Welcome to "Ask Blair," a weekly online column of practical advice for actors, written by Blair Glaser.
Once again, hello and thank you to all you creative advice seekers. Be sure to read the column this week for essential summer stock audition information, as well as advice for actors struggling with incorrect technique (most of us). Also, Canadian actors will find a special surprise.
I just did a scene in class and my teacher pointed out that I do this thing where I exhale before I say a line. He said it was "protecting me from being in the emotional experience." Then when I was doing an improvisation of the scene, I wasn't doing that at all and I felt really free and at one with the character. Why is it so much easier for me to feel connected in improvisation than in a scene with text? How do I stop this exhale thing?
Thank you so much for your question. These are the kind of questions I love to answer because they speak to the creative struggles all actors must go through.
I think it's great that you feel so connected while improvising, because many actors have a very difficult time with improvisation, so you're off to a great start. I too, love improvising, however, I continue to struggle with habits that are similar to yours when working with text. The issue at hand is one of what I call integration. When you improvise, your mind is free from the "supposed to's" of the lines, and you don't have lines running through your head to stop the creative flow of what is happening for you. What happens in good improv is what I call a "free fall" into the circumstances occurring in the scene, because even if you have an idea of where the improv is going, you don't actually know what'll happen next.
When you work with text, you are asked to integrate someone else's words, experience and circumstances into yourself, into your body, and make them your own. It is a big job, a process that takes time.
The truth of your character is closer to improv. She does not know what's coming next, but you, as the actor, must. So to access that same free fall sensation, we have to do extensive homework, thoroughly learn our lines, and then, in a sense, forget everything in order to experience the character's truth. In the meantime--we integrate .
Turn your exhaling thing into a great signal that you can embrace as part of the integration process; something that can lead you towards that feeing of freedom and not something that is bad or you need to fix right away. It's presence can allow you to embrace and know your process of integrating. It can take you deeper into the character and scene by prompting you to ask questions, such as: "What is stopping me from allowing my response to come through the character's lines?" "Am I afraid of feeling here?" "Am I judging the character's response or thinking it's different than my own feelings? "
One of my habits was to have a true reaction, and then cover it with a rehearsed version of the line. When I do that, it's usually a signal for me that the character is feeling something I would rather not feel or reveal. I've also discovered that I sometimes unknowingly judge my character for being "over emotional," which leaves my performance fake or flat. All answers I find continue to be enlightening for me as an artist and a person.
Ask your scene partners to help you become aware of when you are doing the exhale thing. It may be hard to hear, but remember, it's not criticism, it's help.
As you begin catch yourself doing it, even if you are in the middle of doing the scene in front of the class, pause, breathe (normally), wait and listen for the next true impulse before proceeding with the scene. Whenever I've had the courage and awareness to do that, incredibly powerful and creative moments have emerged.
Thanks again for your question, Marge!
I'm not going to NETC or SETC this year to audition. I plan to come to NYC in March to audition for summer theatre work. Do you know of how I might be able to get a list of companies that would be auditioning the 1st week in March? I want to make sure I have someone to audition for before I come up. My teacher mention something about "Straw Hat" theatres? What type of companies are those? Do they have an e-mail address? Does Playbill show audition info for summer theatre?
First I want to introduce everyone to the New England Theatre Conference (NETC) and the Southeastern Theatre Conference, (SETC). For a small fee, these conferences audition many actors for acting and apprentice positions in theatre companies in those regions.
The Straw Hat auditions are summer stock auditions that allow actors to audition for many summer theatres at once. This year they will be held in New York City only, whereas in the recent past, they have also been held in L.A. Straw Hat auditions will occur March 20-23 at the Trinity High School. You must apply to get an audition slot. Playbill on-Line expects to post the application for downloading by Mid-November-Early December.
You can also request an application now by sending an SASE to Straw Hat Auditions / 1771 Post Rd. East / Ste. #315 / Westport, CT 06880. Feb. 28 is the application deadline. If you get accepted, you are required to pay an application fee of $48. Some 40-42 theatres are expected to participate in the auditions. The list of theatres should be posted on Playbill On-Line with the application. When you see the full list, you can search to find out if the theatres have websites and/or e-mail. In recent years theatres have included Goodspeed Opera House, Dorset Theatre Festival, and the Los Angeles Repertory Company
. In order to know what other auditions are coming up in New York for that week, I recommend you check Playbill On-Line's Casting Calls section. You also can subscribe to Backstage magazine, (212) 764-7300. They mail anywhere. Another option is to become a member of the online audition service, The Call Board at http://www.aigcorp.com/CallBoard.
Break a leg on your audition, and let us know what productions you get cast in!
I have been acting in Toronto, Canada for several years and would very much like to get work in the U.S., particularly in New York theatre. What do I have to do to get permission from the U.S. Immigration etc.?
The best thing I can do for you and other Canadian actors is to steer you in the right direction to find the information you need.
Here is a good source of internet visa information:
They list P-1, P-2, and P-3 as visas an entertainer would require.
Hope this helps, and hope to see you on NY stages soon, Ray!
Sincyberly to all,
-- Blair Glaser
Blair Glaser coaches actors privately in NYC. For Blair's bio or information about classes, click here.