Monday, December 14, 2009

Invitational Character Reality Check - 12/09

A two day seminar at Voicetrax SF with Natanya, focusing on characters, character scripts and how your efforts play in the fields of competitiveness. I've taken a couple of other workshops with her, and as always, Nantanya manages to hone in on the one or two things that your performance needs to really soar. She always provides feedback of the highest caliber.

The class started a few weeks ago, actually. We had to send in 5 character scripts in advance, which she went through and evaluated. This was an excellent exercise in itself, as finding good contemporary scripts which both challenge and present you well is an excellent task.

There were three basic "rounds" over the two days. We listened to a couple of everyone's "auditons" and she went through her notes publicly, talking about the good, the bad and the ugly. There were definitely some common themes - pitfalls almost everyone succumbed to. But, I won't go into detail here, as those lessons are probably best learned individually.

After the playback and critiques, we received a couple new scripts from Natanya, got a chance to digest them, and then started diving into the booth. The scripts were very diverse, from contemporary films to television shows and games for very specific viewing audiences. It was an excellent chance to quickly create a character and then gear the presentation for the needs of the script. It also demanded a quick change between the characters, as each person read their second scripts immediately following the first.

The emphasis of the class focused on really taking these performances and making them competitive. The level of the students was quite high - competency was assumed - so it became a matter of specific tweaks. Sometimes it was just finding something different in the performance, other times it was a different choice in the fundamental approach. It was inspiring to see everyone react so quickly to the feedback and hit the mark.

After three rounds of listen/perform, she had us grab a script which had been given to someone else and use that. It was a good opportunity to show off some stuff which hadn't been demonstrated earlier. I think that may have been the most fun round for everybody - Natanya included.

Another superb, high-level character class. Nice.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Live! Radio! Theatre!

...with a studio audience, mind you.

OK. Not precisely accurate, in that we weren't actually, you know, broadcasting over the radio. But, hey, the longest journey starts with a single step and that sort of thing.

Voice-buddy Alex put out the call for folks who might be interested in a very short reading on a classic radio play. She's been taking an acting class through the local college, and the assignment had been to "do something." Bless her creativity, she realized she might know some folks who liked to talk and act. Four of us - Wendy, Jess, Marilyn and myself - signed up, worked the script up a bit in a short practice session last weekend and gave the performance to the class.

It was more than pretty cool. The class room had a proper stage and elevated seating for the audience, so it had that proper feel. Alex had brought in her travel microphone, rigged up the laptop to record and had music beds and sound effects under her control. The rest of us jockeyed for position at the single mic, made too-loud rustling sounds with our pages and acted away.

The stylized text of the play - a 1948 classic story - gave it that "Radio Era" feel. You could imagine the actors working through it, the engineer watching the time cues... The audience even laughed where they were supposed to.

Ended too danged early. But, the students - actors themselves - generated a more-than-kind round of applause. We gathered our gear and left quickly (first rule after finishing a gig, eh?). But, as we made our way out, we chatted about how much fun that had been, and more importantly, how cool it would be to do some full radio scripts - for podcast or just for our own fun.

The "live" nature was probably the most fun - it had all the great dynamic of dialogue work, but as acting teacher/director Frank Coppola pointed out in the last class I had with him, when you are onstage, you don't get to go back or start over. If a wrong word comes out, you have to correct and move on - seamlessly is helpful - and work with the other actors to make that happen. Pressure is on, but in an invigorating way.

Gotta figure out how to do this again... Thanks Alex, Jess, Wendy and Marilyn!

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