Saturday, March 16, 2013

Questions about acting

I just took part in a Google+ discussion about acting, and I thought I'd post my comments here:
I've been working professionally in the performing arts or applied theatre since 1995. Most of that work has been as a stage actor. I've written or developed a dozen one-man plays (RichDrama.com), and to my utter astonishment I've had opportunity to perform them and/or teach acting and public presentation skills in 36 states, five continents and 25 nations. I was cast in my first film in 2010, and since then I've performed in nine films, including two that were featured at SAICFF this year: Papa Lehman in Indescribable and the land speculator in Alone Yet Not Alone (IMDb.me/RichSwingle). 
I'd love for all of you between the ages of 16 and 30 to audition for The MasterWorks Festival Theatre Program. It's a one-month intensive in acting. We'll develop a play in Winona Lake, Indiana, and you'll sit under Christians with more than a combined century of experience as professional actors. We'll perform our play near Pittsburgh, and in an Off-Broadway theatre just off of Times Square, NY.  
Here's my report from last year: RichDrama.com/MWF
So here are my answers to the questions posted: 
1. What is the purpose of acting?
I believe this goes back to the purpose of life. We were created to be in relationship with the Lord. Being created in the Creator's image means that we all have creativity within us, and when we invite the Lord into the process it glorifies God. When we tell God's stories, I've found it to be a foretaste of heaven. I respond below about other messaging. 
2. How is it done?
Get trained! 
I remember facing the choice of whether or not to bother with training, and if so, which degree to get. My undergrad degree was in sociology/social work with a Christian Ed minor and I realized years later I was a few credits shy of a theatre minor. Then I spent a year at seminary and ended up getting a masters in theatre at Hunter College, which happened to have the cheapest tuition in the US at the time, and yet I learned from Eric Bentley (a student of CS Lewis), Tina Howe (who has been nominated and won numerous awards and fellowships, including the Tony and Pulitzer), Jonathan Kalb (critic for the NY Times, among others), Jerome Coopersmith (screen writer for the original Hawaii 5-O and An American Christmas Carol).  
My masters thesis was focused on sociodrama, which I learned from Patricia Sternberg who was a student of Jacob Moreno, the inventor of sociodrama, which gave way to role play and informed improv. So I lean toward the use of improv as I prepare for performances. When my wife, Joyce, and I were performing in Indescribable there's a very moving scene where she needed to cry. She's not a trained actor, but we used structured improv to keep ourselves in the moment before the cameras rolled, so when the director yelled, "Action!" Joyce was sobbing, as were all our film children, down to the five-year-old. I've been exposed to a number of other techniques, and I pick and choose what works best for each project, so our approach at MasterWorks is to bring in faculty trained in a variety of techniques.  
Patricia Mauceri, who's been on our faculty since 2005 was in the second acting class at Juilliard and trained with Kevin Kline, Patti LuPone, Robin Williams and others.  She's gone on to perform on Broadway, in television and film with Johnny Depp, Christopher Plummer, Gene Hackman, James Earl Jones, and many others.
Susan Somerville Brown is from a musical theatre background, trained at Indiana Wesleyan. She's performed in over 40 productions in the Chicago market and on Broadway. 
3. What messages are we trying to send through what we do on the screen?
The actor is subservient to the scriptwriter and the director. That means that we have to be very careful, prayerful, and responsible about the messages we help the producers tell. Of course acting is so much more than the lines, but if you're telling a story that's different than what the director has in mind you probably won't work with him or her again. Do your due diligence by looking at what other projects the producers and directors have done in the past. Read everything available to you, and keep seeking the Lord every step of the way. Look at Creation. The greatest Hollywood epic is tiny in comparison with a mustard seed. The most powerful stories to tell are those that have an impact on the eternity of the audience.
4. etc.
AUDITION FOR MastorWorks TODAY!!!

1 comment:

Rich Swingle said...

My post brought out another question:

Here's my response:

It's a great question! I'd boil it down to three things: connection (to the text and your acting partners), belief (that you're really living in the world you're creating--though belief in the Lord ensures that the greatest Acting Coach in the world is at your shoulder for every shot), and commitment (to connecting and believing, not to mention committed to the hard work it takes to do it well).

I hope you can join us at MasterWorks so we can explore these in more detail: http://RichDrama.com/MWF.