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Review: Directing Actors

Printed From: Community Theater Green Room
Category: Producing Theater
Forum Name: Acting
Forum Discription: Q&A about auditions, character development and other aspects of the craft
URL: http://www.communitytheater.org/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=2006
Printed Date: 5/18/24 at 10:12pm
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 8.05 - http://www.webwizforums.com


Topic: Review: Directing Actors
Posted By: POB14
Subject: Review: Directing Actors
Date Posted: 9/03/06 at 7:12pm

Several weeks ago, Green Room member ?castMe? suggested a book, Directing Actors by Judith Weston.  CastMe said this about this book:

I read this book and had a feeling similar to that I imagine religious zealots feel when they feel "god".

Pretty high praise, that.   Even better, CastMe offered to buy the book from me if I didn't like it.  How could I refuse?

The book, on its face, is a manual for newer film directors; a primer in working with actors.  However, as CastMe said, it can be profitably approached as an acting text for stage as well. 

I echo CastMe's enthusiasm for this book.  While not, perhaps, reaching the level of religion or cheesecake, the book is a wonderful, no-nonsense guide to finding the actions and objectives in each scene.  I wish I'd had the book months ago, when I was working with a director who, it would seem, spoke a different language than I did.  It would have helped me translate his direction into something I could use, and given me permission for my feelings and direction to my work.

I join CastMe in highly recommending this book.  I do find one thing confusing, however.  In the discussion that prompted this recommendation, CastMe said this:

It doesn't matter how you [as an actor] feel....it doesn't matter what you're thinking or whether you're in a good mood or hungry or horny or if your feet smell. All the audience every knows is what you do. 

This strikes me as the exact opposite of what Ms. Weston says.  She spends entire chapters teaching us how to give actors images and objectives to give life to their lines.  For example, from p. 112:

When a character has a telephone conversation, the actor needs to create the image (a sound image as well as visual image) of a voice on the other end that he is responding to.

I suspect now that I just misunderstood what CastMe was saying; that the quote above was just hyperbole, and that CastMe knows full well that the internal life of the actor is vital to the performance, but was simply pointing out that it must be shared with the audience, or it's useless.

My thanks to CastMe for these treasure-words.  Any more book recommendations, pass them along! 



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POB
Old Bugger, Curmudgeon, and Antisocial B**tard



Replies:
Posted By: theactordavid
Date Posted: 9/05/06 at 10:08am
Originally posted by POB14

I do find one thing confusing, however.  In the discussion that prompted this recommendation, CastMe said this:

It doesn't matter how you [as an actor] feel....it doesn't matter what you're thinking or whether you're in a good mood or hungry or horny or if your feet smell. All the audience every knows is what you do. 

This strikes me as the exact opposite of what Ms. Weston says.  She spends entire chapters teaching us how to give actors images and objectives to give life to their lines.  For example, from p. 112:

When a character has a telephone conversation, the actor needs to create the image (a sound image as well as visual image) of a voice on the other end that he is responding to.

I suspect now that I just misunderstood what CastMe was saying; that the quote above was just hyperbole, and that CastMe knows full well that the internal life of the actor is vital to the performance, but was simply pointing out that it must be shared with the audience, or it's useless.

Astute observation.  I believe in one of my Viola Spolin books, where she records a "class", often her students do not perform an exercise to her liking.  She tells them she did not believe in what they were doing.  They often replied (in explaining their motivation), "Well, I was thinking about how my father left my mother when I was young." And her reply was always something like "And how are we the audience supposed to know that???"

I like this idea, and it's not original: imagine standing on a sidewalk watching two people through a store-front window.  You can't hear them, their words, their vocal tone - all you get is the visual of what they do.  From that, you can often determine what's happening between them. The body language, gestures, eye-rolling, glancing about, etc. 

In a workshop, I'll give an actor an instruction such as "be angry", or "be bored".  We know that those are emotions, and as such are not actable in their purest existence.  So how do you act angry or bored? By your actions.  You "do" things that an audience will associate with the emotional context, whether it's movement or postion or vocal delivery.  And when you, as an actor, do that, are you really angry or bored?  Of course not.  It's about what you do, that is what the audience receives.

The internal life an actor imbues a character with is helpful only to him or her in the presentation of that character to the audience.  They will never know of the character's father always missed her birthday party, or the mother never went to a school recital.  It's how you the actor use that to create the adult character on stage that avoids rejection and commitment and love.

An audience may not understand your words, or maybe they mishear them, or don't hear them.  But they see you.  The visual is always "on".  There are no closeups on stage.  If you're onstage, you're "in the shot", even when you have no lines.  Be worth watching. 

 



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There are no small roles, only roles with a low line-load and minimal stage time.

http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com



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