Take a break

Advent candle

Time out to relax with friends and family, to say thanks for a year filled with so many opportunities, and to count our blessings. May your holiday season be relaxing and joyous.

Acting Mojo: prepping the script

If you’re a working actor you might relate to this mundane but thrilling little task. I found myself marking up my Cabaret script this morning, and it fair got me all excited it did! Now why is this so? Well, it’s taking the first step down the process road, making the first real commitment to bonding with character and getting familiar with the text, right? The job has begun even though rehearsals are weeks off.

There are some important decisions to be made here: what colour to highlight your text for a start. Now don’t laugh … this is all part of the strange, often esoteric and ritual-ridden process of working on a role. Don’t believe me? Read any of Konstantin Stanislavski‘s ABC of acting books: An Actor Prepares, Building a Character, and Creating a Role and you’ll get an idea of what strange lengths some actors have gone to in working on role.

I mark my character’s lines with one colour, and the stage directions (for now) with another. According to Robert Barton in Acting: Onstage and Off (a terrific book on contemporary acting by the way), Sigourney Weaver’s Alien script was marked up in a rainbow of colours, all of which presumably meant a great deal to her. And I know for a fact that Denzel Washington marks up and annotates his because I’ve seen a page from the Training Day script in the museum at Warner Brothers in LA. Marking up a script is more than simply highlighting your lines …

But wait, I hear you say, surely you don’t start with the markup? There are aesthetics and utility to consider before you get to the right highlighter colour. Don’t you prepare the script by firstly selecting the right binder (leather, plastic, loose-leaf; right size, weight, feel) and then cut and paste the script perhaps copying the pages up to readable size. The right glue to stick in the pages is another consideration (the adherance factor, smell). Oh and putting the obligatory begging note ‘If found please return to etc.’ notice inside the front cover? Well yes of course, all of the above. It’s all part of the process, the ritual, the mojo. Your script is going to be your closest friend for most of the rehearsal period. It’s going to be scored and annotated, erased and written over and over, forming a palimpsest of the work on role. It will most probably have a life after the show has closed, sitting on your bookshelf as a precious artefact. You need to treat it with care and respect. After all, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship, as Louis once noted to Rick.*

*Casablanca. You knew this.

Did I leave the best to last?

Perhaps I am just being patriotic, but I reckon these Aussie guys are pretty darn hot in the voice-over artistry stakes. The two contenders for me are Keith Scott and Jim Pike.

I wrote a while back about Don LaFontaine being a voice stylist who set the standard for a generation. Keith Scott bills himself as ‘Australia’s leading voice impersonator’ and does a nice line in LaFontaine styling in this movie promo. Here Scott shows that he can not only match that standard but take it further. Oh, and he does some pretty nifty impressions along the way in this audio compilation from 2005.

Then there’s Jim Pike whose voice is everywhere on the airwaves. Jim’s compilation gives a taste of the range and style of an ‘educated Aussie’ voice. It’s not bad when it comes to dialects and accents either. Enjoy.

Actually there’s no competition going on here. All of the guys I’ve written about in the last little while are masters of their art and craft.

Next time, I’ll go in search of female voice artists.

Why Theatre?

Occasionally a gem sparkles amongst the tailings of most journalism on the theatre. Such a piece was Kathleen Noonan’s All the World’s a Stage (Brisbane’s The Courier Mail 24-25 November). It was a very personal take on the power of theatre to move, shake, or soothe like ‘a warm cup of cocoa’ if that’s your taste.

Noonan puts her case using Brisbane’s healthy theatre scene, but it’s really about what theatre does for people. She reviews Queensland Theatre Company’s production of Heroes, and looks back over some personal favourites from the past year or so, and forward with anticipation to 2008. She does so with style and passion. She’s right there in the words:

Good theatre is a performance-enhancing drug. Like blood-doping, it feels like there’s extra oxygen in the bloodstream, more ideas in our head than before.

and

You don’t have to have prior information about context or themes or symbols. Sure, all that adds a layer. But really good theatre just needs you to sit still and be prepred to find something out. Good theatre is passionate and demands passionate reactions.

You can find this article in full along with others by C-M’s ‘resident Saturday philospher.’

I wish our print-based media devoted more space to pieces like Kathleen Noonan’s … about the things that matter, and connect us.

Christmas and End of Year Mulls


Image: jgrantmac


This is not the mulling that comes with spicy wine, the traditional Christmas drink in colder climes. It’s another kind of thoughtful musing that often fills the mind. During this season, we tend to go back over the past 12 months or so, sorting and sifting through the discoveries and shuddering perhaps at some of them.

I’ve been digging into my blog archives, and in the spirit of wishes for Christmas, here is something from the eminent Canadian educator, Stephen Downes whose always-lucid postings have been a bit of a discovery for me this year.

I passed this little parcel to my students earlier in the year. Once again, it was in response to exercising your creativity, a theme which runs through quite a few of these posts. Here it is:

10 things you need to learn

How to predict consequences
How to read
How to distinguish truth from fiction
How to empathise
How to be creative
How to communicate clearly
How to learn
How to stay healthy
How to value yourself
How to live meaningfully

The whole post can be found on Stephen Downe’s blog.

Not bad wishes for Christmas, for ourselves and others.