Q&A with Laura Wayth

“Should I go to a school and get more training in acting, or should I just go out there and do it?” How important is training?” “Where should I go to get training?” “What is the right kind of training for me?” These are the questions every aspiring actor finds themselves asking at some point in their career. Answers to these questions and many more can be found in A Field Guide to Actor Training , a one-stop-shopping resource for student and beginning actors looking for guidance in selecting the training that is right for them. Author Laura Wayth has kindly answered some questions about the book below.

 

 Who do you think will benefit most from reading this book?Laura Wayth bio pic

I think any actor facing the big question, “What do I do now?” will be helped by this book. I think that all actors come to a cross-roads in their journey at some point- some come to it very early and some come to that cross-roads later. Many actors- both students and professional actors- have come to me knowing that they want more training but they aren’t sure what their next step is. They don’t know whether they should go to graduate school, get more studio training or just keep plugging away in the industry. I think that for every actor the right next step will be different, but I think that this book will help actors to ask themselves the right questions.

 

 What kinds of topics do you cover in this book?

I touch on most of the major acting, voice and movement methodologies being taught in training programs today. I tell a little bit about their history, gi00117162ve actors an idea of the basic principles and try to give them a taste of what it might be like to train under a given system. I think an actor who knows themselves and knows how they work and what they respond to can then say, “Ooo! This might be a tool for me” or, “I think something else might resonate with me better”.

I also talk about the value of different training routes; studio classes vs. private coaching vs. graduate training and certificate programs. I have a Q & A section in the back of the book where I asked my current and former students what questions they wanted answers to.

 

 What inspired you to write A Field Guide to Actor Training?

There was no book like this out there when I was a young actor. I had to figure everything out for myself. I did not have enough information about training and I wasn’t informed enough to make good decisions for myself. I wound up spending a lot of money on training that wasn’t right for me because I didn’t know what questions to ask. If I had read my book all of those years ago, I probably would have saved myself a whole lot of time and money.

 

Selecting America’s Best Short Plays

For years now, Bill Demastes has been selecting and editing together the best short plays in the U.S. for the long-running series, The Best American Short Plays. The newest volume in the series, The Best American Short Plays 2012-2013, includes works from a wide variety of writers, from seasoned playwrights to college students. Many ask, how exactly does Bill pick the “best” plays out of such a huge selection of eager voices? Mr. Demastes has been so kind as to write us a post giving us some insight into his quest to find the best plays in America.

 

First, let me say that I love this job. I get to read hundreds of plays from some of the best new talents in the country, and I get teasingly exciting submissions from many of the most established writers today. Judging from the number of high quality submissions I receive from year to year, I can say that

Bill Demastes taking a break in his Baton Rouge office.

Bill Demastes taking a break in his Baton Rouge office.

creative talent in New York City is definitely alive and well.  (That might actually be an understatement.) What’s equally exciting to me is that talent exists across the country, in Baltimore, Atlanta, Knoxville, Athens, New Orleans, Kalamazoo, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Southern and Northern California, and even up there in Alaska. Where next?

People often ask me how I pick the plays for each volume. It is a very difficult decision, and there are no real rules to this procedure. I read for fresh writing, stuff that reads like spoken language. Neat ideas certainly help, but well-done, quiet vignettes and reminiscences work well, too. I’m a sucker for surprise endings and good jokes. Political messages are not what I look for, but well put together and heartfelt pieces often catch my eye. I love comic word play when I see it. Not a big fan of gratuitous profanity–can’t the effect be better generated through wit rather than coarse bludgeoning? 

After I pull together a large list of plays that I like, I look to see what common threads course through most of the works and try to string together something of a theme for the volume. This is a difficult task. However, if you look hard enough, common threads do surface among good writing since all really good work deals somehow with the common experiences of love, hate, loss, regret–the things that occupy those moments in our lives beyond the empty hurlyburly of simply making a living.

I frequently hear from authors included in these volumes that their works find their ways onto the stage thanks to the exposure from these volumes. That’s a very gratifying thing. In a world where being a playwright is no easy occupation, it is a good thing to be able to help in some small way.

I look forward to the publication of this new volume, certain the playwrights and plays I’ve included will not disappoint. And I welcome submissions of scripts that have been produced over the past theatre season from any and all–including recommendations from discriminating theatregoers.

The SAVI Singing Actor on Dramatic Circumstances

The musical theatre technique blogger, The SAVI Singing Actor, has written a comprehensive review of William Wesbrooks’ Dramatic Circumstances. Check it out!

 

Once upon a time, there was a professor who taught singing actors about how to perform00103894 songs. He worked in a big city at a university with a big reputation, and many students came to study with him. He loved his work; he loved being able to help students, and the things he taught them were genuinely helpful. After awhile, he thought to himself, “Maybe I could help more students if I were to write about the ways I train my students in a book.”

Yes, this is my story, but it’s also the story of Bill Wesbrooks, Director of Vocal Performance at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at NYU. The difference between Bill and me is, he’s actually written the book. It’s called “Dramatic Circumstances,” it was published a few months ago, and it’s a great addition to the literature of singer-actor training.

 

Read the rest HERE
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Listen: At the Table with Sheana Ochoa

Sheana Ochoa, author of Stella! Mother of Modern Acting, visited Kelly Lincoln of At the Table. Together, they discuss “the great, ahead of her time Stella Adler, and how the Yiddish Theater birthed American Theater.”

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>>LISTEN HERE<<

Arthur Miller decided to become a playwright after seeing her perform with the Group Theater. Marlon Brando attributed his acting to her genius as a teacher. Theater critic Robert Brustein calls her the greatest acting teacher in America.

At the turn of the 20th century – by which time acting had hardly evolved since classical Greece – Stella Adler became a child star of the Yiddish stage in New York, where she was being groomed to refine acting craft and eventually help pioneer its modern gold standard: method acting. Stella’s emphasis on experiencing a role through the actions in the given circumstances of the work directs actors toward a deep sociological understanding of the imagined characters: their social class, geographic upbringing, biography, which enlarges the actor’s creative choices.

Always “onstage,” Stella’s flamboyant personality disguised a deep sense of not belonging. Her unrealized dream of becoming a movie star chafed against an unflagging commitment to the transformative power of art. From her Depression-era plays with the Group Theatre to freedom fighting during WWII, Stella used her notoriety as a tool for change.

For this book, Sheana Ochoa worked alongside Irene Gilbert, Stella’s friend of 30 years, who provided Ochoa with a trove of Stella’s personal and pedagogical materials, and Ochoa interviewed Stella’s entire living family, including her daughter Ellen; her colleagues and friends, from Arthur Miller to Karl Malden; and her students from Robert De Niro to Mark Ruffalo. Unearthing countless unpublished letters and interviews, private audio recordings, Stella’s extensive FBI file, class videos and private audio recordings, Ochoa’s biography introduces one of the most under recognized, yet most influential luminaries of the 20th century.

Harold and Stella: Opening night!

fringeThe two-person play “Harold and Stella: Love Letters” opens at the Hollywood Fringe Festival tonight (Friday). Here are some details from the Festival website…

 

In 1942 Stella Adler (queen of modern acting) and Harold Clurman (dean of American theater) were living on opposite coasts of the country as the U.S. entered the Second World War. They began a steady stream of correspondence to buttress their long distance romance, letters that reveal times as tempestuous as their relationship. Through their words, we enter the lives of two artists unflinchingly committed to their work while struggling through creative, financial and romantic uncertainty.

 

Sheana Ochoa, author of Stella Adler’s new biography, Stella! Mother of Modern Acting will be at each performance to sign copies. Enter discount code “BOOK” to receive a signed copy of the book along with your ticket at the discounted price of $35. Visit the festival website HERE for more details. Hope to see you all there!

A True Acting Tip from Larry Silverberg

larrysilverbergLarry Silverberg’s True Acting Tips has become a favorite amongst acting teachers, being used in their classrooms to generate a true conversation about the craft of acting. Larry, known worldwide as a master teacher of the Meisner Approach to acting, has written a book that instigates an exploration of the fundamental roots of human creation and the demands of entering the path towards acting with humanity and soul. Larry, Director of the True Acting Institute (www.trueactinginstitute.com) has trained tousands of actors and acting teachers around the globe and he is the Master Teacher of Acting at renowned Shenandoah University Conservatory of the Arts. Here now, a new “True Acting Tip of the Day” just for you!

Larry’s True Acting Tip of the Day

This morning, I read a lesson from the wonderful teacher, Pema Chodron and I thought of you dear readers and your interest in this thing I am calling “True Acting.” It has become clear to me over the years of working and teaching that the most resistant barrier to great acting is not an acting issue at all, it is a human one. Pema says it in this way, “…to remain open to the present groundless moment, to a direct, unarmored participation with our experience. We are certainly not being asked to trust that everything is going to be all right. Moving in the direction of nothing to hold on to is daring. We will not initially experience it as a thrilling, alive, wonderful way to be. How many of us feel ready to interrupt our habitual patterns, our almost instinctual ways of getting comfortable?”

How simple and profound these words, “Moving in the direction of nothing left to hold on to.” This reminds me of something I heard Rudolf Nureyev say many years ago. He told our group that right before every performance, he would work himself out to the point of exhaustion and then, in the performance of the dance, he would have nothing left to hang on to and he would SOAR!” Yes! And that is exactly the point, to soar in your acting!  This is the thing… to move beyond your old, habitual ways of being, to shift the frozen, stuck, protective armor of the mind to the side so that your creative self can function. My friends, this is no small matter and will demand a complete commitment and a relentless pursuit.  The DESIRE to enter this particular domain, the land of “nothing left to hang on to” is something no one can give to you – not your mother, not your teacher, not your guru – and only you know if it is of true interest to you. But I can tell you clearly, until an actor walks that ground, his work will remain pedestrian and uninspired.

true acting tips cover

Happy Tony’s!

What with the 2014 Tony’s happening this Sunday, there is no better time to brush up on your Broadway trivia! Test your knowledge with a few questions from The Broadway Musical Quiz Book. The answers will be posted next week. The questions we’ve chosen to ask have everything to do with Broadway’s most well-known duo: Rodgers and Hammerstein, of course. Think you know your Broadway stuff? Give it a go!

1) What is there to say about Oklahoma! (1943)? It marked a watershed in musical theatre history. Even poor souls who know next to nothing about musicals have heard of it. Richard Rodgers’ folksy melodies and Oscar Hammerstain’s easy, conversational lyrics helped give this tale of cowboys and farmers its naturalistic feel. Which of the following critters is not found in Oklahoma! (the show, not the state)?

A. a hawk

B. a lark

C. Rams and ewes

D. a field mouse

E. a little brown maverick

 

2) The duo followed Oklahoma!‘s triumph with another success, 19945’s Carousel, based on Ferenc Molnár’s Liliom. Fortunately for Rodgers and Hammerstein (and musical lovers everywhere), Molnár approved many changes to his play, including a drastically softened ending and its relocation from Hungary to New England. During the Boston tryouts, Hammerstein (or director Reuben Mamoulian, depending on which source you read) came up with a new concept for the deity figure: he became “the Starkeeper,” perched on his ladder, polishing the stars. How was this character previously depicted?

A. as a calm sea captain in a celestial boat

B. as a stonecutter

C. as the owner of the mill

D. as Billy’s angelic counterpart, the operator of a heavenly carousel

E. as “Mr. God,” sitting quietly in a New England parlor, with “Mrs. God” playing on the harmonium

 

3) 1949’s South Pacific  returned the pair to the heights, capturing the Pulitzer for drama and running 1,925 performances. based on James Michener’s stories, it concerns the romance between a navy nurse, Nellie Forbush (Mary Martin), and a French plantation owner, Emile de Becque (opera star Ezio Pinza). The subplot involves the tragic love affair of a young officer (William Tabbert) for an island girl (Betta St. John). What does Lt. Cable try to give Bloody Mary (Juanita Hall) after he renounces Liat?

A. a boar’s tooth necklace

B. his grandfather’s watch

C. DiMaggio’s glove

D. “fo’ dolla'”

E. a blueberry pie