We are happy to welcome guest celebrity blogger Kevin Chamberlin, a two-time Tony nominee for his performances in Dirty Blonde and Seussical. Chamberlin, who is currently playing Uncle Fester in the new musical The Addams Family, will blog for Playbill.com all week; his final entry follows:
I'm always fascinated how actors' performances morph and grow over a long run. We've been doing this show for over two years, with workshops and readings and a three-month run in Chicago - so we've lived in these characters for a long time - more than any other show that I've done. Our most difficult job is to keep our performances spontaneous, truthful yet theatrical, consistent yet fresh. Sometimes you have to shake things up for yourself just to keep your sanity. Playing with the speed of a speech, the focus, the theatricality or the quiet of an unspoken moment can keep your performance fresh without changing the intentions of the character or the storytelling. Sometimes, the intelligence of an audience will breathe new life into a moment and make it fresh. An audience who listens carefully can tell you so much about your character and the story you're telling.
I have a moment in The Addams Family where I got a laugh on a line in Chicago, but not in New York - and it's been vexing. I remember the old Sir John Gielgud advice to an actor who wasn't getting a laugh when asking for a cup of tea. He told the actor, "Just ask for the tea. Don't ask for the laugh." An audience that is more passive and less reactive can cause me to try and work harder and ultimately push. A wonderful director I once worked with told me to "always let the audience come to you." Nine times out of ten, if you sit back and relax, the quiet, passive audience will listen and become more reactive. The relationship between the actor and the audience is a tenuous, fragile one with so many variables. That's the excitement of live theater - and what makes every night a totally new, temporal experience - one that has never happened before, and will never happen again.