Category Archives: Theatre
Laura Wayth, author of The Shakespeare Audition, spoke with Neva Grant about her book and why Shakespeare isn’t as daunting as it may seem. Click on the link below to hear more and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Classical auditions, and especially Shakespeare auditions, are a fact of any actor’s life. Theater seasons often call for them, and graduate auditions require them, but that doesn’t make them any less terrifying.
The Shakespeare Audition: How to Get Over Your Fear, Find the Right Piece, and Have a Great Audition by Laura Wayth is here to help! Whether for group auditions or graduate school, every actor needs a good classical piece in his or her arsenal. There have been many books written about acting Shakespeare, but until now there hasn’t been a concise, easy-to-access guide to assist the terrified and time-pressed actor in navigating all the aspects of a classical audition.
In 15 concise chapters, Wayth addresses subjects such as distinguishing poetry and prose in Shakespeare; finding the correct play and character; determining your character’s given circumstances; meter, inflection and images; and much more.
From overcoming the fear of acting Shakespeare to selecting the right material to tips on performing a classical piece – The Shakespeare Audition is the actor’s go-to guide to a successful and compelling audition.
We over at Applause Books have partnered with Erie Gay News to give away a copy two of our books. From November 17 to December 8 you have a chance to enter to win Mark Clark’s book, Star Wars FAQ. And starting today you can enter for a chance to win A Chorus Line FAQ by Tom Rowan! The contest for A Chorus Line FAQ ends on Friday, December 11, 2015 so make sure to enter before it’s too late!
The ultimate treasure trove of information, A Chorus Line FAQ presents history and fun facts, including: the unique workshop process through which the show was developed and written, the stories of its creators, the record-breaking Broadway run and numerous touring productions, and the captivating movie version. The book also features all-new chapters on the Broadway revival, the two London productions, and notable regional productions around the country. In addition to a chapter on A Chorus Line cultural history – with a guide to all the pop cultural references in the show – the book includes extensive photos as well as biographical information on the casts of the major productions. There are also chapters on recordings, previous books on the topic, and the landmark show’s influence on subsequent Broadway musicals and films.
In his foreword to Star Wars FAQ Everything Left to Know About the Trilogy That Changed the Movies, Alan Dean Foster, critically acclaimed author of more than a hundred science fiction and fantasy novels, sums up what the Star Wars FAQ is all about: “Reading a book like Star Wars FAQ is a bit like strolling the streets of London without a guidebook. You know where Big Ben is, but stumbling across the first public drinking fountain in Britain is apt, in its own more modest way, to be even more enchanting.”
Star Wars FAQ offers an original analysis of the series’ enduring appeal and cultural impact. In the process, author Mark Clark tells a story as thrilling and action-packed as the movies themselves, with bold characters facing apparently insurmountable odds.
Masterworks Broadway recently reviewed Tom Rowan’s book A Chorus Line FAQ. While this is an FAQ book, Peter Filichia points out that Rowan doesn’t set it up as a simple question and answer book. Instead Rowan “gives a straightforward account of how one of the most beloved of Broadway musicals got started and succeeded.” To celebrate the musical’s 40th anniversary, Filichia soured A Chorus Line FAQ, for 40 fun facts…
In honor of the show’s fortieth anniversary, here are the forty facts from A Chorus Line FAQ that most interested me:
- Baayork Lee, the original Connie, calls A Chorus Line “the first reality show.” (All right, not quite, but I see her point.)
- The real Coco Chanel liked director-choreographer Michael Bennett so much that she “tried to persuade him to give up the theater in favor of the fashion industry.”
- Co-librettist Nicholas Dante’s real last name was Morales – a name that was certainly put to use in the finished product.
- Dante was one of two finalists for the ensemble of Applause; the other was Sammy Williams, who five years later would tell Dante’s story as Paul in A Chorus Line.
- Co-librettist James Kirkwood’s life story is one, as Jack Kruschen sings in I Can Get It for You Wholesale, “that only Turgenev maybe could write.” (How harrowing! I won’t spoil it for you here.)
- Bobby Thomas, a drummer, turned out to be far more important to the show than the average drummer is on a musical. (Once again, I won’t give away the story.)
- “Hamlisch was irritated by Kleban’s smoking.” So should we all have been; it cost the lyricist his life at the much-too-earlyage of forty-eight.
- Many who were involved early on doubted that the show was ever going to amount to anything, but the day that Hamlisch and Kleban performed “At the Ballet” gave them newfound hope.
- For the finale, the original plan was to have Zach, , the martinet director-choreographer, choose a person from the audience who would then be the centerpiece and star of “One.” (This isn’t in the book, but Number Eight started me thinking: How about a benefit performance of A Chorus Line in which our favorite female stars – Chenoweth, Foster, LuPone, McDonald, Menzel, Peters, et al. – take turns in being the star celebrated in “One”? As H.C. Curry says in 110 in the Shade, “I’d like to see that.”)
- There was much discussion on whether to keep to the time-honored two-couple structure of the average musical; you know, Billy and Julie aren’t alone in Carousel, for Carrie and Enoch are there, too. For a while, the Chorus Line creators thought that Zach and Cassie shouldn’t be the only ones with a romantic history, but that Sheila and Don should have previously been lovers, too.
Read the rest of the facts over at Masterworks Broadway!
The author of the book, The Shakespeare Audition, Laura Wayth has explained why some of us find Shakespeare so overwhelming. Is it the old English? The accent? Believe it or not it’s something else entirely. Read below for to find out why Laura Wayth thinks Shakespeare shouldn’t make you scared but excited.
I kind of hate calling him “The Bard,” don’t you? But that’s what people often call Shakespeare. In medieval Gaelic and British culture, a bard was a professional poet employed by a patron (be it a monarch or nobleman) to write. Shakespeare is called The Bard because many people consider him the greatest poet that ever lived. And the idea that Shakespeare is first and foremost a poet is important for us to think about.
You see, the thing that probably makes you afraid of Shakespeare is the very thing that makes Shakespeare easy and fun. Shakespeare is poetry.
Although Shakespeare wrote prose, the majority of his work is in verse, aka poetry. Poetry has a specific shape and structure. Poetry has some rules governing the way it’s created. Once you learn those rules and that structure, Shakespeare begins to make perfect, exquisite sense! The rules that shape the creation of poetry give the actor a kind of roadmap to follow. Learn how to read the map, and the road to Shakespeare-land rolls out before you and your performance springs to life. Once you understand the form, you unlock the key to actor fun and freedom. I’m going to give you an idea of how to do this in a little while.
But first, let’s talk a little more about this dreaded P word—poetry. It sounds so formal, doesn’t it? It seems like something reserved for Valentine’s Day, or something archaic, ancient, and separate from our own experience. It seems fancy and formal and not how we express our truth. The biggest complaint I get from students who are new to Shakespeare when
they speak his words goes something like this: “But I just don’t feel like I’m being honest.” This is the single biggest problem actors have in approaching Shakespeare—they just don’t feel truthful speaking his words. And being truthful, after all, is the thing we actors value the most. To not feel truthful on stage is to feel fake, fraudulent, disconnected, self-conscious, and downright get-me-off-the-stage wrong.
But let’s think of it another way. Poetry isn’t our normal, everyday kind of truth. Poetry is greater than that. It offers an uplifted, larger-scale truth connected to all of humanity and to the divine. It isn’t the way we speak—it’s bigger and more powerful. So let’s think of poetry like an even greater revelation of our thoughts and of ourselves. Let’s think of it like music.
A song or a piece of instrumental music can take us to a place that is emotionally poignant and full of energy, encapsulating human experience even better than ordinary speech could. Music contains images. It is dense with a kind of information that we can understand not only on an intellectual level, but viscerally. Music can communicate what speech alone cannot. A violin can sing what someone’s heart is feeling. A driving rhythm can capture all that is raw and primitive in our individual or collective experience. A soaring line can lift us up. A minor key can bring us to a down and dark place. Poetry does this. And poetry does this because poetry is a kind of music.
Last week at New York’s Drama Book Shop, David Rothenberg, author of Fortune in My Eyes: A Memoir of Broadway Glamour, Social Justice, and Political Passion, and James Grissom, author of Follies of God: Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog traded Broadway tales.
In an excerpt from that talk, Grissom recalls how he and Rothenberg first met.
David Rothenberg’s multilayered life thrust him into Broadway’s brightest lights, prison riots, political campaigns, civil rights sit-ins, and a Central American civil war. In his memoir, Fortune in My Eyes, his journey includes many of the most celebrated names in the theater: Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Sir John Gielgud, Peggy Lee, Alvin Ailey, Lauren Bacall, Christine Ebersole, and numerous others.
An extraordinary book; one that almost magically makes clear how Tennessee Williams wrote; how he came to his visions of Amanda Wingfield, his Blanche DuBois, Stella Kowalski, Alma Winemiller, Lady Torrance, and the other characters of his plays that transformed the American theater of the mid-twentieth century; a book that does, from the inside, the almost impossible—revealing the heart and soul of artistic inspiration and the unwitting collaboration between playwright and actress, playwright and director.
When September rolls around, there are always new Broadway shows right behind it. Applause Books is celebrating the new Broadway season — and one of the most popular and successful musicals of all time — with A Chorus Line FAQ by Tom Rowan. Here’s an excerpt from Tom’s introduction!
A Chorus Line is, arguably, the most popular and successful American musical of all time. It opened in 1975 and won nine Tony Awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and a slew of other awards. In 1983, it broke the record as the longest-running show in Broadway history: a distinction it held for fourteen years. Ten different touring companies have crisscrossed the nation, and the show has been translated into over twenty languages and produced all over the world. A hit Broadway revival in 2006, which ran for two years, and its subsequent tours revived interest in the show, and today it is nearly always onstage somewhere, in regional theatres, summer stock venues, dinner theatres, community theatres, high schools, and colleges.
What is the appeal of this unique musical, and how has it so thoroughly captured, and held, the imagination of the American public?
The show plays directly into dreams and values that are deeply rooted in the American psyche. The idea of an audition, a competition, a group of people risking it all for a job—to prove they’re the best—has long been a central trope in our culture. It’s one of the reasons Americans are so obsessed with sports, or beauty pageants. Baayork Lee has referred to A Chorus Line as “the first reality show,” and indeed, the explosion in the 1990s and 2000s of competition-based reality TV programs fed into that same American obsession with Cinderella stories: the every man putting himself on the line for a chance at a dream, being judged a winner or a loser. Anyone who’s ever gone on a job interview can identify with the auditionees fighting for an opportunity to do what they love—and let’s admit it, once in a while we all like, if only vicariously, to be the judge as well, the one actually making the selections. A Chorus Line gave us a chance to root for the underdog, to choose our favorites, and then hold our breath till we found out who got the job—and weep for those who didn’t. Current television shows like American Idol, The Voice, America’s Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars, and so forth satisfy those same deep-seated needs. There have even been a few (such as the British How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? and the American Grease: You’re the One That I Want!) where the prize was an actual role in a West End or Broadway musical!
A closer look, though, reveals that A Chorus Line is something subtler, something deeper than this, perhaps even slyly subversive. Dancers in the show have expressed indignation at the existence of programs like You’re the One That I Want!; the implication that anybody off the street could be a Broadway star seems to negate the years of discipline and self-sacrifice and grueling, expensive training real dancers commit to in pursuit of their goals. And after all, the seventeen auditionees standing on that white line are not competing for a shot at stardom or celebrity; as the show’s finale makes startlingly clear, they are asking for a chanceto dance in a uniform, anonymous kick line behind a star. It’s love of the work itself that drives them, not any misplaced desire for wealth (which won’t be forthcoming in any case) or the proverbial fifteen minutes of fame. Somewhere in there can perhaps be seen a metaphorical critique of the American dream: do we chase success by competing to be as much like everybody else as possible?
The Deaf West production of Spring Awakening, re-imagined and performed simultaneously in English and American Sign Language, begian Broadway performances Sept. 8 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. It’s been nine years since the rock musical first appeared in Broadway in 2006. In honor of Spring Awakening returning, here’s a look back to a podcast episode featuring Steven Sater and cast members Johnathan Groff and Lauren Pritchard. Click on the link below to listen and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Onstage and Backstage podcast from Hal Leonard is available on iTunes and Libsyn. Each episode authors and their guests have a chat about the topics of their books. Today, Steven Sater talks about Spring Awakening and writing his book A Purple Summer: Notes on the Lyrics of Spring Awakening with two original cast members, Jonathan Groff and Lauren Pritchard.
A Purple Summer by Steven Sater
In February 1999, Steven Sater conceived the radical notion of creating a rock musical from Frank Wedekind’s notorious Symbolist drama, Frühlings Erwachen, and he enlisted his friend and writing partner Duncan Sheik in the enterprise. That night, Sater came home and began writing the first lyric of Spring Awakening: “Mama Who Bore Me” – a lyric which still stands, verbatim, just as he first wrote it.
Ten years later, in the wake of the enormous international success of this groundbreaking, multiaward-winning show, its original director, Michael Mayer, urged Sater to write notes explicating its famously evocative, poetic lyrics.
In rich detail, Sater’s notes address the literary sources and allusions of each lyric. He also writes feelingly of what prompted the songs over the course of the show’s eight years of development. In so doing, Sater expands on his partnership with Sheik and his experiences with original cast members, Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff, now also known from Glee.
These notes will prove invaluable for fans of the show, for all those interested in theater, and most especially for all the young performers who will play the roles and sing these songs.
Theodore Bikel, who died on Tuesday, toured for decades as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” but, before he mused about being a rich man, Bikel created the role of Baron von Trapp in the original Broadway production of “The Sound of Music.” In The Sound of Music FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Maria, the von Trapps, and Our Favorite Things, author Barry Monush profiled Bikel.
Being not only authentically Austrian but accomplished at playing the guitar, Theodore Bikel (born in Vienna on May 2, 1924) proved ideal casting for Captain von Trapp. His own family had, in fact, faced a similar dilemma as the Trapps, having to flee Austria once the Nazis took power in 1938. In Bikel’s case, however, being Jewish, the threat was even greater. Settling in Israel, he took an interest in dramatics, joining the Habima Theater in Tel Aviv and then journeying to London to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. A role in a 1948 revival of You Can’t Take It with You led to director Laurence Olivier casting him as one of Stanley and Mitch’s poker-playing pals in the London debut (October 12, 1949) of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Olivier’s wife, Vivien Leigh. This, in turn, brought him his first film, John Huston’s Oscar-winning The African Queen (1951), popping up near the climax as a German sailor. That same year he returned to the West End to play a Russian in Peter Ustinov’s comedy The Love of Four Colonels, which he would stay with for two years.
Continuing his run of supporting roles in movies, Bikel covered nearly every nationality possible, playing a Serbian king in the Oscar-nominated Moulin Rouge (1952); a Belgian opera director in Melba (1953), which featured Robert Morley playing Oscar Hammerstein II’s father); a Dutch doctor living in Canada in The Little Kidnappers (1953); a German naval officer in Above Us the Waves (1955); and a French general in The Pride and the Passion (1956). During this time he made his Broadway debut (February 1955), playing an imposing French police inspector in the short-lived Tonight in Samarkand, followed later that year by the more successful The Lark, as a French captain pressured into helping Joan of Arc (Julie Harris). (The cast included Christopher Plummer, putting the two future Captain von Trapps in the same property for the only time). For playing a doctor in the drama The Rope Dancers (1957), Bikel earned his first Tony nomination. He finally appeared in an American-made movie when Stanley Kramer cast him as the sympathetic southern sheriff in The Defiant Ones (1958), which brought him an Oscar nomination for supporting actor. He was also seen in another of the year’s top releases, as a psychiatrist offering assistance to condemned prisoner Susan Hayward in I Want to Live!, directed by Robert Wise.
After the head of Elektra Records, Jac Holzman, heard Bikel perform, he signed him to his label, launching his second career as a noted folk singer with a 1955 album, known alternately as Theodore Bikel Sings Songs of Israel and Folksongs of Israel. There followed An Actor’s Holiday (1956) and Songs of a Russian Gypsy (1958), among others. He did not shut down this side of his career to concentrate exclusively on TSOM, however, appearing for two concerts at Town Hall on November 29, 1959, only two weeks after the musical’s Broadway opening.
At the time The Sound of Music premiered on Broadway, Bikel was thirty-five, a decade and a year younger than the real Captain von Trapp was at the time he and Maria first crossed paths.
Applause Books is proud to continue another series in this enormous diversity of contemporary American theater. This new edition of William W. Demastes Best American Short Plays contains fresh-voiced, cutting-edge works by twenty-six playwrights. Demastaes has published widely on modern theater and drama, including Comedy Matters, Spalding Gray’s America, Staging Consciousness, and Theatre of Chaos. As William Demastes brings together his selection of short plays there seems to be a common theme within each play, uncertainty. Below is an introduction as to what will await you upon reading Demastes’ best picks of American Short Plays.
“Uncertain seems to be the watchword of today’s world, filled as it is with surprises, shocks, and even a few delights. Uncertainty brings with it fear and insecurity, and a nostalgic longing for the good old days. But for some, uncertainty means opportunity, and along with that opportunity comes the prospect of change for the better. Fifty years ago, Bob Dylan inserted a catchy phrase into our cultural consciousness: The times they are a-changing. The 1960s did in fact mark changes of all sorts for our world, many good and even revolutionary. It was an amazing time marked by triumph and tragedy both great and small. But think about how much more times have changed in the half-century since Dylan’s declaration. Things not even envisioned by science-fiction visionaries are now part of our daily fabric. Technology has transformed our lives by placing information of all sorts literally at our fingertips. It has made us far more efficient in the workplace. And it has provided us the opportunity to share our lives with anyone at any time from any distance. Of course, this is not all good. Rapid pace and shrinking distance have reduced opportunities to reflect and contemplate. They have cut out times for creative play, for daydreaming, and so many other not-for-profit enterprises that make life worth living.
Then there are all those other changes, the ones that somehow have made us more alienated from one another than ever before. It is fortunate today that political adversaries remain unarmed, as oppositional political enmity has torn our country into enclaves of fear and mistrust. Race relations have reached both new highs and new lows. Sex and gender issues have received unprecedented public exposure, again for good and ill. And religion (traditional as well as New Age) continues its struggle against erosions of faith, leading to visions of godlessness and attendant despair. The triumph of tearing down the cold-war wall has brought on innumerable unintended negative consequences, opening the way for countless brush-fire tyrannies, and making the world in many ways more dangerous than ever before since we can’t even be sure who our enemies are, or what they want, or why they hate us.”
Make sure to read and learn more by purchasing The Best American Short Plays (2013-2014). We would love to hear from you and your thoughts on a short play of your choice within the book.
Dramatic Circumstances: On Acting, Singing, and Living Inside the Stories We Tell author William Wesbrooks was recently featured on GetAcceptd! In this blog post, he provides advice for performing your best audition ever!
How One Extra Minute Can Make For Your Best Audition Ever
Here’s the scenario: You wait outside the audition room minutes away from being called through the door. You feel your nerves kicking into “overdrive” and your confidence slipping away. You know that you are prepared to do good work, but experience tells you that your nerves are likely to get in the way.
This is what you do: Give yourself one minute — one full minute — to engage your brain, your imagination, and your power of concentration to move yourself away from nervousness and into your dramatic circumstance. Living inside your story is a much more powerful, and fun, place to be than waiting in a crowded room for your name to be called.
Create Your Dramatic Circumstance
- Think of your song as a story in which you are the central character.
- Determine what events in your story have brought you to the point where you have to sing this song in order to get what you want.
- Determine your other — the person to whom you are singing.
- Check in with your body (either sitting or standing) and feel yourself “long” through the torso and “wide” across the chest.
- Inhale deeply (3 counts in) and exhale completely (6 counts out).
- Imagine that your other is standing in front of you.
- Continue your deep breathing and give it some time.
By taking these steps you will learn how to become a part of the story you are telling, and as you spend this time “living inside” your story, you will find that your dramatic circumstance comes to life, your “other” comes to life, and — most importantly — you come to life with increasing clarity, power, and freedom. Most importantly, you will also discover that the time it takes to get inside your story — to get inside each song you prepare — will get shorter and shorter.
Give Yourself a Minute
You are back in the waiting room. You feel your nervous system starting to run amuck. It’s time for you to take charge. So start by sitting up straight in your chair and finding a spot across the room on which you can focus all of your attention.
- 15 seconds – Inhale deeply (3 counts in) and exhale completely (6 counts out).
- 15 seconds – In your imagination, in just a few sentences, tell yourself the events of your story that lead you to this point of interaction with your other.
- 15 seconds – Allow your imagination to turn that spot across the room into the other person in your story.
- 15 seconds – In your imagination, again in just a few sentences, recreate the dialogue that compels you to take the action that is your song.
Any performer, from the novice to the experienced professional, knows that fear is the thing that can too often keep us from doing our best work. Fear can erase hours of practice, a well-developed technique, and — most critically — our belief in our own ability. I find — based on my experiences as an actor, director, writer, and teacher — that the steps laid out in the Dramatic Circumstance process are a consistently effective and powerful way to combat the effects of fear on a performer’s work.
Give it a try. I think you’ll be pleased with the results.