This blog serves to give acting ideas and advice to actors of all ages, especially young ones. This blogs author is J.T. Turner, actor, director, teacher and member of AEA, SAG and AFTRA. I hope you find the posts useful, and please pass along the blog address to anyone you think might benefit from it!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

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Hello fellow players! ( Not to be confused with play-ahs). I have had this blog for some time now, and want to visit the inspiration for the title.

 As you likely know in his play Hamlet, Shakespeare has the main character give advice to an acting troupe he has hired to perform a play before his Mother and her husband, his Uncle the new King. And he gives advice to the players that is still sound for all performers.

Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to                                   
you, trippingly on the tongue:

Simple advice, which many directors have said to actors over many years, "just say the lines!". Respect the words the writer wrote and get them into the air. One of the first things I do with actors working on Shakespeare i make them just say the words aloud to let them exsist in sound.

 but if you mouth it,
as many of your players do, I had as lief the
town-crier spoke my lines. 

Wait, William just said to just say the lines! True, but don't just say them. Yes, let the words carry thier own weight, but bring yourself to them. Do not just recite them, speak them as though they were your own, or your characters. I think the key here is to bring the right amount of acting to bear. Maybe the role needs you to be giant, and over the top, if that is what the play points to. But chances are the author and director would like you genuine.

Nor do not saw the air
too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently;

Don't flap like a fish. Not everything you say needs a gesture to emphasize it, let the gestures be natural and organic.

for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say,
the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget

a temperance that may give it smoothness

Oh the greatest challenge of all. Making this thing, this acting thing seem seamless. To be submerged into your character and let the glimpse of that characters life be as natural as your own is.

Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion
be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the
word to the action

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Be active, even when relaxed or quiet. Will says be not too tame, but we may say be not too lame. Do not be so laid back and casual that you lose your audience. But do as the Bard suggests, suit the action to the word and word to the action. Again, as a writer, Shakespeare reminds us to respect the writing, embrace the words that you are building your show on. Are there times when a director, or you, might try to play against an emotion to highlight it? Of course! Delivering a horrible experience in a cold, controlled voice instead of tears and wails may be just what it needs to convery the horror as the author intended.

Good advice, and over 400 years old! And great for playing Shakespeare, but do not discount how well this works even with contemporary plays as well.

Need some coaching on a classic monologue? Contact me! jtactor@aol.com
Skype session available.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hold the whine!

Hello readers! I was thinking recently, as I make the rounds of auditions, that it might be worth while to revisit a key point for all of you also making auditions rounds.

Hold the whine.

There is always a reason not to audition. I am a strong believer in preaching my great mantra, "Life is about showing up". Showing up at an audition makes the chances of you being cast so much better than the odds of you being cast by not showing up, So showing up is terrific and I commend you on it.

Now, shut up.

No, bot fully, I want you to do your audition piece and be brilliant. I want you to introduce yourself, make good eye contact, be polite and professional. But I want you to shut up,,,,,,,shut up all your excuses. All your aches, pains, challenges, crippling issues and just do the audition.

You will be asked by the people you are auditioning for, "How are you today?" or some similar nicety. This is not an invitation for you to trot out all your fears, ills and excuses.'

"I am so sorry, I have a sore throat today...."
"I am really fighting allergies today..."
"I haven't totally memorized this piece..."
"This is the only key I could find this song in...."
" I am really nervous...."
"I didn't have a chance to practice this very much,,,"
"My dog ate my audition copy...."
"I was up late chain watching episodes of Daredevil..."

Shut. Up.  I know the temptation to give out a qualifier is tremendous, but don't do it. Just present your work as strongly as you can and move on. Listen, we all have imperfect auditions, this blog entry was inspired by a recent audition I had where I caught myself explaining I was using a different key for some music and it was throwing me off. I stopped, and just sang it. It was not perfect, but the audition as a whole was much stronger when I dropped the excuse making.

If you truly feel something was a major wipe out, simply ask if you could start over or do it again. Most times you will be allowed to, but if it is a no, be gracious, thank them and leave.

Just dropping the excuses will improve your mainframe, and help you come across as a professional.

J.T. Turner, The Actors Sensei
Available for monologue coaching in person or via Skype

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Comparison Shopping

Hello there! After a long hiatus, I am back to the world of blogging! This time out, comparison shopping.

Oh you know, when you are in the market for something and compare and contrast several different items. This car has tinted windows, this one has anti-lock brakes, this one is roomier. We often do comparisions of every thing from milk, to coffee, to furniture or phones. Surely you have seen zombies at the grocery store? You know, standing there swaying as they gaze at labels of 2 different items, then slowly put one back and get another. Zombies.

Well what does that have to do with you and your career as an actor, dancer, musician, performer or speaker? Just this; one of the worst things you can do to yourself is the comparision game. Comparing your talents and career to someone else is a deadly, dibilitating, dangerous and ......some other d word, (for alliteration), habit.

It is also a common one, and not just for performers. So amd so always gets more roles than I do. XYZ has the gigs I should be getting. I want to sing like this one, wish I was as tall as that one, I could work more if only I had the traits of  her, or his connections. This type of thinking just tends to depress us, and paralyze us into inactivity.

As I am writing this, I  realize that we all do this and not just in the performing arena. Thanks to the wonders of social media, we often have the perception that people are busier or more successful that we are. Listen, I do not tend to be harsh here, you know I am a fan of the positive, and trust me I am being positive in saying, drop the comparision. You are you, that is your product, that is your goods, that is what you have to share with the world. Yes, get training, hone yourself to be the best you that you can be, learn all the time and grow, but forget the comparison. Watch other performers, be inspired or encouraged by them to try something new, but don't wallow in the lowlands of  'I wish...".

And let me startle you with the true thought that there is someone who envys you, and the skills and life you have. Crazy, huh? But true.

There is a popular idea in the world of exercise that the only person you have to beat is you, from yesterday. By all means, compare yourself with yourself, and how you did yesterday. But also cut yourself some slack, and be gentle with yourself.

Be your biggest fan.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"When the student is ready.........."

  • Yoda himself

OK, I try to give out great advice here. And will try to continue to do that, but I am freely admitting that this particular post is self serving. Truth be told, it’s little more than a commercial for you and I to do some business together. But it is not just a pursuit of dollars that leads me to this blog entry, it is a genuine desire for mutual benefit. For perhaps you need a mentor, and I love having students. So, lets chat.

Most actors and performers hate auditions. They are nerve wracking, and can be just terrifying. In this blog I have often given advice on how to deal with nerves, and with strategies to use to make the audition experience better. And, pardon my blushes, but I give awesome advice. But for many people, a further step is usually a good one; taking on a coach.

A good acting coach has a tremendous advantage over simple blog entry's and books. They can see you! And I mean that literally and figuratively. I write great advice for many, many people, almost universal in nature. But you are you, (and ain’t that cool?). Unique, special, quirky, individual, you. Which means while my general advice is good for you, individual advice is even more powerful. I can see that you do that funny thing with your hands, that you tend to crack your ankle when you start the audition piece, that the audition piece itself is wrong for you.

And you get feedback. You may think a piece you are doing is ideal, but it may be off, you may actually be presenting something that you are not meaning to present. And perhaps a few simple ideas, tweaks if you will, can make all the difference.
And after all, you cannot get outside yourself to judge how you are doing.

Even watching yourself on a video of your audition is often biased for good or bad, as it is you looking at you. Allowing a coach to work with you gives you the opportunity to get feedback of how your actual audition will look to another person.

So, here is what I offer:

1) Audition prep- Getting you comfortable with the audition process, how to work past nerves, tricks to transport tension. Also the preparation of audition pieces that will work for you.
2) Emergency Audition prep - You have an upcoming audition, and want to find the perfect piece for it, and prep it to give you a comfort level going in.
3) Acting Coaching - Do you have a role that is giving you trouble? Looking for some extra work outside of the all too rushed rehearsal process? Without interfering with your directors vision, I can work with you to develop options for your character. (Also, I specialize in Shakespeare and accents in this
4) Public Speaking - I can help with not only structure to make an interesting piece, but work with you to help you find your own voice in the speech. Also, great tips on how to handle nervousness and the best ways to practice.
5) Sermon coaching - No matter if you are a seasoned minister, or have just been asked to give your first sermon at church, I have had great success coaching people to be dynamic in the pulpit.
6) The Actors Memory- A great seminar or webinar to help actors memorize pieces and roles better, and faster.

Yes, you will have to pay me to help you, but in return you will get some great mentoring. As you may have noticed, I am sometimes called The Actors Sensei, and while it is a fun title, I do take it to heart. I try not just to throw information at you, I try to be a teacher who genuinely is trying to have a impact on your life. We can work in person, or via Skype. Or, if you have a theater group you work with, we can arrange some seminars or webinars.

So, that's my poorly disguised commercial. I hope we can work together, I would love to help you.

Contact: jtactor@aol.com

Hope to see you soon.

J.T. Turner
The Actors Sensei

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Some advice from Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson

I have always loved the work of Emma Thompson, especially her work in the Shakespeare films she has been in. I read an interview with her and saw that her philosophy about acting is very similar to my own. So here for your use is some advice from an amazing actress.

  1. Don’t strive for the award. Just do your best and enjoy what you do.
  2. The theater is the best place to learn your craft.
  3. Sing. Take voice lessons. Work on your voice. Acting is all about the voice.
  4. Observe people. You never know when you might have to play a character who could be inspired by someone you’ve met.
  5. Don’t give up. Any actor has to experience rejection. Just keep going to auditions.

                            J.T. TURNER
                         The Actors Sensei
   Acting Coach, Public Speaking Consultant

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I Have Good Intentions.

As I move forward in my arc of time, which is a nice way of saying I am getting old, I will occasionally wander into a room in my home, pause, and then try to remember why I went into that room. "What did I come in here for?"

And that moment is a good jumping off point for our discussion in today's blog entry. That question, or a variation of it, is really an important one for an actor. I will often chide an actor or group of actors I am directing, saying that an actor needs to know why they are coming onstage. And the answer needs to be much more than, "Well, the director told me to enter here". At any given moment on the stage, a director should be able to stop you and ask why you are on the stage. Why is your character there, right there, now? What is the purpose of your being there? Are you there to get something out of another character? ( Hint: The answer is almost always, yes you are). Or perhaps you are there for your own purpose, only to have that purpose interrupted and changed by the introduction of another character, with reasons of their won.

  • Thought Balloons

We call this idea of having a reason for being in a given space at a certain time intention.It should be an easy skill to have as a performer, as our entire lives are filled with intentions. Small ones; I need a glass of water, I want to update my Facebook. And large ones; I hope to find love, I want to earn a law degree. Knowing what your characters intention is at any given point in the play can make the character stronger and clearer, and make your work better.

Which, after all, should be your intention.

The Actors Sensei
Acting and Speech Coach for All Ages

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Go towards the Light

  • Stage Lights Royalty Free

I realize that those of you who know me as a preacher may mistake the title of the post. But this is about finding actual light, not the spiritual kind.

In film, hours and hours are spent adjusting lights for specific moments, and then striking them for new lighting. A film actor is given a very specific spot to stand, their `mark` so that they get in the proper light. But on the stage, we preset lights and then leave them. Oh yes, we now have some high tech lights that move and adjust, but those are limited, as is follow spot use. For the most part, stage lights are there to light the scene, you as a thinking actor are responsible for finding your own light.

  • Ultimate Stage Lighting

Finding your light is simply a matter of practice. Most stage lights shine downward at an angle. You can actually feel the light falling on your face. Take some time and have a stage light turned on, and practice walking in and out of it to feel the difference. Hold you hand up and look at your palm. Work it in and out of the light and see how it falls, what the intensity is.  Try not to stand directly under the light, or in too hot a spot, so you are not washed out by the glare of the light.

While there are times you may want to be partially or fully in shadow for an effect, those times should be planned. Outside of an effect, be a good, light seeking, actor. You must be seen for the audience to watch your facial work.

J.T. Turner, The Actors Sensei