Mark Zeisler performed a monologue at the recent Applause Books’ Best Monologues Anthology Launch at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe! In the video below, Zeisler performs a monologue from G.C. by Theodore Mann. Check it out!
Join us for the launch of Best Monologues from the Best American Short Plays! This two-volume anthology includes monologues from some of America’s most dynamic and exciting theatrical voices. The launch event will feature readings and performances of monologues by authors including Clay McLeod Chapman, Peter Maloney, Laura Shaine, Polly Frost, Steve Feffer, Daniel Gallant and many more. Order one or both volumes of the anthology via the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and receive free admission to the launch event!
Where: 236 East 3rd Street, NYC 10009
When: Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 6-9 p.m.
For more information, call 212-780-9386 or 212-505-8183
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:
“ 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 speaking 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.”
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:
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.
“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.
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, give 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.
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
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 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 perform 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