Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday, 27 July 2012

Today's post is going to be a little different than my previous ones. Something amazing has happened in these past two days and I really want to share it with you guys. This might all come out a little jumbled because I’m so excited to finally put it down on…computer, so please bear with me :)

Since I actually became interested in theatre, I had always had this feeling like theatre was about something bigger than life. For some time now I've known that it's actually pretty realistic. Even those odd pieces with aliens or whatever have some realistic, human basis to them. I always say that theatre isn't about giving lines to a person and screaming "Action!” It's so much more than that. I think today it finally hit me exactly how much more.

Aren't we cute???? :D

These past two days were odd for me. We spent most of our time with Andrew, whom I love. He taught me something I wish I had learned ages ago. Now, because there are certain people who may or may not read this blog, I cannot go into much detail about what I had previously learned for theatre. What I can say is that is what not very useful information. I work best when I'm given specific instruction, which is exactly what I’m given here. When I say instruction, I’m not talking about blocking or anything like that; I’m talking about even before you touch a script. I’m so very thankful to have had an amazing acting coach who indirectly prepared me for the rigorous training I’m receiving here at RADA. She’s always been hard on me and would rarely compliment me unless I reached a breakthrough in my work; even then, she continued to push me to become a better actor and to study all sides of theatre, not just the script. Here at RADA, I’ve been taught a very special thing. It’s kind of hard to type out, so I’ll just give you the jist of what he said.

The bottom line: An actor’s gift is to embody stories, not characters.

As artists it is our job, our duty to relay information to an audience. Honestly, all a good actor is is a really good storyteller who knows how to communicate with you. Information is how we communicate with the world. Let the emotion happen; never force it or any emotional state. If you do so, you suddenly become that untouchable stock character that theatre-goers cringe to see onstage. The information should always be your first priority because that’s what an audience responds to. As human beings, we don’t like to be told what to feel, so why wouldn’t that also apply to a character?

In order to do this, Andrew talked to us about basic human need. I know I’ve personally been taught (at one time) that “to want” was the way you found purpose in a scene. What I know now completely changes that. Stakes must ne unbelievably high for an actor onstage. There must be a life-changing, life or death reason why you do or say something. You can live without something you “want”….but what about something you “have to have”?

Yeah, I thought it was odd, too when I first heard it.

Have to have. What the heck is that? It’s what you can’t live without. If that thing didn’t exist, you would be easily frustrated and annoyed. This is what allows for a show to be different every night because you have to have certain things sometimes and not others. Instead of playing “sad” or “angry” in a scene, use the text! That’s what it’s there for! The text is your basis for everything in a play, well that and good direction. Using “have to have’s” is way more useful for me because it doesn’t take a lot of effort. There are a lot of general have to have’s to choose from, so you make them more specific by saying, “I have to have________, so my strategy is (to) ________”. For example, I’ll use my scene in Romeo and Juliet. I play Nurse when she returns to Juliet to tell her of Romeo’s marriage proposal. I said to myself, “In this scene, I have to have calmness, so my strategy is to get Juliet to leave me alone”. Eventually, I shifted to, “I have to have understanding, so my strategy is to reassure Juliet that all is OK”. When I stand in the wings, I close my eyes and I hear Andrew say, “Feel the floor; it’s there to support you. What do you have to have and how do you get it? Remember, this scene isn’t about you or the Nurse or Juliet; it’s about the information you must give to everyone. What you have to say is important, and it will get muddled if you only play emotions. Open your eyes and stay connected. Go”.

I started the scene with no preconceived emotions and just had my have to have’s in mind. Without anything else bogging me down, the scene went beautifully! I was so ecstatic. As I watched the other groups, I realized: This is everything I want. I want this feeling every day. I have to have this feeling every day…and my strategy is to audition and audition and audition until I get into a school like (if not) RADA.

What freaked me out the most about this method of have to have (other than the fact that is somehow worked) is that you can use it with yourself. I know I have to have connection and love with/from others, so my strategy in life has become to make friends quickly and make sure we stay in contact. It's one of the hardest things in the world for an actor to turn the attention onto themselves and really check in with themselves. Just like with a script, my have to have's will keep changing as I keep's normal.

Andrew made sure that we understood how important it was for us to know our scripts (and to begin to get to know ourselves) backwards and forwards. Like I’ve mentioned before, he’s a very technical director, but when it comes to putting a show on its feet, he’ll wait until the very last second to block it. We didn’t stage our scenes until today, the last day of Shakespeare. I’m so happy that we didn’t because it made so much of a difference to have all of that undivided time to really understand our scenes, and our scene partners, like the back of our hand.

I'm not sure if you can clearly see Andrew (my teacher) in the back on the left side...haha
I know this all must seem confusing and unclear for the most part, but there’s just no other way to explain what I’m feeling. I feel so blessed to have worked with such an incredible director and group of 13 other young actors. I feel terrified of what this means for me when I go back home and return to my other theatre homes. I'm anxious about my future as a whole and how I think this experience has helped me make some decisions about what I want...what I have to have. We might not know each other on an extremely personal level (like what happened at Governor’s school), but I certainly know/respect/love these actors as the amazing actors that they are/have become. There aren’t words to describe all that I’ve learned in just five short days…It’s very hard to think that I have an entire second week for Contemporary Works. What’s funny in all of this is that Andrew didn’t just teach us Shakespeare. He taught us how to work with ANY script and, more significantly, ourselves as actors and as people.

So, with one week down and one to go, I’m feeling more than bittersweet….

I'll just leave it at that for now.

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