6 Using Movement

We’re back to our workshop on Readers Theatre. We’re in The Charge of the Light Brigade, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, looking for a way to use movement without blocking it as if it were a staged play.

So we go to stanza 4:

Flashed all their sabres bare,

Flashed as they turned in air

Sabring the gunners there,

Charging an army, while

   All the world wondered.

Plunged in the battery-smoke

Right through the line they broke;

Cossack and Russian

Reeled from the sabre stroke

   Shattered and sundered.

Then they rode back, but not

   Not the six hundred.

All those sabres cutting down the enemy. What about those sabres? What about costumes? What about props? How about giving everyone a uniform and a sabre and let them chop their way out of the stanza?

What about sabres? Should we have them? Even though it is theatre of the mind, and not conventional staging, you can use a suggestion of costumes, props—as the manuscripts are used In White America. Why you use props, sets, and costumes is so that you can create movement that is integral to the production.

Here are a few thoughts about using movement in our reading of The Charge of the Light Brigade:

  • If you are given something to use—a chair, a prop, a bit of a costume, a script, you MUST use it. In our example, how about rolling up your script and with an appropriate line from the poem, use the script as a sabre? But don’t forget to follow through. When does it turn back to a script? How? Why? Practice the movement until it feels right.
  • What about facial expressions? Another form of movement. Each soldier will have a slightly different reaction—pick yours and convey it. How surprised, dismayed, terrified are you? Brave? Resigned? Show us how your soldier feels with your body and face.
  • Try using the script to ward off the bullets, use them as sabers to charge the enemy. How does that seem?
  • What about actual movement? What about some getting off the chair or stool as they get shot, and some stay sitting. In Stanza 5, bullets are flying and hitting each soldier, knocking them out of the fight, KNOCKING THEM OFF THEIR HORSES. How to do that?

Underlying all of it is this: onstage, movement is essential. To be in a place where all attention is on a few figures grouped on an elevated and lighted platform, the people watching need something to look at. Something that draws attention to what is happening and why.

Use the guidelines you already know about stage movement to help you make these critical decisions. Too many props and the piece becomes a play. Too little, and the actor has nothing to do.

Movement draws attention. Just make sure you use it effectively.

Next time: 7 “Vocal techniques. Oral interpretation of literature.”

Catch up on this Readers Theatre series:

1         “The next big thing.” How readers theatre is its own art form.

2        “What Readers Theatre is like.” How to think about readers theatre.

3        “Working with a script in Readers Theatre.” How to use the script effectively.

4         Make your Readers Theatre production visually appealing.” How to use what the audience sees to make the production come alive.

5        How the audience responds to focus.” How to use onstage and offstage focus effectively.

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Making the summer count

Ten theatre activities you can do this summer that will get your career moving

So what are you going to do this summer to further your theatrical ambitions? Wait for a bolt from the heavens that will magically turn you into an actor/director/playwright/technician/designer? Has that ever worked?

As a teen, summer was a time of blissful sloth for me. Oh, yes, I did have a Saturday job but other than that I could do pretty much what I wanted and what I wanted most was to read.

I also know that if you are reading this, you are probably way more motivated than I was. When I was in high school I thought I was going to be a jazz saxophonist, but I didn’t want it bad enough to actually do anything about it. My ambitions came much later when I was in college and there was theatre. I even started my own company, but that’s another story.

Here is a list in no particular order of some things to consider to make this summer count. Oh, yeah, and one of them concerns reading.

1.     Take a theatre class or go to a drama camp.

Find out what’s going on for you at a professional theatre near you. You are looking for a class in acting or in wherever your interests lie. Remember to be creative when you look at these classes. For instance, you want to be a lighting designer, it wouldn’t hurt to take an acting class to see what kinds of challenges actors and directors will put up for you in lighting the production.

An example is The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, but you can find your own. Start by googling summer theatre classes. You can then narrow it down to your region.

2.     Learn how to drive.

If you don’t know how to drive (thinking that who needs to drive in New York?) and if you’re old enough, get that driver’s license.  It’s good ID and if you don’t live in New York, you’ll be able to get yourself to auditions, rehearsals, voice and dance lessons,  etc.

3.     Get a job.

Why would you want to do a dumb thing like wasting away those fine sunny days working? Here are some reasons:

  1. Find out what it’s like to earn and manage money.
  2. Save money for further training.
  3. Show your parents and support people that you mean business – you are serious about doing what it takes.

4.     Develop a two-minute monologue.

I know, I know. Why? Nobody is asking for them? Where would you ever use it since you won’t need it to try out for the fall musical? If you act, this is your craft we’re talking about. You always need a polished monologue on hand. And who knows when someone will want to see what you can do? Be ready.

5.     Get an internship.

Usually for college age, but check it out. It may be something you can plan on for another summer. Start by googling theatre internships summer.

6.     Take singing, dancing, acting classes.

You’ve heard of the triple threat? If musical theatre is your thing, you have to be able to do all three and singing in the shower and dancing for Skype doesn’t count. If you want to act and you don’t want anything to do with musical theatre, you still need to learn technique, how to move, and how to make your voice your instrument.

7.     Volunteer at a community theatre.

Try out for a part or volunteer for backstage duties to get some experience. For actors and for the rest of us, remember you need all kinds of theatrical experience. An actor really does need to know how the play gets staged and the backstage technician and designer needs to know what it takes to be onstage.

8.     Read.

  1. First, start on any books you were assigned to read over the summer.
  2. Read two plays. My suggestion would be to start with anything by Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and Eugene O’Neill, just so you have some major American playwrights covered.  Check with your theatre teacher. She may have a list of plays she’s reading to pick what plays to produce next school year.
  3. Ask your theatre teacher what you should be reading. He’ll have tons of suggestions that will no doubt be based on your interests and abilities.
  4. Heck. Read anything. Just read. (See: The theatre student’s summer reading list)

9.     Start your own neighborhood theatre company and get parents to help.

This didn’t go well for me (“Get a job!” I heard. “A real job!”) If you actually do this, I’d love to hear about it.

10.Get a notebook – electronic, paper, whatever – and carry it around.

Try some of these exercises, adding one each week, or make up your own:

  1. Jot down your observations about how people behave (actors) or what things look like and what emotions/thought s they bring out and why.
  2. See a movie or better yet, a professional play and write about what you saw. Write about an actor or what about the way it looked (costumes, makeup, lighting, the kinds of colors used) or how it was directed, whatever catches your interest.  (You can post it on my blog if you like as a guest blogger.)
  3. Pick out a commercial and write about  what the actors did in that short time to get the message across. How did the background stuff contribute to it?

Remember, these are only suggestions. Your teachers, parents, support groups may have better ideas. I’m just trying to help you kick-start your summer and produce some  forward movement.

More: The theatre student’s summer reading list

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