Acting & Auditioning

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Act

The Modern Actor’s Handbook
edition:Paperback
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Excerpt

The work of the interpretive artist is to unearth and reveal specificity. If you attempt to create art that is trying to be universal, you will inevitably veer towards cliche. As a species, we respond most strongly to a specific tale, told in unique ways, as a way to empathy and understanding.

When Ted Dykstra and I wrote 2 Pianos 4 Hands, we were convinced that it was only going to speak to piano nerds, or at best, classical music nerds. After our first workshop presentation, our old friend Andrew Akman came up to us and said, "The play's not about the piano at all. It's about tennis." Andrew had been a promising young tennis player in Winnipeg as a teenager, and he related every scene from our play to his experience. When Ted said to me as one of my teachers in the play, "You're not Glenn Gould!" Andrew heard, "You're not John McEnroe!" something that had been said to him by a teacher at a similar juncture in his life.

Specificity, like so many other worthwhile endeavours, is a bottomless pit. We don't know what will ultimately speak the strongest to an audience or any member of it. But we do know that any chance of real, significant communication must be rigorously specific in order to have even achance to speak to the many.Language as a whole, and individual words in particular, lose specificity from overuse, or appropriation, or incorrect application. We all make assumptions. A lot.

If I say the word "entertainment" to you, what do you see? Close your eyes and let your imagination roam. Most people talk about a Broadway show, a movie musical, a Super Bowl halftime show starring a well-known pop star, or even an interactive video game. There might even be a slightly dismissive judgment of these imaginings, as in "it's only entertainment," as opposed to deep, complex drama, perhaps. However, the word comes from a Latin root: "enter" means "between," and "tain" comes from "tenere," meaning "to hold." So, the original meaning of the word means "to hold between," presumably interest between a performer and their audience. And yet, we have all these assumptions, preconceptions and cliched images about the word, and even a judgment about its definition! Blame the mass media, our fast-paced life, or a conspiracy of the Freemasons, but language is constantly in a state of reductivism. This is not necessarily a bad thing, although many decry the death of interesting verbal dexterity and debate. But these assumptions must be taken into account, since most people don't obsessivelylook for specificity in their day-to-day communications. But theatre artists must.

So. The story is slowly being revealed. As the questions are asked and discussed, and as the operative words are chosen, all manner of narrative content is uncovered, and within the context of an exercise. What's important about this is that there is a focus to the discussion, instead of a free-for-all, where often only the loudest voices in the room are heard, and where the discussion can lack a structural and forward thrust. And hopefully, nothing is left unexamined.

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Hers

Monologues for Women
edited by Martha Burns
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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Fists upon a Star

Fists upon a Star

A Memoir of Love, Theatre, and Escape from McCarthyism
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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Places, Please!

Places, Please!

Becoming a Jersey Boy
edition:eBook
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