get2act

Technique vs. Truth

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While we teach all of our theatre students the techniques associated with dance and singing, we place a much greater emphasis on the musical theatre performer as an actor. Yet, we do not do this at the sacrifice of perfectly practiced technique, rather the technique, learned and masterfully applied, should eventually liberate the musical theatre actor to become a vessel of emotional truth through which the drama is told.

I think back to the episode of Glee back in March 2012 when Kurt first auditions for NYADA and is rejected, not because he lacked the skill or technique to get into NYADA. Rather, he chose the less “risky” song for his audition, thinking that the display of a technically sound audition would win his way into NYADA, which it didn’t. It is not until the Dec 2012 episode when he once again approaches Carmen Tibideaux one last time in an attempt to win another chance at auditioning for NYADA. She grants him this request just hours before the showcase performance by the NYADA students, and tells him that he will audition under these circumstances. Unrehearsed and unprepared, Kurt nearly backs out of this last minute performance until Rachel encourages Kurt to sing Company’s “Being Alive,” a song very close to Kurt’s own experience. As those who follow Glee know, Kurt gets into NYADA as a result of this audition, not because he displayed a technically perfect audition, but because he made himself emotionally vulnerable in the audition by allowing himself to honestly connect to the truth of the song, which took him from a just a technical performer to a truthful performer with whom audiences can connect.

Personally, I believe that actor, Chris Colfer, was doing more than just acting when he performed this song. On some level, Chris likely experienced the truth and meaning of this song himself. And this is what our theatre students must learn to do. As they apply the technique of dance, singing, and acting to their performances, they too must discover what the story of their character means to them and bring that truth to their performance, while trusting that all of the songs, lines, and dance routines they’ve learned will carry them from scene to scene.

Godspell Creates a Wave of Enthusiasm

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The house lights went to black and the voice of Jesus (played by Jesse Hutchinson) introduced himself to the audience. The stage lights rose, delivering a blast of color which contrasted with the shadows created by the lack of white light.  The music to the prologue began to play and the cast belted the opening number to Godspell, Babble.  The audience’s response – a wave of profound enthusiasm.

The performers rode this wave of enthusiasm, which allowed themselves to drop their reservations and bring life, energy, and honesty to their acting, their dancing, and their singing.

All of the performers played their roles, and the audience in their own way, but one such performer, Macie Pernas, exemplified how an actor is able to drop all reservations and throw herself, unreservedly in the role. From the back of the auditorium and out of the darkness, Pernas struck a pose and announced, “I have arrived” and moved with ease throughout the audience, bringing her unique personality to the role as she played and interacted with audience members through improvised asides during the musical interludes.  Her physicality and vocal inflections engaged the audience and her fellow actors, allowing all to enjoy the way her playful presence filled the entire room.

In addition, Jesse Hutchinson, playing the role of Jesus, and Joshua Robinson, playing the role of Judas, were joined by the entire cast in the iconic musical number, All for the Best. Hutchinson and Robinson, through the guidance of vocal director, Marianne Pastelak, demonstrated more than just vocal mastery over this vocally difficult number. They played off of each other and they played to the audience as they, along with the cast, flawlessly executed the difficult choreography (taught by Katie Gordon) to this and all of the high energy musical numbers.

More than just highly energetic musical numbers, Godspell also contains songs which require a performance of a different kind of emotional quality.  Tara Vinson, opening Where are you Going, and accompanied by Kiley Ernest and Alexandra Bonicker, brought vulnerability to this number, a desperate cry to follow and suffer with Jesus out of love.  In addition, the cast, upon discovering that Jesus will soon leave them delivered a heartfelt cry to return to Zion in On the Willows.

And, the cast’s performance of the Finale, the most difficult number to honestly deliver to an audience, cut to the heart as Hutchinson’s (Jesus) violent physicality corresponded to the music and allowed him to internalize the emotional quality of this part of the play.  Supporting him in this performance, the cast delivered a believable emotional reaction to the suffering and death of Jesus as portrayed in this show.

At the end of the performance, several parents came to managing director, Tim Baldwin, and said, “This was the best show you’ve done so far.”  And, “This production of Godspell has taken Get2Act to another level.”  Or, “I’ve seen many productions of Godspell, but this one tops them all.”

Such positive comments as these, are echoed in the comments people made on Facebook.  Karen Nicholson, whose daughter Sarah, experienced Get2Act’s summer program for the first time this year, writes, “I cannot say enough great things about this show!!! Godspell was/is amazing!!!  Highly impressed!!!”

Get2Act’s performance of Godspell was amazing because of kids in the cast and their level of talent.  This made it possible for the directors of the show to harness the talent, enthusiasm, and energy each kid brought to the stage for such an astounding performance.

Though performers in the principal roles and big musical numbers come to mind initially in any great performance, one need not look too far to see great talent in the ensemble of actors who played an important role in taking this show, and Get2Act, to a new level.

Congratulations to those already mentioned in this article and to Alex Louderback, Josh Hutchinson, Ben Lazoff, Kendal Amsler, Lauren Golya, Abby Walsh, Anna Grubbs, Anna King, Anna O’Dell, Carrie Louderback, Clayton “Buddy” Cisar, Rachel Wienecke, Elizabeth Moorman, Janet Barry, Libby Gross, Madison Kuehn, Natalie Jacobs, Rachel Moorman, Reilly Cisar, Sarah Nicholson, Shannon King, Sydney Walsh, Caroline Smith, and Mallory Lyon.

Tim, Katie, Marianne, and Lilli enjoyed a wonderful two weeks working with you all in preparing you to bring your very best to this performance.

 

Limitless Potential

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Do you remember the last time your child sailed the seven seas? Commandeered a ship? Battled space aliens? Reigned as king or queen over a kingdom with brothers, sisters, and stuffed animals as subjects?

Your child’s imagination, a naturally endowed source of limitless potential for creativity, is the source from which your child’s talent is drawn.

In her book, A Challenge for the Actor, Utah Hagen says that acting takes talent, “the natural endowment of a person with special or creative aptitudes”.

For an actor these “natural endowments” consist of “high sensitivity and responsiveness to sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell, of exceptional sensitivity to others, of being easily moved by beauty and pain, and of having a soaring imagination without losing control of reality”(Hagen).

Children are born with an imagination that has no bounds. Children have the natural ability to “fling [themselves] wholeheartedly” into whatever they do. They have no inhibitions to drop, for inhibitions have not been developed. Rather, forgetting everything around them, children are capable of gathering and joining body and soul and fearlessly flinging themselves into whatever they are doing (Annie Dillard, An American Childhood).

In pursuit of their passions and engrossed in true play, children and teenagers are inspired by the freedom to just be in the moment. To experience true play, one only needs to bring oneself, sensitive to the environment, open and receptive to the power and beauty within the other.

When was the last time your child was truly sensitive to the environment, to those around him or her, and capable of recognizing and receiving the power and beauty within others?

The naturally endowed talents are there; let us reawaken your child to those talents on the stage.

The stage, a place and moment in time where imagination is reborn and soars unhindered. And, when the moment is over and the person steps back into reality, the gentle pulse of imagination reverberates and takes the person, moment by moment, through endless possibilities.

Fame JR Cast is Memorable

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Wow!

Almost a week has gone by and I am still thinking about the wonderful cast of performers we worked with for two weeks in preparation for Fame! JR, which was performed at Trinity Church, Joppa, MD, on July 19 and 20, 2014.

Katie, Lilli, and I had the privilege of seeing the process of learning and putting together this show in two weeks.  We witnessed the hard work and personal dedication each cast-member put forth to not only learn all of the songs, dances, and dialogue for the show, but to also commit 100% to discovering and honing their craft as actors.  For the short time we worked with these younger performers, they became our children in some small way as we pushed them to spread their wings and “learn how to fly”.  In the process, some fell several times.  Some dropped their lines, some forgot a dance, some were off key, but every single one got back up, stood tall, and were supported by the rest of the cast, who became their family for those two weeks.

Acting is tough, so is dancing and singing.  When you combine those three, you have musical theatre, a profession that requires intense vocal and physical athleticism combined with an immense amount of critical thinking and, most importantly, team work.  It’s grueling, but we do it because we love it.  As art immitates life, so the work of the cast in preparing and performing Fame! JR mirrored that of the story of the show – a group of teens who give up a lot to pursue their artistic dreams and forge lasting friendships as they face difficult personal and professional obstacles in the process of fulfilling their dreams.  Relying on each other and their training, every cast member of this show truly came out on top and delivered a performance which they worked hard to perfect.

They have each other to thank for their success.  They have their parents to thank for supporting their artistic endeavors. And, we at Get2Act thank the students, their parents, and the community for their commitment to arts education.

Tim

Share with the Audience

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In our experience with young performers through the work we do with them through theatre, we find that very few have the natural tendency to be keenly aware of the presence of an audience while maintaining their focus within a scene. So often in children’s theatre, one may hear repeated over and over again the following phrases, “You’re back is to the audience,” “We can’t see your face,” or “There’s no butts about it.” Unfortunately, such direction does very little by way of actually teaching the young performer what they need to know and put into practice.

Think about the most common scenario in which a group of young performers might find themselves on stage when participating in an improvised scene, when given a scripted scene, or, to make the situation much more common, when speaking in public. In an acting situation it is common to see a group of young performers (without guidance from a director) blocking the person speaking with at least half of them facing away from the audience so that the only thing an audience can see is the performer’s back. In a public speaking situation, as I see so often as an English teacher, a group of teens or preteens are presenting a project and when they are speaking they are looking at the project or reading off of their notes, rather than actually engaging their audience.

As directors and educators, it is very easy for us to tell the group directly that they need to face the audience, yet in all of our experiences, does that ever teach them to intuitively and naturally practice this? Rather than tell a group of young performers or presenters that their backs are to the audience, we prefer Viola Spolin’s idea of directing the group to “share with the audience” (Improvisation for the Theatre), translated to mean, speak up, create a nice stage picture (by not blocking anyone), and to position their bodies so that they are not facing completely away from the audience. Once the meaning of this has been learned, the young performer (or public speaker) can, with the right guidance from their director, theatre teacher, or classroom teacher, begin to think and put into practice the idea that he or she has something important to share with the audience, and in order for this to happen, the performance has to be presented in such a way that the audience feels included in the drama of the play, or the truth of the presentation.

Once the young performer understands that what he or she has to share is important, and, even more important is the fact that he or she (not anyone else) is personally sharing this through a performance, then the young performer can begin to approach the stage with the confidence to command the attention of the audience because the audience has come so as to share in the young performer’s story as it unfolds on stage.