Tinkering with the Machine

Tonight we had no accompanist, and there were lots of conflicts among chorus members — so I decided to focus on scene work with the principal actors.

Running a scene over and over again is one of my favorite things.  Run the scene, give notes, run the scene again.

I talked a lot tonight.  I made critical observations and offered many suggestions, both specific and vague.  And I probably came across has having very strong opinions about how each scene should be played.

But almost all my notions come from watching the actors work.

I’ve blocked the scenes, and we’ve had brief discussions on character and such, but I’ve also given the actors time to explore on their own.  Over the past weeks, they’ve built relationships with each other and developed their own interpretations of the text.

Sometimes, when I step back into the process, I have to tell an actor something just isn’t working, or that they might want to reconsider a choice. But one of my favorite notes to give is “go ahead and do what I saw you almost do.”  Another is “magnify what you’re already doing.”

The goal is to make everything bigger, bolder, and crystal clear.

So we broke down each scene beat by beat, honing the timing, refining the delivery, specifying the action, and making many wonderful new discoveries.

Focus was sharpened, patterns were established and everything grew stronger and more confident.

We also did quite a bit of character work: finding multple voices, attitudes, and nuances for each actor to explore.

How does the character’s emotion affect the pitch and/or tempo of the voice?

How many strong emotional choices can we identify and clarify in each spoken line?

What is the character’s body language communicating?

What physical and vocal actor inclinations can be embraced and magnified for comic effect?

What about the basic mechanics of acting?  Is articulation clear?  Can the words be understood?

And the eternal question….. Is the story being told?


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