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Listen: Boze Hadleigh on Pop Culture Tonight with Patrick Phillips!!

Boze Hadleigh, author of An Actor Succeeds talks with Patrick Phillips of “Pop Culture Tonight” about his new book!

>>LISTEN HERE<<

00122491An Actor Succeeds is a very special collection containing all the best trade secrets of the biggest and most successful film and theater professionals. Presented in an informative format, An Actor Succeeds is a useful yet entertaining how-to, tips-and-advice book comprising nearly 900 quotes mostly from actors but also directors, writers, casting directors, and more. The book is conveniently divided into five chapters: Acting, Auditioning, Connecting, Working, and Coping. Here’s a sampling of quotes from each section:

 

Acting

“Of course we all learn that acting is basically reacting. The least acting you ever have to do is in a close-up. The close-up may require an actor’s reaction, but a small, subtle one. Generally speaking, the less you ‘act’ in a close-up, the better.”    -Sir John Gielgud

Connecting

“Acting, especially in motion pictures, is very hierarchical, like a caste system. The stars are royalty, the other actors are serfs-okay, commoners… If you’re not a big shot, you gotta be careful not to push or intrude. You gotta watch what you say, how you say it, and, especially, when you say it.” -Bruce Dern

Working

“Acting in front of a camera or a live audience requires intense concentration, to shut out the real world and create the character’s reality. Focus is just as important for an actor as for a cinematographer.” -Keira Knightley

Coping

“Partly I got into show business to become rich and famous and thus show up anyone who’d treated me badly growing up. But doesn’t one evolve with maturity? My focus ultimately changed from negative to positive, as I found that I enjoyed the work, even the struggle, for its own sake.” -Michael Landon

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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

DRAMATIC CIRCUMSTANCES AND THE SCIENCE OF ACTING

Dramatic CircumstancesWilliam Wesbrooks studied psychology, theatre, and music in preparation for his theatrical career, which, in its 40 years, has encompassed performing, directing, playwriting, and teaching.  In his new book, Dramatic Circumstances, Wesbrooks shows how actors can “live inside” the stories they tell in a way that brings them to life for them and their audience.

 In a recent article in The Atlantic, titled “How Actors Create Emotions: A Problematic Psychology,” Judith Ohikuare writes that “fully inhabiting the mind, mannerisms, and reality of a fictional character can be as alienating as it is rewarding.”Here, Wesbrooks looks at where acting intersects with brain science and psychology.

 The acting process presented in Dramatic Circumstances can have a significant impact on the way singers and actors tell their stories, and I think that brain science offers intriguing insights into why that process works.

* * * * * * *

            Brain science is an ever-growing field of study that endeavors to address any number of mental, emotional, and physical issues that trouble many people, and I realize that applying that science to the study of acting may appear somewhat frivolous. However, in the best of worlds actors tell stories about what it is to be human, and I believe that we are all better off because these stories get told. It only follows that these stories have greater impact when they are told truthfully, in a manner that really looks inside human behavior and the human condition.

            Years ago I was told that the subconscious mind has no sense of humor. This struck me then as an extremely useful idea when applied to the art and craft of acting, and it has proved invaluable in the development of the dramatic circumstance process. The ideas we plant in our subconscious mind are, as far as that particular part of our mind is concerned, true.

            In a New Yorker article (“Head Case: Can Psychiatry Be a Science?” March 10, 2010) Dr. Louis Menand wrote, “The brains of people who are suffering from mild depression look the same on a scan as the brains of people whose football team has just lost the Super Bowl. They even look the same as the brains of people who have been asked to think sad thoughts [italics mine].”

            I believe that an actor’s subconscious mind evokes responses and inspires action in circumstances that are entirely imaginary because key components of the actor’s brain do not realize that those circumstances are, in fact, imaginary.While it is certainly not necessary for actors to understand brain function in order to live truthfully “inside the stories we tell”, I find it a compelling way to think about acting. 

            It is certainly something worth exploring.

Stella Adler’s Birthday

Today is Stella Adler’s birthday! A new  biography by author Sheana Ochoa, Stella! Mother of Modern Acting, is coming out in April. You can check out Sheana Ochoa’s website 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.

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR Stella!

 “What Stella brought to the American style of acting was a depth of naturalism that had not been seen up until then. It was naturalism mixed with a deep reverence for the actor as an artist and the writer as a teacher of mankind. For me she is still a bright light in a particularly dark time for the culture of Actors. In Stella! A Life in Art, Sheana Ochoa has captured a life lived well and large, always striving for more.”

Mark Ruffalo, actor

 “Over the four decades I have been producing films in Hollywood I have continuously heard the name of Stella Adler spoken with enormous reverence by actors. Now, after reading Sheana Ochoa’s biography, I understand why her legacy as an actor and teacher burns so brightly. An excellent, rich, and informative book.”

Michael Phillips, film producer (The Sting, Taxi Driver)

“Stella Adler’s passion for acting and teaching actors merges with tales of her personal struggles and triumphs in Ochoa’s detailed, compelling narrative of Adler’s life. As Adler’s life unfolds, Hollywood’s past and present come alive – with names, places, and dramas as informative as they are entertaining.”

Deborah Martinson, author of Lillian Hellman: A Life with Foxes and Scoundrels

JV Mercanti Interview

Guest Author: JV Mercanti, author of In Performance: Contemporary Monologues for Men and Women Late Teens-20sinterviews with The Playbill Collector.

The Playbill Collector (TPC): What did you go to school for?

JV Mercanti (JVM): I went to undergrad at NYU and I double concentrated in english lit and educational theater.  My senior year I worked in a casting office at Roundabout Theatre company and that opened doors for me.

TPC: Did you ever act?

JVM: I acted until my senior year at NYU.  At that point I came to somewhat of a crossroad and chose to start directing.  Currently I am freelance directing and am heading to the University of Miami in January to direct FLOYD COLLINS.

TPC: What gave you the idea for the book “In Performance”?

JVM: It fell into my lap.  My colleague at the University of Miami, Bruce Miller asked if I wanted to do it.  The book is monologues for teens to people in their 20’s.  They are all contemporary pieces.   After talking to the editors, I told them I wanted character description, questions and play synopsis  along side the monologues.  That way the actor can know about the show and build their character.

To finish the interview, go to The Playbill Collector.com!

In Performance is intended for young people who are auditioning for both undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as professional productions and industry meetings. Featured are dynamic monologues from contemporary stage plays of the past 15 years, chosen from the point of view of a professional acting teacher, director, and casting director.

Along with covering the basics of how to match the best monologue to the actor and how to approach the rehearsal and performance of the piece, the book provides a synopsis of each play, a character description, and a list of questions specific to each monologue that will direct the actor toward shaping a complex, honest, and thoughtful performance that has a strong emotional connection, a clear arc, and playable actions.

In Performance

Because it’s Friday, here is the preface to In Performance: Contemporary Monologues for Men and Women Late Teens to Twenties, written by J.V. Mercanti. Enjoy!

One of the best auditions I’ve ever seen was for Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2001 revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s musical Follies. Jim Carnahan, the casting director, and I had called in Judith Ivey for the role of Sally Durant Plummer. If you don’t know who Judith Ivey is, please Google her immediately. You have most likely seen her in something on stage, in film, or on television. You might also have seen a play that she’s directed. She is a prolific artist. The role of Sally Durant Plummer is fragile and complex. Sally has been married to Buddy for years and years, but all that time she has been pining for the love of Ben Stone, who is (unhappily) married to Sally’s former best friend, Phyllis. Sally is going crazy with love and desire that has been burning for over twenty years.

Ms. Ivey was asked to prepare a cut from Sally’s famous first-act song “In Buddy’s Eyes,” an aria through which she tries to convince Ben that she’s deliriously happy in her life with Buddy. She was also asked to prepare a short scene. Present in the room for the audition were Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist; Matthew Warchus, the director; Todd Haimes, artistic director; Jim Carnahan, casting director; Paul Ford, the accompanist; a reader; and myself.

Walking into the room as herself, Ms. Ivey conversed with Mr. Warchus and Mr. Sondheim about her career and, very briefly, about the character. She then took a moment with Paul Ford to discuss the music. Following that, she came to the center of the playing space, closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and prepared herself to begin. In that moment of preparation, which truly lasted no longer than a breath, her body changed, her physicality changed, the very air around her seemed to change. She took the character into her body. Ms. Ivey then opened her eyes, nodded at Mr. Ford, and began to sing.

Ms. Ivey executed the song with specificity, a rich but contained emotional connection to the material, a strong objective, carefully thought-out actions, and a deep understanding of this woman and her love. She went directly from the song to the scene, completely off-book (lines memorized), and when she finished – the room was silent. Mr. Sondheim had tears in his eyes. Mr. Warchus didn’t have a word of direction to give her. It was not that Ms. Ivey had provided us with a complete performance. No, not at all. She had shown us the potential of her Sally Durant Plummer. Her point of view was clear, consistent, and deeply, deeply affecting.

“Thank you, Judith. That was wonderful,” Matthew Warchus finally said.

“I really love Sally,” she responded, “But I was wondering if you might also consider me for the role of Phyllis. I’ve prepared that material as well.”

“Of course I would. Would you like a few moments to go outside and prepare?” he asked.

“No. No, that’s all right. I can do it right now,” she responded.

And after saying this, Ms. Ivey closed her eyes. She very slowly turned away from us, put her hair up in a tight bun, and turned around to face the room. It took no longer than thirty seconds, but once again her body, her posture, the way she related to the air around her, had changed. The aura of the room shifted with her. Once again, she nodded at Paul Ford at the piano, and she fearlessly launched into the Phyllis Stone material.

It was astonishing. Not a false note was sung or uttered. Ivey had such a deep understanding of the cold façade Phyllis wears in order to cover up her breaking heart. Phyllis is the polar opposite of Sally: cool, controlled, calculating, and hard.

Ms. Ivey thanked us for the opportunity. We thanked her for her work. The room remained still and silent for a while after she left.

Without a doubt, Mr. Warchus knew he must cast her in the show. She landed the role of Sally Durant Plummer.

It was clear that Ms. Ivey did a very thorough study of the text in preparation for this audition. She understood who these characters were; how they thought; why they spoke the way they did, using language in their own specific ways. She understood how they moved, where they held their weight, how they related to the space around them. Most importantly, she understood the characters’ objectives (what they wanted) and how to use the other person in the scene to get what she wanted.

You can achieve the same level of performance as Ms. Ivey if you put the requisite amount of work into your monologue, ask yourself the right questions (or the questions I ask you to examine following each of the pieces in this book), and activate your imagination.

In Performance

In Performance is intended for young people who are auditioning for both undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as professional productions and industry meetings. Featured are dynamic monologues from contemporary stage plays of the past 15 years, chosen from the point of view of a professional acting teacher, director, and casting director.

Along with covering the basics of how to match the best monologue to the actor and how to approach the rehearsal and performance of the piece, the book provides a synopsis of each play, a character description, and a list of questions specific to each monologue that will direct the actor toward shaping a complex, honest, and thoughtful performance that has a strong emotional connection, a clear arc, and playable actions.

The Worst Is Not

BruceMillerGuest Blogger: Bruce Miller is the author of The Actor as Storyteller and the Roadmap to Success acting series from Limelight Editions. Visit his blog on EdTA for more acting insight.

‘And worse I may be yet. The worst is not
So long as we can say, ‘This is the worst.’
–Edgar in King Lear

When I last reported in on my adventure acting with my students, playing Gloucester in a production of King Lear, I was going down for the count. I couldn’t sleep, my anxiety level matched what I felt the first week of basic training, and the lines I had memorized for months were suddenly like the land of Brigadoon—not to be found on any known map of the region. To compensate, I was meditating every day for at least a half hour, and doubling up on my line study.

Somehow I was functioning in rehearsal, though, and my director didn’t seem have anything too terrible to say to me. My students were collegial and had no problem looking me in the eye. I couldn’t detect any significant change in their attitude toward me. When I would express my fear and concern to them about my abilities, they looked at me like I was fishing for compliments. I stopped sharing my feelings of panic, and started pretending that I was okay with it all…

Keep reading this article on Bruce’s blog on EdTA’s website!

The Actor as Storyteller is intended for serious beginning actors. It opens with an overview, explaining the differences between theater and its hybrid mediums, the part an actor plays in each of those mediums. It moves on to the acting craft itself, with a special emphasis on analysis and choice-making, introducing the concept of the actor as storyteller, then presents the specific tools an actor works with. Next, it details the process an actor can use to prepare for scene work and rehearsals, complete with a working plan for using the tools discussed. The book concludes with a discussion of mental preparation, suggestions for auditioning, a process for rehearsing a play, and an overview of the realities of show business.

Not So Miserables

BruceMillerGuest Blogger: Bruce Miller is the author of The Actor as Storyteller and the Roadmap to Success acting series from Limelight Editions. Visit his blog on EdTA for more acting insight.

The college audition season is almost upon us, and after seeing the movie version of Les Misérables, I can’t think of a better time to talk about acting and musical theatre. Whether you liked the film version of Les Miz or not, there can be little argument about where the filmmakers stood in terms of acting versus singing. There were countless articles and interviews (HBO, 60 Minutes, the New York Times, and All Things Considered) in which Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, or Russell Crowe talked about how they sang to piano accompaniment in an ear monitor so they could focus on their acting.  The results are obvious. Yes, far better tenors than Eddie Redmayne have tackled the role of Marius. And Russell Crowe’s singing as Javert leaves much to be desired. But both offered up more than a fair share of memorable acting moments. Anne Hathaway reportedly earns spontaneous applause in cineplexes all over the country after her extended close-up solo of “I Dreamed a Dream.”(I was clapping!) Then there’s Hugh Jackman. Though nowhere near the singer that the incomparable Colm Wilkinson was and is, he still managed to be profoundly moving even as he carried the entire film on his shoulders. In case you’ve been riding on the idea that singing is all you need for musical theatre, let the movie version of my favorite musical be your wake-up call.

Keep reading this article on Bruce’s blog on EdTA’s website!

The Actor as Storyteller is intended for serious beginning actors. It opens with an overview, explaining the differences between theater and its hybrid mediums, the part an actor plays in each of those mediums. It moves on to the acting craft itself, with a special emphasis on analysis and choice-making, introducing the concept of the actor as storyteller, then presents the specific tools an actor works with. Next, it details the process an actor can use to prepare for scene work and rehearsals, complete with a working plan for using the tools discussed. The book concludes with a discussion of mental preparation, suggestions for auditioning, a process for rehearsing a play, and an overview of the realities of show business.

Carl Gottlieb and Toni Attell, an interview

 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, both authors of The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers, Toni Attell and Carl Gottlieb, chat with Off the Meter host Jimmy Failla about their book, acting classes, and filmmaking. This episode has been re-edited and posted on Onstage and Backstage podcast with permission of Off the Meter.

>>>LISTEN HERE<<<

The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers discusses issues faced by all beginning filmmakers, with a historical perspective that explains problems and solutions that reach back to the invention of movies at the turn of the last century, and stretch forward to include new digital technology and the popularization of videography as global self-expression. A valuable addition to the shelves of all film school instructors who’ve not had years of practical experience working in the trade, it’s also a syllabus in itself and can be the foundation for a course schedule. More important, it’s something every film student will want to own as a reference and guide.

Bruce Miller: Broadway and Theater

BruceMillerBruce Miller is the author of The Actor as Storyteller, The Scene Study Book, Acting Solo, and Actor’s Alchemy. StageNotes.net asks Bruce, “What made you first get interested in Broadway and theater?”

I’m a certified secondary English teacher and I taught for three years and during that time I did a community theater production. I was always a lead or director in the camp show as a kid. That was a safe venue to do theater and I always loved it. In my first teaching job, which was middle school, I got called on to direct the middle school production of Arsenic and Old Lace and I had no clue what I was doing. Apparently, I did it better than most. That was my first toe in the water.

I taught high school English for four years and I went back to graduate school for Journalism. I wanted to be a television journalist and in order for me to take the graduate class I needed, which was Journalistic camerawork, I needed a prerequisite. The undergraduate journalistic prerequisite was full so they told me to take an acting class. Because I was a little older, the guy who taught the most advanced BA undergraduate scene study class said “Come on in, you’re smart. Work with these guys.”  Without any previous training or classes, I went into the highest level scene study class and I was no worse than anybody else. Then I applied to grad school at the same school which was Temple University, they had a very good graduate program. I had no idea what I was doing and I didn’t get in.

I was so interested at this point that I went to find out what I would need to do in order to be good enough. I bumped into a woman who I had a graduate course with and she turned out to be the wife of the director of the acting conservatory and she spoke to her husband. Another long picaresque series of events-it seems like destiny in hindsight-I got into this program I didn’t deserve to be in. Within the three years of graduate school, I caught up, I guess, and I learned how to do some stuff.

When I left, the one big issue that everyone was talking about was my “technique” and my “toolkit.” Most of us didn’t really have a technique. Ironically, it was a really good acting program by reputation but none of us left with a solid background. It wasn’t until I was acting in NY and found some other teachers that I really learned to put together that thing called technique. Except for one really good teacher who had a tremendous influence on me, on all of us.

I dedicated my teaching career to making it [acting techniques] simple and clear. And so nothing I teach is original, other than maybe my definition of good acting, but everything else is just basic late Stanislavsky but articulated to the lowest common denominator and through repetition, it seems to work.

Keep reading this interview with Bruce Miller on StageNotes.net.

Acting can – and should – be more than guesswork and instinct. Actor’s Alchemy: Finding the Gold in the Script examines the relationship between the script and what an actor ultimately does on the stage or on screen. Here is a straightforward guide filled with useful information to help actors learn to use their scripts in a specific and analytical way to solve the problems of the scene and bring their elusive characters to life. In learning how to decipher the script, actors will be equipped to make the choices that lead to delivering a gold performance.