I'm a sophomore in college, and in my theatre program we are studying Greek Drama. I don't understand why we need to work on scripts from thousands of years ago. The translations are boring and I feel really silly doing them. I know we're supposed to learn the classics, but I have been told I am a good actor. Now that we're working on the Greeks, all of a sudden I feel I'm not a real actor...How will studying the Greeks really affect my acting?
Dear Dionysian Misfit,
I know exactly how you feel. I remember being a sophomore, driving with my scene partner to a park with an outdoor ampitheatre and rehearsing a scene from Antigone in the freezing cold. We were trying to find a spacious environment to really be "Greek"ly dramatic, and as we rehearsed I thought, 'this feels so fake and overblown.' We were trying to fit this vision we had of Greek Acting (pronounced "Ahhhcteeng)". After rehearsal, my throat hurt.
It felt ridiculous, but it paid off. When we went into class, the teacher made sense out of the scene for us, and once he showed us what the scene was really about, we flew with it. All the work we had done to try and achieve a sense of the Greek dramatic magnitude came through for us, because once we were grounded in a more truthful context, the largeness of the characters' reactions made sense.
This was my first lesson in striving to find the humanity, the life, in a classic text other than Shakespeare. Even though the Greek characters may seem rather alien, they are just people having conflicts. It's tricky because many Greek characters have more mature and dramatic life experiences than most college students--so here's your chance to do your actor work and dig deep into your experience and imagination to find out who you are and how you respond to the situations the Greeks find themselves in.
Greek characters are seemingly more emotional then we are in our everyday lives. However, approaching characters with disdain, especially in Greek tragedy, will kill a performance. An actress who thinks Medea is a pathetic witch who goes way overboard, will never capture the betrayal, the injustice and abandonment that she feels which lead her to commit the act of killing her children. Try to view the characters' emotional lives with respect for how alive they are. They were not afraid or too ashamed to feel everything to the fullest, and in front of everyone, nonetheless. You as the actor, must also be willing to completely make a fool out of yourself. Even if you are fake and force it for a bit--you'll get there. It's a challenge to get out of the very contemporary habit of hiding what you're feeling, but if you can, this excercise will greatly serve your acting. Furthermore, if you can find and allow yourself to have the full emotional experience of the Greek characters (which is a Herculean task in and of itself), you will understand the power of the experience behind what many contemporary characters are not saying. For example, Pinter's characters have this inner torrent of emotion surging through them, but they act as if nothing is really upsetting them. If you just act the "denial" without the surge underneath, your performance will likely put audiences to sleep.
One last note: Greek scripts, even in contemporary translations, are hard to memorize because they're often written in verse, and not in natural language. If your teacher is not very strict, I would focus less on the exact wording and more on the interactions between the characters.
So I believe studying Greek drama can effect and improve your acting tremendously, especially if you gather the courage and energy to face it head on. In retrospect, studying the Greeks was an integral part of my acting training. I hope you find the same--and if you don't---pray to Dionysus for the semester to end soon.
A couple of questions...
I'm 17 years old (as of Dec. 14 :>) and a junior in high school. I would like to pursue some internships in NYC, if possible. Performing is my chosen path in life. I've had about 10 years of training and played all sorts of roles. My questions: Are there any internships available to high school students during the summer? Is there such a thing as "performing internships?" And, what exactly is involved in an internship, anyway?
Happy Birthday and congratulations on choosing to be a performer.
The news on performing internships or "acting" internships, is that, at least in NYC, they may no longer exist.
Jeni West, head of internships at Off-Broadway's Playwrights Horizons Theatre, said "I don't know of a single one [acting internship] in New York." Playwrights Horizons provides internships in Production, Stage Management, Directing, Administration, and a few other aspects of the theatre business. The interns must commit for a full season.
Interns get to do gofer-type jobs for the privilege of hanging around the rehearsal process or theatre offices and seeing professionals in action at work. There is also the advantage of making important aquaintances and connections. Interns may not be paid at all. Playwrights Horizons offers its interns a minimal stipend for meals and transportation. Most of the interns at Playwrights Horizons (and intern programs at theatres like it) are in college or graduate school.
Internships in other areas of theatre besides performing may in fact provide opportunities to perform. An actor I know was recently serving as a production intern at Richard Foreman's Ontological-Hysteric Theatre in NYC. This internship required he help build sets and do a lot of work for free, in exchange for being able to observe the rehearsal process. One week into his internship, one of the actors in the play became physically ill and needed to be replaced for the run. Foreman asked, "Does anyone know an actor I can cast?" and the actor replied, "Yeah, me." Foreman auditioned him on the spot and he got the job, and is now a paid actor. So sometimes internships, even if they are not specifically for acting, can work to your advantage.
However, I wouldn't bank on it. I think apprenticeships are the way to go for the summer. The Straw Hat auditions would be a great place for you to start, and the applications are on Playbill On-Line now. You can audition for summer theatres that may let you perform and /or apprentice--which means study, help build the set, get to learn about all aspects of theatres. This is where I would start.
You could also apply for a program which costs money but may be worth it. Contact Vassar College, or Carnegie-Mellon University. They have great summer programs in theatre. I highly recommend the Vassar program, which is in conjunction with NY Stage and Film, a theatre company that includes noted actors such as Mary McDonnell and Mark Linn-Baker. At Vassar, young actors get to be in shows with professional actors, as well as study with great teachers, and learn a lot about theatre in general.
Have a great summer, Jay!
I am 15 years old and love Broadway. I live about two hours from NYC, so I go whenever I get the chance. I cannot sing, so a career of acting is ruled out, but I would like to know what other jobs are heavily involved in theatre and how I would go about getting involved in them. Thank you
You don't have to sing to be an actor! There are many shows without music, so if you are interested in performing, I would start to see some of them and consider acting still.
There are many jobs in the world of theatre. Directors hold the vision of the production, bringing everything and everyone together in sync; stage managers are charge of all events happening backstage and more; producers handle the logistics of getting a show running, and many producers contribute money to support the production.
In productions there are set designers, lighting designers, costume designers and more.
If you still feel you don't want to be a performer, these are some options to explore. Good luck, Aquarius.