Posts Tagged ‘Actor’

Words. Words. Words: Actors On Acting

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

The Theatrical Quotations series continues with 10 world class performers…

“Acting is not about dressing up. Acting is about stripping bare. The whole essence of learning lines is to forget them so you can make them sound like you thought of them that instant.”

Glenda JacksonGlenda Jackson (Born 1936) 

 

“…by the time I got to Michigan I was a stutterer. I couldn’t talk. So my first year of school was my first mute year and then those mute years continued until I got to high school... One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.”

James Earl JonesJames Earl Jones (Born 1931

 

“I’m curious about other people. That’s the essence of my acting. I’m interested in what it would be like to be you.

meryl-streepMeryl Streep  (Born 1949)  

 

“Comedy is all I ever wanted. I can never tell when something is funny… I just have to do it onstage and find out.”

Margaret ChoMargaret Cho (Born 1968)


For an actress to be a success she must have the face of Venus, the brains of Minerva, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of Macaulay, the figure of Juno, and the hide of a rhinoceros.”

Ethel BarrymoreEthel Barrymore (1879 – 1959)

 

“I can’t deal with actors! I can’t deal with myself. We’re neurotic and miserable… I love doing what I’m doing, but while I’m doing it, I’m miserable.” 

Viola DavisViola Davis (Born 1965) 

 

“I knew at an early age I wanted to act – acting was always easy for me. Once you’ve gotten the job, there’s nothing to it… Doing it is not the hard part. The hard part is getting to do it.”  

Morgan FreemanMorgan Freeman (Born 1937)

 

“The thing about performance, even if it’s only an illusion, is that it is a celebration of the fact that we do contain within ourselves infinite possibilities.”

Daniel Day LewisDaniel Day Lewis (Born 1957)

 

“Ossie was working as stage manager and he began making notes. Something about the sense of humor instilled in Eastern European Jewish culture appealed to him. The message was profound but the delivery was hilarious. Through that he saw that humor could turn racism on its ear, too.”

Ruby DeeRuby Dee (Born 1924)

 

 

“An actor is a sculptor who carves in snow.”

Edwin BoothEdwin Booth (1893 – 1933)

 Booth may have borrowed this phrase from his friend Lawrence Barrett.

 

PHOTO CREDITS: Barrymore: University of Kentucky Photographic Collection, Booth: Public Domain, Cho: Jamie McCarthy/Getty, Davis: Michael Beckner/Getty, Day Lewis: Indigo/Getty, Dee: Frederick M. Brown/Getty, Freeman: The Ace Black Blog, Jackson: Courtesy of Glenda Jackson MP, House of Commons, Jones: Stathis Orphanos, Streep: Cathal McNaughton, 
 

When You’re Feeling Creatively Stuck…

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

An earlier version of this post was published as “What Role Were You Born to Play?” in June 2009.

Behind the stage door, great wisdom lives...

When you’re feeling creatively stuck, it’s time to identify those inborn talents of your youth – the ones that went into hiding as you morphed into an adult – and rediscover your Theatrical Intelligence. 

Try this:

Think back to your childhood. Remember the neighborhood where you grew up? 

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and inhale the smell of that long ago place. If the neighborhood isn’t quite clear for some reason, or if you moved around a lot, breathe in a moment or two of shared secrets with your closest friend…

As you’re breathing, ask yourself: Was there a time when you and your friends decided to put together an event of some kind?  A gymnastics demonstration? A neighborhood circus with performances by your pets? Maybe a swimming show with a lemonade stand? Whatever it was, your part in this event made you really proud.

Write down what you remember. I’m willing to bet that your actions resemble one or more of The 8 Roles of Theatrical Intelligence, listed below:

1.    The WRITER: You had an idea and wrote it down. You understood the concept: tell the audience, tell them again, and tell them that you told them; with humor, drama and clarity.

2.    The ACTOR: You performed. You lived moment-to-moment. You understood that timing is everything, and that theatre isn’t larger than life – it is AS LARGE as life!

3.    The DIRECTOR: You “saw” the ideas as if they already existed, then staged it to please the audience. Your friends placed their trust in you because you gave them positive feedback about their strengths, and you made them feel good about themselves.

4.    The PRODUCER: You thought up the whole event, assigned your buddies the tasks that matched their strengths, sold the idea to everyone in the neighborhood and got them to pay for tickets. You invited everyone you saw, and one restaurant owner was so enthusiastic he threw an after-show party at your request.

5.   The DESIGNER: You envisioned the environment for the event. You drew it with vivid strokes and it took on a life of its own. You told your friends what to build, what to wear and why they had to wear it in spite of their objections (and they thanked you for it afterwards!)

6.    The STAGE MANAGER: You knew that your best buddy’s vision could be built. You crafted the schedule as to what had to be done by when, so your friends would have a chance to practice. You arranged parking places for bikes, strollers, cars, and managed the traffic and access to rest rooms.

7.   The TECHNICIAN: You made calculations from your friend’s drawings, found the right person to donate materials and stayed up all night building the set. You finished on time, and with no budget. When people got nervous and asked “What’s happening?” you replied “Workin’ on it!”

8.    The CRITIC: You recognized problems from the get-go, and knew that if the project had been approached from a different perspective it would have worked better. But heck, it was fun, and set the precedent for the next time. You wrote a flattering article for the Neighborhood News, in which you had instigated the “Kids’ Column”.

Do any of these roles sound familiar?

As kids, chances are that we played at least two roles with complete abandon. And as we morphed into grown-ups, many of us ended up playing a role that didn’t quite fit.

  1. What was the role (or roles) that you played?
  2. Are you currently playing one of them in your daily life?
  3. If not, when did it (or they) go underground?
  4. What was it about the event that made it so unforgettable?
  5. Can you imagine experiencing it again?

The goal of Theatrical Intelligence is to IDENTIFY the roles that gave you such joy and freedom as a child, TAP INTO that creative pulse you’ve been craving, and USE IT in your daily life.

Once you’ve experienced that pulse, it will keep on beating. Hold it close to you. Unexpected opportunity awaits.

 

A Leap of Faith: Actor. Warrior. Hero.

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Rich Topol: Actor. Warrior. Hero

Rich Topol: Actor. Warrior. Hero

I just completed directing a project in the 29th Annual Octoberfest at the Ensemble Studio Theatre* in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. I am writing this blogpost because an exceptional actor named Richard Topol has inspired me. Rich, as everyone calls him, is a perfect example that actors are as courageous as any warrior. Truly, they are heroes.

Rich probably has no idea how much his work meant to me in the few days we worked together.  I suspect he believes he was just doing what he does as an actor.

The project was David Perry’s Eulogy, a one-person play in which a man comes to an emotional reckoning with his abusive mother as he eulogizes her. The play could be described as the technical equivalent of singing four arias in forty minutes and performing Hamlet’s soliloquies in between. And this with one rehearsal.

I had seen Rich on Broadway in a hilarious and heart wrenching performance in Awake and Sing, but met him for the first time at our one rehearsal prior to the two readings. Within 5 minutes it was clear that he trusts himself to exist fully in the moment; if he gets lost along the way he has the courage to live in the unknown – essentially in free-fall – until he discovers something he can grab on to and move on. This, of course is one of the principles of Theatrical Intelligence: success comes with having the courage to step into the unknown.

Actors must find a comfort level with whatever they’re doing, and a staged reading of a demanding script in front of a savvy audience with virtually no rehearsal can be daunting. Many actors just won’t do it. Understandable. It is rather like being asked to jump off a cliff not knowing if your parachute is going to open. Other actors, and Rich is one, are willing to take that leap of faith, and jump.

In the talkback after the first of the two readings, when asked about his experience during the “performance”, Rich responded  “It was exhausting! Sometimes I didn’t remember what was coming next on the page, and when I got there it wasn’t what I expected. So I thought, OK, I’ll live here for a while and just see what happens.”

86 Plays. 38 Days.

86 Plays. 38 Days

What if we could all live this way every day? “Live here for a while…” not knowing where it might lead. If we can trust that it is OK not to know where we are emotionally or intellectually or spiritually, it leaves open the possibility of discovery. If we are open to discovery, just think what new things we can learn!

Billy Carden, the Artistic Director of EST, says: “…if you believe in discovery, if you want to be entertained by the unexpected, surprised by the spontaneous, if you want to hear a new voice for the first time, or a familiar voice in a new way, if you want to experience the spirit of work in progress: join us.”

Thank you, Rich, for your leap of faith. You are a hero.


*EST was founded in 1972 to nurture individual theatre artists in the development of new American plays, and has produced 6,000+ new works over the decades.  I have been a lucky member of this family of 500 theatre artists since 1977.

What Role Were You Born To Play?

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Recently I’ve re-connected with some old friends who cannot wait to retire. They’re ready to do what they’ve “always loved doing” because for one reason or another, they didn’t end up doing it in their regular work.

If you are stuck in a job you don’t like, tapping into your Theatrical Intelligence can help. Identifying your inborn talent(s) that may have gone underground in your adult life, can get you unstuck.

Try this:

Think back to your childhood. Remember the neighborhood where you grew up?  Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and inhale the smell of that long ago place. If the neighborhood isn’t clear, or you moved around a lot, picture a time when you shared secrets with your closest friend…

Was there a time when you and your friends decided to put together an event of some kind?  A gymnastics demonstration? A neighborhood circus with performances by your pets? Maybe a swimming show with a lemonade stand? Whatever it was, YOUR part in this event made you really proud.

Write down what you remember. I’m willing to bet it resembles one or more of The 8 Roles of Theatrical Intelligence:

1.    The WRITER: You had an idea and wrote it down. You understood the concept: tell the audience, tell them again, and tell them that you told them; with humor, drama and clarity.

2.    The ACTOR: You performed. You lived moment-to-moment. You understood that timing is everything, and that theatre isn’t larger than life – it is AS LARGE as life!

3.    The DIRECTOR: You “saw” the ideas as if they already existed, then staged it to please the audience. Your friends placed their trust in you because you gave them positive feedback about their strengths, and you made them feel good about themselves.

4.    The PRODUCER: You thought up the whole event, assigned your buddies the tasks that matched their strengths, sold the idea to everyone in the neighborhood and got them to pay for tickets. You invited everyone you saw, and one restaurant owner was so enthusiastic he threw an after-show party at your request.

5.   The DESIGNER: You envisioned the environment for the event. You drew it with vivid strokes and it took on a life of its own. You told your friends what to build, what to wear and why they had to wear it in spite of their objections (and they thanked you for it afterwards!)

6.    The STAGE MANAGER: You knew that your best buddy’s vision could be built. You crafted the schedule as to what had to be done by when, so your friends would have a chance to practice. You arranged parking places for bikes, strollers, cars, and managed the traffic and access to rest rooms.

7.   The TECHNICIAN: You made calculations from your friend’s drawings, found the right person to donate materials and stayed up all night building the set.  You finished on time, and with no budget. When people got nervous and asked “What’s happening?” you replied “Workin’ on it!”

8.    The CRITIC: You recognized problems from the get-go, and knew that if it had been approached from a different perspective it would have worked better. But heck, it was fun, and set the precedent for the next time. You wrote a flattering article for the Neighborhood News, in which you had instigated the “Kids’ Column”.

Do any of these roles sound familiar? Even at an early age your Theatrical Intelligence was at work.

What made your event so unforgettable? What worked?

You wanted everyone to talk about the event all week! That is the first of The 6 Principles of Theatrical Intelligence:

1. Everyone shares the same goal.

Next, everyone would’ve been mortified if no one showed up, if one of the pets didn’t cooperate, or if the setting wasn’t finished. Embarrassment doesn’t begin to describe it! That’s the second principle:

2. Everyone shares the risk.

What else worked? Everyone worked together and beat the deadline!  Third principle:

3. Collaboration rules!

The 4th principle takes over (sometimes against all odds) when a show is being developed:

4. The work matters.

Chances are that you experienced 4 of The 6 Principles before you were 8 years old.

(The 5th and 6th principles occur when there’s a more sophisticated level of production: 5. Failure is your friend, and the fastest way to learn. 6. Success comes with the courage to step into the unknown. We’ll take those on later.)

I believe that every one of you was born with Theatrical Intelligence. As a kid, chances are that you played at least two roles with complete abandon. And as you morphed into a grown-up, you may have ended up playing a role that didn’t quite fit. It happens to many of us.

What was the role you were born to play?

Are you currently playing it?

If not, when did it go underground?

How will you get it back?

The goal of Theatrical Intelligence is to IDENTIFY the role(s) that gave you such joy and freedom as a child, and put them to USE in your daily life.