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, June 28, 2012

The Audition Bubble

Focus is a quality that can be a godsend to an actor.Consider an athlete a sporting event. Somehow, even with hundreds of people yelling and screaming, even with TV cameras on, fellow players moving and chatting, personal thoughts and doubts in their minds, they somehow can make all those things move into the background and focus on doing what they need to do.

Sound familiar? It should, as the same thing, the same focus occurs with actors as well. Despite all the distractions of audience, lights, sets, fellow actors and personal thoughts, a good actor pushes that back in their mind, focuses and lives in the moment. This skill, this wonderful skill, is never as important as it is at an audition.

If you audition a lot, and I hope you do, you know how it goes. You enter the room, and there are 10 other actors who look perfect for the part you are auditioning for. That inner recording starts to play in your mind, "Why are you here? They will get the part over you. There is so and so, he ALWAYS gets cast. You don't know anyone in this theater company, you don't stand a chance." Ah, yes the ever helpful inner monologue.

What I would like you to remember is that those thoughts occur to everyone. But the brain, while an amazing thing, can only do so much at once, and so can be trained to focus better. You can give the brain something to focus on, and that will help push those negative thoughts back. They will try and rise again, but just keep pushing them back.  How?

First try a visualization. Picture a magic bubble, like Glinda's bubble in Wizard of Oz, that surrounds you.

Let that be your bubble of protection, focus, concentration. Picture it holding and protecting you from the negative. (If a bubble isn't manly enough for you, go with Iron Mans suit of armor encasing you. Hey it's your brain, whatever works). Oh and by all means, let this protection also let you move away from friends who want to "chat" at the audition. Find a quiet space of your own, and focus.

Now, since your mind can only handle so many thoughts at once, I want you to introduce specific thoughts to push all the negative thoughts away. Keeping your mind busy will keep you focused, so, do this:

1) Read the audition piece out loud. Softly, to yourself, but vocalize.

Now answer the following-

WHERE Does the scene take place?
WHO Are you talking to?
WHAT Do you want from the person listening in the scene?
WHENCE Where was your character before the scene started? (This is sometimes called the 'pre-beat", what was going on just before you speak. I just use Whence because I needed another W!).

Focusing on reading the piece and answering thes 4 critical questions will keep you focused.

Next post, we will talk about the next thing, walking into the audition room.

                                J.T. TURNER
                                     The Actors Sensei
                       Private and group lessons available.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Stage directions

I know I know, for many actors and performers this particular entry will be a bit basic. But for many of my readers who are just starting out into the world of acting it is an important one.

The stage is a place where we create worlds. Those worlds are usually created in the eye of a director. To create those worlds, a director needs to communicate his visual concept to you. And in order to do that, they use blocking. 

Blocking is a term we use in theater to tell us where and how an actor should move on stage during a play. It also can incorporate any "business" they need to do, (ironing a shirt, raking leaves, pouring coffee, training an elephant). It can include starting points in a scene, and movements or actions as the scene goes on. In a straight play, drama or comedy, blocking is important, but it takes on even greater importance in a musical, where choreography, dancing and movement, is placed in a scene.For example, in a musical, the orchestra may wait for an actor to move to a certain place to start up the music that will accompany them.( By the way, the word blocking comes from a time when stages literally had squares drawn on them like a chessboard. each was numbered, so a director could tell you to move from one block to another)

In terms of directions, we use simple codes or abbreviations in our scripts to note what action we are to follow.

Stage Directions

SL-Stage Left- The actors left when facing the audience.

SR-Stage Right- The actors right when facing the audience.

DSL- Down Stage Left- moving left toward the audience.

DSR- Down Stage Right- moving right toward the audience.

USL- Up Stage Left- moving left away from the audience.

USR- Up Stage Right- moving right away from the audience.

C- Center- the middle of the stage

RC- Right of Center

LC- Left of Center

(Downstage and Upstage come from ancient theater, which was often performed on the side of a hill, so that the audience on a flat piece of ground could easily see all the actors. So Upstage is literally up the hill, away from the audience, and Downstage is down the hill toward the audience).

So we can form simple notations by using these codes. If I am standing in the upper right corner of the stage (the actor looking at the audience), and the director tells me to move to the edge of the stage on the left hand side, I simple write XDSL. This tells me to cross down stage left. if I am then told to move to a position just to the right of the middle of the stage, I could write X R of C, which tells me to cross right of center.

Keep in mind these are simple directions I can jot in the script to get the framework of movement, this allows for the actor and director to now play with the underlying themes.....you know, that acting thing!

                                        J.T. TURNER
                               THE ACTORS SENSEI
                         Coaching and Classes for all ages

Monday, June 18, 2012

Brave Heart

I wanted to post a bit about the concept of bravery. I was struck by this recently due to a number of incidents of bravery that presented themselves in my life.

I am rather renown, at least in my own mind, for saying that life is all about showing up. And I encourage performers of all types to get out there and do just that, show up. At auditions, classes, gigs, show up. Be present, use the amazing talent you have been gifted with. I have never said it was easy, no, quite the contrary it is an enormous leap of faith to go expose your inner self to the often cold heartless outer world. But as artists we are called to do just that.

(1) Han Solo
Back to bravery. Especially for auditions, can any other word truly describe what we do when we audition? When we throw down our talent as best we can against ridiculous odds? (To quote Han Solo, "Never tell me the odds"). If we focus on those odds, we would never go try out for anything. But we don't. We bravely go and focus on our work, and placing in before the Universe.

This came into my thoughts a lot recently. After 15 great auditions without any results, I found myself again auditioning. This time was the right one, the magic one. But I never would have made it to this one without the 15 rejections before. (And I know many of your reading this have higher numbers, more rejections, hundreds of them). But those don't matter, what matters was me showing up. Eventually, the world took notice of my work.

Also this week I watched a group of amateur singers take the stage to sing at an outdoor concert. Some were amazing, some were just OK, but that doesn't matter. What mattered was that they showed up. They bravely threw their gift into the great wide space. Really, that is such a mind boggling thing.

Best of all is an 8 year old girl who has never been involved in any kind of theater, insisting that her Mom sign her up for a summer theater workshop. Her Mom was nervous and afraid. but the girl, the brave girl, said, 'It is what I have to do". I know that feeling. I hope you do to, that it is what you HAVE to do.

So this post is a simple one in terms of theme. It is me cheering you on, telling you that I acknowledge how hard it is to go to the altar of the world and place your offering upon it. That that act, is an amazing act of bravery. It is a brave thing to do, you are brave to do it.

Be brave. Stay brave

                 J.T. TURNER, The Actors Sensei
Available for private Coaching in acting, audition prep, public speaking and sermon work.