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#197957 - 03/03/11 07:31 PM Re: spacing conventions [Re: Avy]
LukeJavan8 Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/23/08
Posts: 6592
Loc: Land of the Flat Water
Me too, I think theater is fascinating. Ask away, Avy.
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#198315 - 03/15/11 06:56 AM Re: spacing conventions [Re: Avy]
Tromboniator Offline
old hand

Registered: 05/10/10
Posts: 832
Loc: Alaska
Originally Posted By: Avy
That I agree with. The writer has no business writing stage directions anyway -IMHO. I meant the tension in the dialogue - in writing the words of the dialogue to create tension/emotion. Sometimes the words of some playwrights are so strong I wonder if they leave no place for the actor to work. Do you prefer dialogue that works just for the plot rather than strongly suggests the character because character is what you will do and the strong suggestion in the words of the dialogue gives you no room to experiment. It is easy for a writer to nail a character so that there room left for pluralism.
If I am not clear enough, I'll just drop this.
I enjoyed reading your example. Funnee. smile
I wanted to ask another question about acting, and acting is about words and langauge...


Five years ago I got to play Lear. I really resent how much the playwright limited my scope!

Whoa! I guess I've been gone a while. I've been busy at the high school, assistant director of this year's musical (RENT), which happens in ten days. Schools are closed this week for "spring" break.

Avy, Yours is a very complex question, and I've been flip-flopping on an answer. I think where I come out is that a character with lots of information provided is just a different kind of challenge from one who hasnít. If the character is muscle-bound by the writing, probably the whole play is like that, and thus not very good. I don't think I've ever been cast in a role in which I felt that it wouldn't really matter who played it, that it would always come out the same, if that's what you're asking. In general, the more lines I have the more information I have about the character. Depending on how I approach it, that could mean less space to work in or more material to build with. The latter, I think, is the healthier, more fruitful attitude. That's the key: the attitude that the actor brings. Regardless of the role, you work with what you're given. Again in general, the roles with more lines, or more lines spoken about them, are the ones more central to the action, so that the plot action is driven by who they are, how they must act, so in that sense the writing is limiting, but in a positive way. The so-called minor characters (I'm a very egalitarian person: I do not believe that the the larger the role the more important it is. It is the same with the people playing the roles; and I despise actors who think they're inherently superior to, and more intelligent than, the shy young woman who's running the sound.) have to be built in a more round-about way. If the playwright gives you:

Mitzi's hotel room. A knock on the door. Mitzi sighs, throws back her Scotch, opens the door.

OFFICER CRAIGMEYER
Ma'am, the sergeant would like to see you down in the lobby. Five minutes.

That's all there is of Officer Craigmeyer. Say that the role has been given to a 60+ year-old male who can pass for late 40s. That limits the character far more than the playwright did, but tells us nothing about how he should deliver his one line. Almost anybody who can speak English could deliver the line and the play would go on, but if it's done without a sense of the character it'll stand out as a bad moment in the play, possibly the only thing the audience will remember. The actor has to put the cop's world into that line: he played football in high school; got kicked out of Harvard for some unproven infraction; twenty-five years on and off the police force; this is his first week back at work after recovering from a shooting; he hates women, and his sergeant is a woman. So, as we see, is Mitzi. All these things, and a zillion more, can contribute to that one line, none of it from the playwright, but it has to be believable, has to fit the play.

All for now: past my bedtime.

Peter


Edited by Tromboniator (03/15/11 06:58 AM)

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#198334 - 03/15/11 10:31 PM Re: spacing conventions [Re: Tromboniator]
Avy Offline
old hand

Registered: 06/23/00
Posts: 724
Peter, I want to thank you for the time you have taken out to answer. You post is HUGELY helpful and most importantly encouraging thanks.
Originally Posted By: Tromboniator
Again in general, the roles with more lines, or more lines spoken about them, are the ones more central to the action, so that the plot action is driven by who they are, how they must act, so in that sense the writing is limiting, but in a positive way.

Thanks for anwering this. This is what I wanted to/needed to know.
Originally Posted By: Tromboniator

The so-called minor characters (I'm a very egalitarian person: I do not believe that the the larger the role the more important it is. It is the same with the people playing the roles; and I despise actors who think they're inherently superior to, and more intelligent than, the shy young woman who's running the sound.) have to be built in a more round-about way. If the playwright gives you:

Mitzi's hotel room. A knock on the door. Mitzi sighs, throws back her Scotch, opens the door.

OFFICER CRAIGMEYER
Ma'am, the sergeant would like to see you down in the lobby. Five minutes.

That's all there is of Officer Craigmeyer. Say that the role has been given to a 60+ year-old male who can pass for late 40s. That limits the character far more than the playwright did, but tells us nothing about how he should deliver his one line. Almost anybody who can speak English could deliver the line and the play would go on, but if it's done without a sense of the character it'll stand out as a bad moment in the play, possibly the only thing the audience will remember. The actor has to put the cop's world into that line: he played football in high school; got kicked out of Harvard for some unproven infraction; twenty-five years on and off the police force; this is his first week back at work after recovering from a shooting; he hates women, and his sergeant is a woman. So, as we see, is Mitzi. All these things, and a zillion more, can contribute to that one line, none of it from the playwright, but it has to be believable, has to fit the play.
What I really liked about this is not only have you said how to do a background study but you have made the studyt relavant to the plot by having it explain or connect to the brief one line interaction between the cop and mitzi. The words are plain the tone would be perhaps derisive. Wow! Learnt something there.
Originally Posted By: Tromboniator

All for now: past my bedtime.

Peter

If I weren't lame, I would have been an actor and benefited from this as an actor too. Thanks Peter.
NB: although they say writing is an extension of acting. I noticed the lines of the cop do reflect the study. They are curt and would fit perfectly. How I enjoy this beautiful dance of writing and acting! Thanks again.


Edited by Avy (03/15/11 10:39 PM)

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#198336 - 03/16/11 06:41 AM Re: spacing conventions [Re: Susan G]
Tromboniator Offline
old hand

Registered: 05/10/10
Posts: 832
Loc: Alaska
Avy, just to be absolutely clear about it, I'm not a professional actor, but I've been well and truly blessed by circumstance with phenomenal opportunities and extraordinary mentors (and not just in acting: music as well, both vocal and instrumental) so I've had lots of experience preparing roles large and small.

As fate would have it, most of my roles have been big, juicy ones, and that is my preference (this does relate, kinda, to part of your question), probably because I'm lazy. In the first place, if the playwright does most of the work to create a whole character, I can spend my energy on embellishment and fine-tuning (and learning lines), whereas a smaller role requires more invention and imagination: hard work. It's also easier to get into character, go on stage, and stay there than it is to go on, do a short scene, go off for a while, do it all again, and yet again. Especially true, I've found, when playing with young (teenage) and inexperienced actors who have lots of energy but haven't mastered focus. I love them to pieces, but when I come offstage to card games, discussions of video games or social life, pranks and horseplay, I have to find a quiet corner to hide in. Actually, I've gotten good results from rational requests for peace based on the fact that old guys like me require ten minutes of absolute silence to remember what the next scene is!

I find it interesting that the most common question I get from non-actors is, "How do you remember all those lines?", and of course the correct answer is that fear of going blank onstage is a powerful motivator. I have friends with whom I've done shows for decades who do small roles magnificently but who balk at large roles because they fear the burden and responsibility of the memorization. To me it's just a matter of dedicating time to it, and before I retired the most productive time I found for line study was during my twenty-minute walk to work in the morning. But I find that the sooner I get the words into my brain, the more I can experiment with how to say them, which the playwright can never dictate. Yes, I have memorization techniques, and the basic one is repetition, but with a strong emphasis on meaning. It scares me how many times I've played scenes with people who get the words perfectly, but don't know what they've said.

Ah, here I am again in the early morning hours, eyes drooping, winding down after a choral rehearsal, an hour and a half up the road, for Beethoven's Ninth. I apologize if this rambles and blithers. You're very welcome for my previous post. I'm delighted that you found it of some use. I enjoy the chance to step back and look at the things I love to do, and I adore your questions.

Peter

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#198338 - 03/16/11 11:05 AM Re: spacing conventions [Re: Tromboniator]
LukeJavan8 Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/23/08
Posts: 6592
Loc: Land of the Flat Water
I find comfort in the words you say about repitition.
I found the more I was in education that this is a
factor that just seems to have disappeared in many aspects
of the learning process. True, there are areas where
it is still active, but things like memorization of
poetry has disappeared. I truly wonder if the "times
tables" are still taught.
_________________________
----please, draw me a sheep----

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#198345 - 03/16/11 05:00 PM Re: spacing conventions [Re: LukeJavan8]
Tromboniator Offline
old hand

Registered: 05/10/10
Posts: 832
Loc: Alaska
Luke, I don't know if it's my brain or my methods, but the material I memorize does not stay with me. A couple of months after I've finished a show the lines are essentially gone, at least from conscious recall. I have once repeated a role, after many years, and it was spectacularly easy to re-learn the lines, but they certainly were not there on demand. Some actors can quote lines from plays they did decades ago; I am not one of them.

Peter

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#198349 - 03/16/11 08:46 PM Re: spacing conventions [Re: Tromboniator]
Avy Offline
old hand

Registered: 06/23/00
Posts: 724
Are there some types of dialogue that you find easier to learn than others? Are there some playwrights whose dialogue you like and others you don't?

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#198362 - 03/18/11 03:01 AM Re: spacing conventions [Re: Susan G]
Tromboniator Offline
old hand

Registered: 05/10/10
Posts: 832
Loc: Alaska
I suppose that the closer the speech is to my own style and vocabulary , and the more logical the flow of it, the easier it is to learn. The difficulty with, say, Shakespeare is that so many social, political, technological, and linguistic changes have occurred since he wrote that the dialog requires more research, study, and interpretation than something from the last fifty years. Dialog (I guess that's a US spelling) and monologue (my spell-checker insisted) that consists of non sequitur, lists of names or events, long, rambling rants that seem to follow no particular logic are very difficult, but I've gotten pretty good at devising mnemonics, such as a word or phrase that will cue the order of the first letter of each item in a sequence.

I would be hard pressed to give an example of a playwright whose dialog as a whole I don't like; in the first place, I admire people who can write plays, so I figure they had a reason for writing them as they did; in the second place, much as it shames me, most of the plays I've read are the ones I've performed in, and by the time I've learned the dialog I've lost most of the objections I might have had at first reading. As some of us do, I rebel at certain constructions, particularly if I think they are gratuitous, as, for example, a character saying,"He was just laying there" rather than "lying there." If there is no compelling case for the character to employ that usage other than that's the way the playwright speaks, I will twist the director's arm to let me change it. There are almost always places in any play where I am uncomfortable with a playwright's choices, but I generally try to adopt the attitude that my job is to make the best of what I'm given. On the few occasions in which I've gotten to speak with, or even work with, the playwright, I've usually gotten permission to make whatever changes I can reasonably defend.

Avy, I hope you don't feel that I'm dodging your questions. They're quite challenging, and I'm doing my best to come as close as I can to an answer. I've never really analyzed my experiences in this manner. I just love theater(re), and do it every chance I get.

Incidentally, in case you don't get around to asking me about my best theater experiences, let me mention three: In 2003, my two daughters, then 20 and 21, directed me in Lysistrata; in 2009 my eldest daughter directed me and my second daughter in The Importance of Being Earnest; and in 2003 and 2004 I performed in a musical written (book, music, lyrics) and directed by a very dear friend who among other things has been a carpenter, a cowboy, a radio news director, and a brilliant saxophonist, about a group of old guys in a local (Alaska) rock band who decide to buy a bus and go on a nationwide tour. It is astounding how much talent there is in our tiny town, and in my very own family. Did I mention that I'm quite proud of what we do here?

I should mention that the musical was called The Electric Rolaids Antacid Test.


Edited by Tromboniator (03/18/11 03:07 AM)
Edit Reason: Add title

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#198363 - 03/18/11 06:04 AM Re: spacing conventions [Re: Tromboniator]
Faldage Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13803
Originally Posted By: Tromboniator


I should mention that the musical was called The Electric Rolaids Antacid Test.


Love it!

As for lay vs. lie, in my experience that's the way most people say it these days. It doesn't seem to me that your job as an actor is to be an arbiter of word choice.

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#198372 - 03/18/11 09:59 AM Re: spacing conventions [Re: Faldage]
Avy Offline
old hand

Registered: 06/23/00
Posts: 724
I think a writer approaches a character from inside out and an actor from outside in. Both have to come to a consensus on the character. The char IMO is created by both the actor and the writer. Although the writer chooses the words, a clever writer will know that he does not own the character and will worry whether the he is at odds with the actor in his take on the character.
Peter, you said there were places where you were uncomfortable with the playwrights choices in dialogue; has there been any instances where you were uncomfortable with the playwright's choice of action for the character? Have you ever had your study of a character not fit one action that the writer has him do. I am not asking for specifics. I do not think you are dodging my questions. I am learning a lot by your posts. For me this opportunity is God sent.
Thanks for telling me your best theatre experiences. I might have missed that question. I am afraid I am being very selfish with my questions. I like lysistrata. I studied it as a "play about war". Lucky faldage. I will not ever see that musical, but as they say never say never.

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