials needed, works individually and in groups. Imagination, calming/cool-down.
Have everyone find a place on the floor to lay down and have them lay on their backs facing the ceiling. Then have them close their eyes. Everything you say - they are to imagine in their minds while keeping their eyes closed. "You're in the middle of an ocean. The sky is clear and seagulls pass overhead. You hear the waves as they gently sway your raft. You place your hand in the cool water and feel it drift between your fingers..." You can add as many dimensions to the story as you like, whether there's little fish in the water or a boat passes by but try to keep your voice quiet and calming. I usually like to end this game with "...a family seagulls flies over you and -UH OH - one pooped on your head!" This gets everyone laughing again and is a great way to get them out of the relaxing/drama mode and back into reality without being too abrupt or having them fall asleep on you.

I have done these games with children from the ages of 5 right up to adults in their 40's and 50's.
I find the best way to ensure games are well received and that everyone participates is to show your excitment for the games. If you get into it - so will the people you are instructing.

*NOTE ~ at any point if a child or adult is uncomfortable with a game or wishes not to participate, do not force them. Instead, instruct them to simply remain with the group and watch or to sit quietly closeby and still in view. Everyone has different levels of comfort and it is important to respect that in individuals of all ages.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Stage Fright ~ and How to DEAL!

~brace's a long one~

"The most damaging influence on people in their initial exploration of acting scenes or delivering lines is trauma associated with stage fright."
-Gerald Lee Ratliff

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a book called "Coping with Stage Fright" by Gerald Lee Ratliff which was published in 1985. It got my gears turning. How do people cope with stage fright today? How does stage fright affect people locally in London, Ontario? What symptoms do people show, feel or go through? What are the primary triggers? I was on a mission!

Between this book and a survey I conducted amongst members of London, Ontario's theatre communtiy, I have finally organized the information collected.

First, here are the points I gathered from reading "Coping with Stage Fright":
-key elements which are afftected by stage fright are voice, body & breathing
-psychologists' point of view "stage fright is a mental state of apprehension"
-teachers' & students' point of view "stage fright is a state of bodily anxiety"
-clinical researchers' point of view "stage fright is an emotional state of fear"
-dictionary description "Stage fright" a nervousness & anxiety that affects voice, body and emotions"
-CURE: EXPERIENCE!!! only through experience can one learn to deal with, combat & defeat stage fright!
-Stage fright IS NOT an indication of a personality defect. N'or is it a sign that one is inferior, inept or  incompetent.
-Even the most seasoned actors often experience stage fright to some degree before a performance.
-Stage fright MAY be related to one's upbringing, meaning a result of negative or unpleasant experiences during childhood, which would explain why stage fright affects everyone differently and in various capacities.
-Stage fright (believe it or not) CAN be positive! It can be used to your benefit if harnessed properly to give your performance animation and vitality.
-control feelings and fear with frequent practice, self-confidence and thorough preparation
-General Symptoms include: scratchy/cracking voice, lines being delivered quickly, weak knees, loss of breath, dry mouth/lips, increased heart-rate, fidgety hands/fingers/feet

-practice speaking in public/to strangers
-audition OFTEN!
-read aloud
-research the script & role thoroughly
-find out what you do and the image you portray when you are nervous, feeling anxious or threatened (facial expressions, pacing, biting nails, wrapping your hands, tugging at your sleeves, etc.). Once you are aware of these, you can work on eliminating them during a performance so that VISUALLY, you appear cool, calm & collected :)

When conducting my little survey, I had only 3 questions I was looking for answers to:
#1. If you experience butterflies/nerves before a show, what does it feel like for you? What symptoms specifically do you experience?
#2. Do you experience different forms of stage fright depending on the role/production/situation?
#3. What steps do you take to prevent and deal with stage fright?

Out of 45 people I contacted, 14 people responded to my questions. To "protect their identities" I have changed each of their names to something I found to be entertaining...because they said I could...and I can :)
This is what they had to say regarding stage fright:

Trolol: "...only recall getting real stage fright once, and that was during my grade 6 class speech...I was woefully unprepared, and kept forgetting what I was to say... the previous year to the city finals, so I was way too cavalier in my attitude...I got a nice lesson in humility as well as preparedness."

Candy: "...when I do get nerves it's usually in the last few rehersals...fight or flight feeling. Like I'm not ready to take it to the next level and I just want to run away. Once the costumes are on and the audience is filing in I generally feel pretty calm, excited but relaxed about it."

Headwound Harry: "In general, I don't nervous... I like to carry around a glass of water and drink while delivering my lines - I believe it shows everyone that I'm solid, not nervous at all as no trembling can be seen from the glass."

the Madame: "I'm most nervous when my husband is in the audience because he knows me best...
I think he's still unsure about all this theatre stuff"

the Painter: "mind freeze -- almost an out-of-body experience but not quite (pretty much the opposite of where your brain needs to be for acting!); trouble with gross motor coordination...I'm much more nervous when people whom I know well are in the audience. Also I'm less nervous when singing than acting, but if I can find my character it all fades away...nerves are always worse than usual when a director, stage manager, choreographer, etc., has been harsh or overly critical with the cast in general or me personally...In order of importance my steps are to stretch, ground myself with a meditation, rehearse whatever major blocking I have & check lines...the body part is super important for me, since I live in my head so much."

Emmylarou: "I haven't really got stage fright per say but I tend to get super excited just before the show starts... I guess for me just before a show I need to make sure I take a few deep breaths so I am calm and make sure I don't rush through my lines."

Sandy: "I usually only get stage fright before a musical performance. I start to doubt myself and feel like if I don't quickly run over all of my songs then I'll surely fail. So while pacing the green room, I quietly sing through all of my stuff!...more nervous when I know my family/friends are in the audience...
Once backstage, I do a quick prayer."

Jason: " heart rate would increase, there would be activity in the area of my solar plexis chakra, and I might take a whiz 4 times before the show...[someone he met mentioned "they're too nervous and can never sit down before a show"]anticipation of the show and the uncertainty of trying out new material (triggers)... Other comedians have said that without this nervous/anticipatory energy your show will probably be flat... I would recognize the sensations and say to myself, "This is not how I want to be." Then I would take a deep breath or two, I was quite confident that eventually it would go away...In the end, confidence in the material, a determination not to have uncomfortable feelings of nervousness, and the knowledge that it will be a pleasant experience for both myself and the audience keep my emotional state active but positive."

Captain: "My first show - butterflies were almost unbearable...nauseous before the show, and yelling the line out relieved the feeling...before a show I will feel sometimes slightly anxious especially if friends or family are in the audience, the feeling subsides almost immediately when I step on stage and turns into an adrenaline rush, that I feel improves my performance...butterflies and jitters, at different levels of intensity depending on the situation...knowing that friends and family are in the audience seems to  impact the level of intensity for me..I didn’t have any success with breathing exercises, or meditation...I actually relish it (pre-show jitters), much like I would a roller coaster ride.  It is part of the joy of acting for me, as a matter of fact if it ever went away entirely I am not sure I would do it anymore, as I feel it is a bi-product of passion for me."

Laughing Patty: "1. I feel self conscious. Just before performing I feel picky about my costume, concerned that I may have lipstick on my teeth, ect. The nervousness and anxiousness I feel weeks, or days before the show is harder to cope with than the day of the show or the moments before I go on... I'm even more nervous at that point, but it's like I've reached the point of no return and have nothing to lose. Sink or swim! Once the performance begins, flow kicks in, and I just become immersed in my character or speech.
2. It feels basically the same whether it's a speech, play, a meeting with my boss :o) Adrenaline... the dosage may just vary depending on the risk involved , and my estimation of my competence and experience.
3. Desensitization. Exposure to as many situations as possible that cause fear, discomfort and uncertainty. I don't swim with sharks, but I'll take any healthy opportunity to face a fear, feel the adrenaline and do it anyway. The more I get used to functioning under the influence of adrenaline, the more control I have over those feelings.. and in a wider range of situations. A few years ago I used to be extremely shy and it held me back... now I feel there's not much that can stop me."

Fat Poop (his personal choice for an "I get really nervous before every show which involves pacing and major butterflies...My level of nervousness depends on what I am doing in the show. I worry mostly about lines (will they or won't they be there)...After 2 minutes of being out "there" everything is forgotten...I always think..."WWHED?" and then I imagine several verisons of his semi-transparent head floating in a circle around mine giving me advice all at the same time until I eventually go insane..."

the Man: "I've never had stage fright. Can't remember ever being nervous about walking out on stage."

the Boss: "I generally don't get nervous about performing in plays/musicals. I'm more nervous about new experiences...My big thing is checking to make sure I have pants on. Honestly. If I'm wearing pants, then all is well. But overall, I'm usually not nervous...I get more nervous about casting (as director) because I am hoping and praying I get a good turnout and that I find the right person for the roles...
once the show starts I really can't do anything if something goes wrong!"

One Tough Cookie: "I still harbour some unresolved fears of 'stating my case' and telling my truth...Up until now, I have many experiences of being closed down by family, teachers, bosses, and even former friends, to the point that it shows in my body language and closed throat, which is proof positive that their comments and beliefs hit me hard and I'm still in the process of 'finding my voice' so to speak...I'm choosing not to care what people think or say anymore, but I still feel my body go into 'fight or flight' response near a stage, and I stop breathing, my heart thumps, I think I'll pass out, my words catch in my throat, I swallow a lot rather than express myself, and therefore I freakout even with a small audience...Some of my best new strategies and focus for success: * to give myself PERMISSION to be HEARD!...*ALLOW MYSELF to TAKE UP SPACE!! ...* to learn is how to BREATHE fully and deeply!!...* to be truly aware of body language and voice projection - this means to speak AS IF YOU'RE ENTITLED TO!...* to write on a sheet of paper "What's working" on one side, and "What's Not Working" on the other side, and have the list of "what's working" be longer than the list of "what's not working!" That can work with anything I'm dealing with at any given moment, not just stage fright!..create a vision of those butterflies "flying in formation!"

After reading both "Coping with Stage Fright" and the responses from my fellow theatre thespians, I have concluded that there are 5 main causes of stage fright and the best way to cope with them are:

#1. Uncertainty in Oneself
CAUSE: you can't remember all your lines, you feel unprepared, your voice becomes low, quiet, scratchy or hard to understand SO, you speed-up to try and get your lines out, over and done with as soon as possible.
FIX: Read the entire script over & over, not JUST your lines. Be familiar with the characters, the actors and the lines. Know what happens, what's coming next and keep track of things that have gone wrong during rehearsals and be prepared for anything. Warm-up your voice prior to a performance.

#2. Knowledge of Family/Friends in the Audience
CAUSE: you've asked your family and friends to come see you in a play...then they show-up and TELL you they're coming and which night OR you go onstage and recognize someone in the very front row SURPRISE people you know are watching you! You want to do the best you can do so you over-emphasize certain lines or maybe indulge in your character a bit more than usual. You try to be "funny" and thus your performance is artificial and over-done. Your eyes meet and then you conciously try to cover-up the fact that you just met someone's gaze in the audience - guess what - the entire audience just noticed you quickly look away from someone and now are wondering about the actor and not the character.
FIX: It can be very rewarding having friends and family in an audience to support you. If it makes you nervous to KNOW that they are there - ask them to come and not tell you when they're coming. Practice does make perfect in this case and the best way to learn to deal with this form of stage fright is to experience it over and over again until you get used to it.

#3. Your Imagination
CAUSE: you are about to go onstage and you start to think about your first line, how the scene is supposed to be played out, what you are supposed to do, where you are supposed to go, etc. Your imagination begins to play out a scenario of you missing a line or not being in the right place at the right time, forgetting a line, messing-up another actor, your heart-rate increases, your palms become sweaty, your throat dries out and SUDDENLY you hear your cue and go onstage to perform your scene. This is NOT the mindset you want to start your scene with.
FIX: Learn to control your mind. This is much easier said than done. The very first step is recognizing that you have an over-active imagination.  Meditation and breathing excerises where you focus entirely on your breath are great ways to get yourself "out of your head" and focusing on a simple task. 

#4. Thinking vs. Reacting
CAUSE: you're onstage in the middle of a scene, you're swaying, there are knots in your stomache, you're thinking and focusing on your next line and waiting anxiously for another actor to deliver your cue so you can say it. Waiting for your cue from an actor while thinking about your next line vs. listening to the other character speak is one of the most common causes of an actor freezing onstage.
FIX: Instead of imagining ahead of time what may or may not happen in a scene, try to focus on being present IN the scene. Be aware of your cues (verbal and non-verbal) and learn to go with the flow. If you stumble on a line, bump into furniture, cut another actor off, skip a line - USE IT! Stay in character and use it. A favourite saying of mine is "If the audience doesn't know you didn't."

#5. Thoughts of Being Judged
CAUSE: you're in the middle of a scene or you just delivered your first line and, wouldn't you know it, you stumbled, you lost your voice, your voice cracked, you messed-up a word, you stuttered, etc. Your mind immediately starts thinking about all the people who just watched you mess up and are laughing at you from inside their minds. You begin to sweat, lick your lips, rock on the spot, your heart races and your chest tightens up. What may have happend is that the audience, in fact, didn't realize you messed-up until you started to behave as though you had.
FIX: Stay in Character! Whatever happens (and believe me STUFF HAPPENS!) stay in character. React as your character would. If you stumble, react to your own stumble as your character would. If you bump into a piece of furniture, don't say "Oh sh*$#t" unless your character would do so ;)  People are not watching a group of actors playing on a stage, people are in the mindset of watching an alternate reality of REAL people playing out a REAL situation. Try to keep in mind that the audience is not watching YOU, they are watching your CHARACTER.

I will end this post by saying "you are your worst enemy". Know yourself, prepare and get experience.
Feel confident in yourself and all the hard work you have put into a production.
If you don't feel prepared - you prob'ly aren't prepared enough.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Closing Night is Bittersweet

~Stepping up to the stage door on closing night, you take a deep breath in and shake off the nagging thought reminding you that tonight will be the last time you perform on this stage with these actors.

You have rehearsed with them for countless hours in a room, you've run lines with them over coffee, you've gone out for beer or martinis together to reward yourselves for a good rehearsal/night or show.

~Heading backstage to ensure all your props are in their proper place (like you should be doing every performance night) you find, this time, it's different. Each item you pick up and put in it's place seems to speak out to you and say "don't put me down; don't let go of me."

You have rehearsed with various swords, guns or props but you've been assigned certain ones that only YOU touch and only YOU keep with you when you go onstage. These props have not just been part of your costume, they've been a part of the person you have created and shared onstage.

~Entering the Green Room, you make sure the coffee is on and grab something to nibble on before heading to the change room. In the changeroom, you put on your costume piece by piece, little by little to savour this last time you will put these items on.

A costume represents different things to different people. To some it is just an outfit you put on to look like someone (or something) else. To others it is part of a system which enables you, the actor to forget about being "you" and focus on creating, becoming and maintaining a portrayal of someone else. You have been this person for months and on closing night, it may very well be the last time you portray that person.

~Act One begins and you are either onstage, in the wings or in a changeroom listening to the action over a speaker. Rather than talking with your fellow actors backstage and joking around (as much as you usually do), you find yourself listening to and hanging on every word that is being spoken. You are paying attention to the words and also the actor delivering them. You take this opportunity to appreciate their work one final time.

Closing night is often filled with cards being passed around for people to sign, pictures being taken, hugs being shared and some tears. Sometimes closing night also means "closing night pranks" (which I will get more into in a future post). Pranks should never change what the audience has seen onstage, it should never be done to an actor who you do not feel could "handle it" and it should be fun AND respectful to the actor being played. These pranks, I like to think, are more like last night fun. A little something for the actors to share in, laugh about and to become part of the story and journey of that production.

~Act Two finishes and you wait in the wings for your time to step onstage for your final bow. You want to savour the applause and cheers and also that moment when you share the stage with your entire cast. It is a strange feeling on closing night when that curtain closes.

Usually, once the curtain closes, all the actors quickly run offstage to the changeroom to get out of their costume and back into their own clothes so they can go out to the lobby and see their fans who came to support them. On closing night however, the curtain closes and none of the actors move. They all stand still in their place facing the curtain. Slowly they turn to each other to congratulate their fellow actors on a job well done before finally leaving the stage.

~After taking your final bow, you leave the stage and place your props back in their final 'resting places'. As you place the various items down, you hold them for a moment to appreciate them and the journey you've shared together. You take off your costume and place it in a pile or bag with everyone else's costume to get washed and, although it's "just a costume" you say Goodnight or Goodbye to that character it represented - forever loved; never to be forgotten.

Once the stage and theatre have been cleared, the actors usually go to one of the actors' homes for the cast party where their is much food and booze. It is a fun time when all are together, sharing jokes, telling stories of things that happened both onstage and off. Fun awards might be handed out to acknowledge each actor and crew member for their hard work. Some people leave early, some people leave a little later, and some people get so smashed that they don't remember their names, where they are or how they got there and end up staying the night :)

In the morning however, no matter how hungover (or still drunk) the actors are, they come together one last time for the sometimes dreaded "strike". This means everyone involved in the production comes back to the theatre to take down the entire set and clean up the mess. Depending on how large the production was, it can take an entire afternoon.

~The set has been taken down, the garbage is put out, stage is painted and the green room is sparkling. Now the actors say goodbye.

It's bittersweet to think that your body will have a break and you'll be able to go to bed at a decent hour but, in exchange, you will no longer be coming to that stage door and sharing a stage with people you have come to trust, admire and love.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

A Special Note to ALL Directors Out There

In a previous post of mine, [click here to view] regarding an experience I had working with a certain director, I mentioned how important it is for a director to be part of the group, get excited with the actors and inspire them to be the best they can be in order to get the best performance out of them. In that post, I also pointed out how devastating it can be for an actor when their director is not involved.

I can now say from experience what affect an emotionally involved, caring, considerate and understanding director has on a cast of actors.

To all Directors out there who wish to inspire their actors, THIS is how it's done:

During the auditions, express your passion for the script, your outlook and expectations for the production.

During rehearsals, allow room for input from the actors. Ask them for their opinion and ideas. Prepare your own ideas and things you want to try at rehearsals ahead of time so that when it comes to start time - you can give the actors a clear picture of all you want to accomplish.

During the cue-to-cue, thank the actors for their time and keep them busy. Actors who are passionate are eager and willing to work and help. Actors love to be put to work as long as their assistance is acknowledged.

During the tech run, be as prepared as possible and keep record of all technical cues. Levels and cues can be set prior to bringing the actors in. Doing all the "technical stuff" at a time without the actors shows them respect. Actors do not help with "technical stuff" in a production. Doing all you can before bringing them in tells the actors that you value their time and do not wish to waste any of it.

Opening night, prior to opening the house and the handing over of the keys to the stage manager, write a speech. WHY NOT?! You have worked with your actors for months, told them what to do and where to go when. You have been watching over them during hours of rehearsals and cared for them by giving them direction. You have done all you can to ensure each actor gives the best performance they are able to. Before you hand the show over, take that opportunity to speak directly to your cast and crew. Give them words of encouragement, remind them of things they have gone through and things that have happend along the way. Remind the actors where they started, and where they have got to; all they have acheived.

In a recent allocution by the director to the actors of Treasure Island at the Palace on opening night, a sword was gifted to the fight captain, tears of joy were shed and a song was sung. Below is the song which the director sang to their actors:

"Is there more I should have said?
Back when you were pictures in my head...
I'm very glad you came to play
Cause you folks gave me laughter every day.
Remember when the stage caved in, cause you were rockin' out?
I rather think your lunacy will be hard to live without.
I'd like to go back to the start
See, you all have a place inside my heart.
And please don't take this as a dare....
But, there's nothing you can break, Mark can't repair.
It's great when we're together and you share your favourite quotes
And though they are unbearable, well, I still love Dean's jokes.
Though I'm looking forward to my bed,
When thinking of the end, I feel some dread.
I hope we do this all again
And you can make me laugh like you did then
I know you'll do your best for Joe
As he takes the reigns to run this show.
So now it's yours to take instead
Thanks for being pictures in my head."

[this Director was inspired by Kermit the Frog to inspire us all]

As I stated in my previous post, Directors have the power to break an actor's heart or fill it with love for them to share with others for years to come.

Don't ABUSE or NEGLECT this power. USE it!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cue-to-Cues and Tech Runs

~what they are and how to survive them~

Cue-to-Cue: occurs before the tech run and dress rehearsal of a production. This is when the director (with the light and sound crew) set light and sound levels. Actors or 'bodies' may be asked to stand in certain areas onstage to ensure that they are properly lit, not standing in dark spots as well as delivering some of their lines to ensure any background noises (ie. thunder) does not overpower the actor's voice.

Tech Run: occurs after the cue-to-cue and before the dress rehearsal. This is when the actors go through the entire play with full energy, volume and at the proper speed for the benefit of the tech crew (commonly known as the 'techies' or 'techs'). The crew will ensure (or try to ensure) all light and sound cues are timed properly to coincide with the actions of the performers. Tech runs will include all light, sound effects, atmospheric effects (like fog) and music.

More often than not, a cue-to-cue will take hours to prepare for and sometimes days to get through. All set pieces need to be placed in their proper places to ensure they are properly lit and if the people at the back of the theatre setting the light levels are the same people moving the furniture around on stage, it can be a grueling task.

All actors can assume that a cue-to-cue will mean a lot of starting their lines or a scene and stopping, starting over, jumping ahead and skipping lines, a lot of standing around, moving around and waiting until the director wants you to do something or needs you to do something else. A cue-to-cue is similar to a traffic jam or a 30-car pile-up.

In order to get through a cue-to-cue and a tech run, the best advice I can give to actors is to SHUT-UP, LISTEN and do exactly what you're told to do WHEN you're told to do it. Do that, and you'll be fine :)

We all know how actors can get excited, carried away and lost in the magical world of the play they are in. During cue-to-cues and tech runs, it is imparative that all actors are patient and listen carefully to instructions in order to ensure a smooth and drama-free time.

It is also imortant to have fun! I can't say it enough! You can have fun and still listen for instructions from your director or the stage manager. If you have, for example, 30 actors onstage acting as pirates, the stage manager has informed them that they need to reset gunfire sound effects and it could take 5 minutes, the actors should have the freedom to laugh, giggle, make jokes and maybe sing some pirate songs in the meantime. I tip my hat to any director who can relax, laugh and encourage their cast to bond even if it's during a 5 minute black-out during a tech run.

Jokes always seem to come up during cue-to-cues and tech runs whether it's someone in the booth forgetting to let the actors know that the stage is about to be plunged into pitch darkness OR fail to warn them that a sound effect for a large explosion is about to go off, fun happens. As long as the techies, actors, crew and director can work together to communicate, express concerns and laugh; cue-to-cues and tech runs can be a wonderful experience during a production for all to remember.

*NOTE: Speaking from experience, if you are planning on holding or attending a cue-to-cue or tech run that will last longer than 3 hours - please organize a potluck lunch/dinner with all attending. This will ensure everyone is fed, no one gets cranky and forces everyone to take a break around the 3-hour mark when the brain begins to slow down. Everyone knows an actor with an empty stomache can only play "the dead guy".

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Director's Checklist for the Audition

The script has been chosen, the royalties have been paid for and the theatre space has been booked.
Now it's time to find some actors!

-The Director must decide what they are looking for in their actors and narrow down the list which may include any and all of the following: Experience, Willingness to Learn, Compatability with Others, Personality, Reputation, Resume, Physical Appearance as per Characters Described, Ability to Take Direction, Ability to Read/Perform in front of others and Charisma.
-The Director/Producer must book the audition space and pay for it if required.
-Audition Notices should be posted no later than a month in advance in newspapers, mass emails, Facebook, Community Boards and other outlets online.
-It must be decided as to whether or not the auditions will be held on a one-on-one basis or in a group setting and whether or not any part or all of the audition will be recorded or photographed.
-The Director must choose what they want actors to bring to the audition which can be any one or all of the following: resume, headshot, monologue, acting reel, certificates/diplomas or letter of recommendation.
-The Director and Production Team can (if they choose) select pieces of the script to be used in either a group or one-on-one audition and decide whether or not these selections will be available for actors to read prior to the auditions.

-copies of the script for actors to read if they choose
-character descriptions for roles being auditioned for
-copies of script segments or cold reads
-Information Sheets for actors to fill-out as they arrive
-brief outline of items to be discussed and activites to be held
-any props or costumes (if any) you want available to the actors to 'play with'

1. Greet everyone as they arrive and make them feel welcome and at ease
(no one wants to see a paranoid, scared or intimidated actor attempt to audition or recite a monologue)
2. Take pictures of the individual actors if you are doing so.
3. Introduce yourself, the production team, the theatre company & the production itself
4. Verbalize the expectations of actors if they are cast and ask anyone to leave if they cannot meet them
(ie. arriving on-time to rehearsals, attending a certain number of rehearsals/week, being accepting of others regardless race, colour, religion, age, orientation, etc.)
5. Inform actors as to when and how they will be contacted if they are cast.
(I also encourage all directors to contact ALL actors to inform them as to whether they've been cast OR not. This is civil, respectful and is an excellent opportunity to give the actors (who were not cast) feedback as to what they did wrong and how they can improve for their next audition. If possible, contact ALL actors to show them you are thankful and grateful that they took the time to audition in the first place - they may audition for you again)
6. Have the actors introduce themselves to the group by sharing their name, an interesting fact about them, why they are auditioning, their interest in theatre, etc.
7. With all the "business" out of the way, now you can have fun with your actors and start the auditions :)

- Start with a group warm-up. This will get everyone on their feet, help them to relax AND you will be able to see how they feel about being up with a larger group.
- Hold a group Improv session. This could be anything from having everyone up at the same time and walking around the room interacting (or not) as certain characters, in certain situtations, weather conditions, or with specific character traits. This is another great way to get actors loosened up and see how comfortable they are with maybe getting a little silly :)
- Have two-five actors stand and read and/or perform a part of a scene from the play. Give them direction as to the characters they are portraying, what has just occured previously in the scene and what their objectives are.
- Have one actor stand in front of the group at a time and either read a monologue or a poem as a specific character from the play.
- Have actors auditioning for a certain role perform a simple action that the character does during the play. Examples: screaming in fear/rage/anger, crying, passing out, shocked gasp, scary face, drunken hiccup, hungover, freaked-out as though seeing a monster, etc.
- Storytelling Excercise: Actors stand/sit in a circle. The Director gives the group a title of the story. One person says 3 words then the person to the right of them says the next 3 words that must continue the story until it has gone around the circle or until everyone is laughing too hard to continue. This is a great activity to see actors interact with and listen to each other.
- Hot Seat: 3 actors sit in chairs side by side. The 2 actors on the ends must compete for the attention of the actor in the middle by any means necessary (within reason) and without physically touching them. This is a great ice-breaker and gives actors the chance to let loose a bit.
- Body Language: actors spread around the room. The director calls an emotion, thought or feeling and the actors situate themselves in a still pose (and without sound) which they think portrays what has been asked for.  The director can then move throughout the room and discuss specific examples of what works and what doesn't and why. This gives a chance for actors to listen, learn and get feedback. This is a great way to promote interactions with everyone present - not just the director.

Whether you are a director or an actor at an audition - ALWAYS REMEMBER to have fun!