Lawrence Harbison: Monologues vs. Narration

For more than 30 years, Lawrence Harbison (Brooklyn, NY) was in charge of new play acquisition for Samuel French, Inc. He is a now a freelance editor for Smith and Kraus, Inc., for whom he edits annual anthologies of best plays by new playwrights, best ten-minute plays, and best monologues for men and for women, and for Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, for whom he has edited two anthologies of monologues, Best Contemporary Monologues for Men 18–35 and Best Contemporary Monologues for Women 18–35.

His column “On the Aisle with Larry” is a regular feature at http://www.smithandkraus.com. Harbison was a member of the Drama Desk Nominating Committee for the 2010–2011 and 2011–2012 seasons and is a member of the Outer Critics Circle as well as the Drama Desk. He works with individual playwrights to help them develop their plays (see his website: http://www.playfixer.com).

Harbison comments on his experience with helping actors work on their monologues:

Best Contemporary Monologues for Men 18-35

When I worked at Samuel French, actors would troupe in to our bookstore all day long, looking for monologues and scenes. Often, they’d ask for me, because the word was out that I was glad to help them and knew just about every play ever written. Sometimes they would do the monologues they had in their arsenal and ask me to comment on them. Often, their monologues were stories. The action in them was to relate something that happened in the past. This is what I would say to them:

Would you agree that an audition is a chance to demonstrate your skill for the job? (YES) Are you hoping to get work as a narrator? (NO) Then why would you go into an audition and tell a story? An actor enacts a present tense action; a narrator tells a story about something which happened in the past. I think that the best monologues are, in essence, very short scenes. Only one character is 00124624speaking but it’s clear who he’s talking to, enabling the actor to provide some semblance of conflict – which is the essence of the drama. Storytelling. The best monologues are mini-plays, with onstage action, onstage conflict and a beginning, middle and end.”

The Latest from Bruce Miller: Acting on the Script

Applause Books and Limelight Editions have published five books by Bruce Miller on the acting craft. His most recent is Acting on the Script, which focuses on taking apart a script to find and execute the choices that help actors tell the story of the play and of their characters clearly and compellingly. Bruce addresses aspiring actors directly in his preface:
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Since you are reading the words on this page, it is no great leap of logic to assume that you are an actor, or are trying to becoming one. And with an even smaller leap I might assume that you picked up this book because you are looking for answers—for some meaningful “how to’s” that will help you become the best actor you can be. So let me ask you a question right at the outset. What do you think it takes to become a first-rate actor? Take a moment to think about it. You may even want to jot your thoughts down. Doing so makes them more tangible and, in my opinion, more useful. In the course of reading this book you will be asked to do a lot of thinking. And one of the goals of this book is to make your thinking as useful as possible for you as an actor. Thinking is really what this book is all about—learning to think as an actor must. So—when you’re finished thinking, continue reading.

Talent may have been the first answer that came to mind, particularly if you’re just beginning your acting training. But talent can’t be learned; you either have it or you don’t. Talent is a gift—so if you’ve got it, say thank you and read on. Now, on the other hand, if you said craft, you identified something that can be learned and will help you use your talent more effectively. In addition to being an art form, acting is very much a craft, because it calls for skills that can be learned and mastered. Many if not most artists in the field have studied acting as a craft, even if they haven’t done so formally. And if you think you don’t have talent, or don’t have as much as you’d like, craft will help you appear as if you do.

So let’s refine our question: What are the skills that can be learned and mastered that can make you a good actor? If you’re familiar with Stanislavski, you may want to say finding emotional truth, or sense memory, or playing actions. If you’re familiar with the Method, you may say personal investment or emotional accessibility. Those of you familiar with the work of Sanford Meisner may say the ability to listen and react truthfully in the moment. Those of you familiar with Grotowski, Laban, or Michael Chekhov may say being able to access and use your body effectively. Others still might reference the vocal work of Linklater, Fitzmaurice, or Cicely Berry. Still others might say it’s all about relaxation. And if you’ve already had some training, you probably know that acting requires that you be skilled in all these areas. And that is why universities, conservatories, and acting studios everywhere feature workshops, courses, and, on the graduate level, even degrees in all these areas. And ultimately you will want to develop as many of these skills as you possibly can.

But there is another area of study you will need to be skilled in as well, and it is as important that you master this subject as any of the other skills listed—perhaps even more so. And yet it is a subject that you will find listed very sparely on curriculum menus. I certainly never had a course in it in graduate school, and most undergraduate programs offer it as a general course serving all theatre majors no matter what their particular focus. In the program where I teach, for instance, it has only been added as a separate course for BFA actors very recently. (Actually, I have been teaching the course for years, but we have finally begun calling it what it is.) What I’m talking about is script analysis and synthesis for actors. And we finally gave it its own title because, as one of the most important skills to be mastered, it deserves one.

Don’t get me wrong. Many programs offer a course or two in script analysis. But the way a lighting or set designer must learn to take apart a play and put it back together is different from what an actor must learn to do. And though writing and directing share some analytical requirements with acting, only actors are fully responsible for making the whole story work at every moment they are on stage. A general course in play analysis cannot give you all the skills you need to carry this enormous responsibility. Nor will it give you adequate time and opportunity to develop those skills so you can make them a part of your actor’s tool kit and be able to use them reliably and independently.

As a result, for many if not most actors, learning to analyze and synthesize a play becomes a byproduct of our preparation in scene study classes or part of our on-the-job training. Script analysis remains a supporting player, when it should have a leading role in the training process. This is a disturbingly wrong-headed treatment of one of our most important tools, and it leaves the actor in a similar position to that of the young college student forced to learn to read and write up to level after years of sneaking by in his or her primary education. An inability to understand and use a script effectively can turn acting into a hit-or-miss affair, where choices come out of trial and error rather than through a dependable application of craft.

Our primary job as actors is to tell the story of a play clearly, compellingly, and believably. In order to do that, we have to know what the story is and how to present it effectively. We have to know what the best choices are and how to make them. This is a skill that must be developed systematically, through practice and repetition. It must be a focus of attention, not the byproduct of other work. It is the foundation of all that we do when we work from a script. So why is it not taught with the same commitment as voice work or movement?

I can’t tell you how often I have seen even professional actors in class or auditions present work that makes no sense in the context of the play—choices that are simply not based on what the script is telling them they must show or do. On stage, those choices obscure the meaning of the play—and the actors come across as deficient along with the story. Unfortunately, they hardly ever realize that this is what is keeping them and their work from fully succeeding.

This book, like its partner, Actor’s Alchemy, will examine the relationship between the script and what an actor ultimately does on the stage or on screen. It is my belief that when actors learn to use their scripts with the appropriate analytical insights, they are better able to find and execute choices that will make the story they are telling clear and compelling, and make the work they do more believable as well. As you will see in the pages that follow, I am as concerned with the doing and feeling aspects of acting as the next acting teacher, but it is my belief that all your doings and feelings must be connected to what the playwright has set out. Therefore, the ability to analyze a script and make it the source for all the work you put on stage should be an essential part of your process.

In the chapters that follow, you will learn how to use a script in a logical, effective, and commonsense way. First you’ll discover an approach to the script that will serve you as an actor. Then you’ll begin to apply your new analytical tools in a short play. Finally, you’ll be able to strengthen those skills with a series of etudes (practice scenes) to work through in a scene study class. By the end of the book, you will have a process for reading and understanding a script as an actor must, and the skill set to determine the choices you must make if you are going to efficiently serve the material, your production, and the character you are playing. Included within these pages you will find:

  • A review of the basic tools of acting craft and how they are interconnected with analysis and synthesis
  •  An overview of your responsibility as a storyteller to make effective choices based on script work
  •  A set of guidelines for making effective choices
  •  A road map for making choices based on conflict and objective 
playing
  •  A process for finding the clues in a script
  •  A process for finding character through analysis and subsequent choices
  •  A system for effective scoring of a scene
  •  A complete analysis and scoring of a play by Joe Pintauro
  •  Eight original scenes written especially to help you become 
proficient at analysis and synthesis
  •  Useful commentary on all scenes to guide you through the 
process of analysis and synthesis
  •  Context to help you connect your analysis and synthesis 
choices to the other aspects of acting necessary for successful work
  • The repetition you will encounter as you progress through the book is intentional. When you have read and worked to the end, you may wish to consult individual chapters, and the quick refreshers you find there will help to ground you in the process as you focus on particular points or challenges. What is more, you are aiming for mastery—for the point where you no longer have to think about your process— and mastery requires plenty of practice and repetition. By exposing you to basic principles again and again, I hope to etch them into your memory so that they will be there when you need them.

The Fender Archives: A Scrapbook of Artifacts, Treasures, and Inside Information

Hal Leonard Books is proud to announce The Fender Archives by Tom Wheeler.  In his introduction, Tom describes this unique book which looks at the company from the inside out.  Featuring handwritten letters, production totals, personal logbooks, in-house memos, and much more, The Fender Archives tells the Fender story like never before.

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At the Heart of American Music

Welcome to The Fender Archives. You are invited along on a research expedition, a sort of archeological dig through several sites: well-organized file folders in Fender’s Scottsdale, Arizona, headquarters; the family archives of Don Randall; author/curator Richard Smith’s extensive collections at the Fullerton Museum Center and Fullerton Public Library; the photo galleries of John Peden and Fretted Americana; jammed-to-the-brim metal cabinets in a sweltering Fender warehouse near the Corona factory; and the sunny, art-filled home of the late Bob Perine in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, just blocks from the beach where he and Ned Jacoby took now-iconic photos of clean-cut high-school kids, surfboards, palm trees, and chrome-clad rocketship guitars in Shoreline Gold and Daphne Blue and Candy Apple Red.

This book is part history, part archive, part scrapbook, and for some of us, part treasure chest. In a few cases I offer reconsiderations of familiar topics—the origin of the Telecaster, the iconic imagery of Fender’s mid-’60s promo literature, the dark age of CBS, etc.—but for the most part I resisted the temptation to launch into explanations of facts and perceptions I’ve already shared, and others have shared, in numerous books and magazines. I wrote many articles about Fender during my fourteen years at Guitar Player (the Stratocaster alone received a three-installment series and a mult-part cover story, as well as columns by Robb Lawrence, George Gruhn, and others). I had already written extensively about the Fullerton company in The Guitar Book and American Guitars before tackling lengthy hardcover books devoted exclusively to Fender: The Stratocaster Chronicles (280 pages, 225 photos); The Soul of Tone: Celebrating 60 Years of Fender Amps (512 pages, 430 photos), and The Dream Factory: Fender Custom Shop (592 pages, 600 photos).

So the aim here is not to introduce Fender but rather to revisit it, to go behind now-familiar facts, images, and assumptions and shed new light on the inspirations for these revolutionary instruments and amplifiers, their sometimes difficult births and growing pains, the environment into which they were unleashed upon the world, and the motivations and personalities of key players.

Aside from celebrating the amps and guitars that separated the company from its rivals, The Fender Archives looks at the company from the inside out. Leo Fender’s drawing-board sketches and his penciled notations analyzing the costs of his guitars’ every screw and string ferrule, Don Randall’s revealing handwritten letters imploring Leo to evolve prototypes into production models, Freddie Tavares’ hyper-detailed personal logbooks, in-house memos, and financial reports—such documents are freed here from long confinement in steel-gray filing cabinets and nearly forgotten cardboard boxes, dusted off, and promoted from background to spotlight.

Other items include historic patents, memos debating marketing strategies and product design, a 1946 contract setting up Leo Fender’s first distributorship, and a 1964 report from investment consultants to CBS recommending that while the famed guitar company would be a promising acquisition, Leo Fender himself should be nudged aside in favor of a new breed of buttoned-down corporate managers. Never intended to see the light of day, these documents provide new frames of reference. Several are supplemented with excerpts from my interviews with past and current Fender employees and also with Doc Kauffman, Merle Travis, Ted McCarty, and others.

As Fender CEO Larry Thomas says in these pages: “Fender, it’s not about the guitar. It’s about the music. The guitar helps you to get there; it’s about the emotional connection. Fender is at the heart of American music.” Indeed, Fender is more than a brand. The name conjures an edgy, fuel-injected attitude toward creating and performing music that was born in the late 1940s in small-town Fullerton, California, a place of orange groves and oil wells where Hawaiian music met country, and Western met swing.

In the surrounding metro community, America’s post-war economy was being invigorated by the roll-up-your-sleeves, can-do attitudes of returning World War II G.I.s; the mechanical intuition of suburban toolshed tinkerers; and the brainy enthusiasm of aerospace engineers in horn-rims and short- sleeved shirts communing with their slide rules and looking toward the moon. It was the site of America’s first commercial drag strip, and a place where Detroit auto designers came to tap into the hotrod/speedway esthetic when dreaming up what came to be called muscle cars. Like other American cities, Fullerton felt the comfort of “I Like Ike” and Father Knows Best morphing into the zing and zest of Camelot and Carnaby Street; it felt the rock-ribbed red, white, and blue traditions of thrift and economy merging with the fashion and futurism of a Jet Age rapidly

evolving into a Space Age. It was Southern California, a state of mind as much as a geographical location, home to Hollywood, West Coast Cool, the Magic Kingdom, and Tomorrowland. The sun, surf, and tire-smoking hotrod vibe fueled its own twist on a nationwide phenomenon, as pop met a feisty blend of roadhouse blues and hillbilly bop soon to be dubbed “rock and roll.”

Thrown together by the fates, aspects of these seemingly random, combustible elements would tangle and mingle at the Fender flashpoint, ultimately igniting new musical styles, new attitudes, and new cultures across Orange County, across America, across the world. It all happened in ways no one could have predicted.

History, chronicle, scrapbook—perhaps in some way The Fender Archives is also part memoir. While readers of any of my books will get a hint of my perspectives and tastes, this one is more intimate. It reflects more of my personal experience with Fender instruments, a reimagining of musical possibilities during my own formative years, and my scores of conversations with the people who founded the company, resurrected it, and carry it forward.

Many of my tastes and viewpoints are shared by the global guitar community, of course—we revere our Telecasters and Deluxe Reverbs—but the emphasis here on, say, early and mid-’60s Fender lore admittedly reflects one impressionable teenager’s fascination with a world of gleaming, swoop-body guitars and a distant Southern California as evoked by visionary marketers and an arty photographer with photogenic daughters, a bitchin’ T-Bird convertible, and ready access to the beach.

I approached my previous books the way any historian works, sifting and prioritizing facts and attempting to provide context. I’ve done the same here, while also acting as a sort of museum curator—selecting and arranging artifacts so as to let them speak for themselves, sometimes emphatically. In addition to text and photos, dozens of artifacts are embraced here in envelopes and sleeves, some chosen for historical value, others for dazzle, nostalgia, or sheer fun. A note on organization: the Table of Contents is merely a listing of major topics; dozens of subtopics are scattered throughout in scrapbook fashion.

I believe that taken together, these bits and pieces reveal new insights into what Leo Fender and his colleagues and descendants contributed and continue to contribute to guitar, to music, and to world culture. Putting this book together revealed many new insights for me while evoking a flood of memories. Perhaps it will do the same for you.

—Tom Wheeler

Listen: Curtain Call with John Martin

Curtain Call host Charles Sepos chats with John Martin about his new book In Character: Opera Portraiture.

>>LISTEN HERE<<

In Character_Cover_9X12_with index.inddIn Character: Opera Portraiture memorably captures operatic performers away from the audience but fully inhabiting their roles. It showcases the work of John F. Martin, who for years set up a portable studio in the basement of the San Francisco Opera and photographed the players – in costume and full makeup – right before or after they took the stage. The subjects range from nonsinging supernumeraries through chorus members and comprimarii to opera’s greatest stars, such as Anna Netrebko, Natalie Dessay, Deborah Voigt, Juan Diego Flórez, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Their roles run the gamut of opera personalities: heroes and heroines, villains and outcasts, royalty and common folk, Biblical figures and creatures of myth. Facing Martin’s camera, each artist projects the essence of his or her character, however great or small the part.

The book also features a foreword by author Amy Tan; a preface by David Gockley, general director of the San Francisco Opera; essays on opera behind the scenes, the vital role of costumes, and the transformation of singers into characters; and an interview with world-renowned soprano Danielle de Niese. A collection unlike any other, In Character will have broad appeal-to opera and theater buffs, costume and fashion aficionados, and anyone who appreciates fine art photography.

4 Steps To Improve your chances for a successful music career

Bobby Borg, author of Music Marketing for the DIY Musician, whips up some more wisdom in this article from Echoes!

 

In my 15 years of teaching and consulting, I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a young musician say, “I just do what I do, and if anyone likes it, they’ll buy it.

“My reply? Congratulations, you’re a true artist.”

But as you get a little older and your responsibilities increase with a mortgage, spouse, and kids, this attitude is dangerous unless you have another source of income or you’re just a hobbyist. Make no mistake, music is an art, but having a successful music career and making money at it is a serious business.

What follows are a few tips that might help improve your chances for having a successful music career without compromising your integrity.

Have a clear vision

Success starts with a vision – and a vision statement. A vision statement is a declaration of where you’d like your career to be in seven to ten years down the road. With this defined and in place, it’s far easier to map out the directions for how you’re going to get to your desired destination.

A vision statement summarizes what you are truly passionate about, and includes everything from the type of music you’d like to create, the products you might release, and the overall brand image you might like to impart on your intended audience.

Long before Marilyn Manson hit the scene, he envisioned himself as being a “pop star who would shock the world.” He kept drawings of costumes and stage set designs along with other business and creative details in a personal notebook. This was Manson’s “North Star” – his guiding light. Several platinum albums later, he truly succeeded at bringing his vision to fruition.

As the saying goes, “If you don’t stand for something, you can surely fall for anything.” So what’s guiding your music career? If you haven’t thought about it before, now is a good time.

Identify opportunities or needs

While keeping your vision at heart, it’s time to examine what’s going on in the world around to ensure that your vision actually fills a need and represents a true opportunity – from a creative and marketing standpoint. As previously stated, Marilyn Manson had a clear vision of being a pop star who would shock the world. But he also identified and filled a specific void in the marketplace – and perhaps even a specific societal need – for an entertaining and horrifically dramatic “new” stage personality, similar to what a now aging Alice Cooper had done decades earlier. In other words, the commercial marketplace was ripe for an artist like Marilyn Manson, and he capitalized on the opportunity unlike any other artist.

A valuable tool to help you examine the external (and internal) environments of the marketplace is called a “SWOT analysis.” SWOT is an acronym that stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The idea is to identify external needs and opportunities that match your internal strengths while also considering your internal weaknesses and the external risks (e.g. competition) that could impede your ability to succeed. While all this might sound like business school jargon, the most successful companies, both big and small, use the SWOT model. And with a little training, so can you!

Don’t worry whether Lil Dr. Dre, or anyone else, knew this stuff

Make no mistake – successful people in all fields apply marketing and business principles to get their desired results, whether they know it or not. From jazz guitarist Pat Metheny who advanced traditional jazz music into the future with the use of synthesizers and robotics, to Nirvana who stamped out cookie-cutter hair metal and created a whole new genre of music called grunge, new trails were forged that filled a very specific market need. The advantage of being consciously aware of certain marketing principles up front is that you don’t have to find your path by chance. Rather, you can use these helpful tools at your own discretion to help you achieve your vision.

Be an innovator

Be clear that the marketing approach that I am discussing here is not asking you to compromise your artistic integrity and to “sell out,” but rather to adjust with the world around you, be more unique and innovative, and to “buy in.” Let’s face it, creating art is a beautiful thing, but creating a sound and style that is new and fresh, having it enjoyed by a large audience, and receiving compensation so that you can quite your day job is simply awesome! Remember, creating music in a vacuum and simply hoping it is successful can be a risky proposition if you intend to be more than a hobbyist.

In closing…

Always stay true your vision, but be willing to adjust that vision to fill a specific need or void in the marketplace that matches your strengths. If you can fill that need first and do it better than anyone else, the rest just might be your amazing history.

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Listen: Harvey Kubernik on Masters of Song

Harvey Kubernik was a guest on Lisa Finnie’s Masters of Song program on KCSN. Hear their discussion on Harvey’s new book, Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows, as well as some samples from Leonard’s newest album!

00126365>>LISTEN HERE<<

No other contemporary songwriter has created a body of work of such consistent quality, and such singular emotional and intellectual brilliance, as Leonard Cohen. His smoke-black vocal style navigates the most sophisticated and arresting of melodies in songs infused with romance, innuendo, and humor.

Arriving at the ’60s pop-music party fashionably late, Cohen released his debut album – Songs of Leonard Cohen – in 1967. At 33 years of age, he was the adult in the room, a room brimming, then as now, with literary pretension and artistic self-importance. But Cohen, already established as a respected poet and novelist, was the real deal. In the decades since, he has battled with drugs, love, and bankruptcy; become a Buddhist monk while simultaneously reaffirming his Jewish faith; and recorded 11 more albums of unfailingly affecting beauty.

Beginning with Cohen the young poet and author in his home town of Montreal and ending with his 2012 release – Old Ideas – and recent acclaimed live performances, Everybody Knowshonors Leonard Cohen’s 80th birthday by celebrating his genius and tracing his rise to stardom through 200 photographs and the thoughts, memories, and reflections of those who have both worked with and been inspired by him.