The Saturn Returns. (and brings Acting Tips)

The past couple of months have been both busy and marked with significant change in my life. Much of it significant and positive. In light of all the energy bouncing around, I’ve slacked a bit on the blog-o-sphere. I know that my blog has shifted between poetic musings (which I will still indulge in from time to time) and film examinations (which I found hard to keep up with, yet enjoyable) but I am hoping that my pursuits in grad school will focus my writings to reflect artistic explorations and instruction.

In September, I (and my little family) will be relocating to Valencia, CA, where I will pursue my Masters of Fine Arts in Acting at the California Institute of the Arts. I will be engaging in challenging and enlightening conservatory training with limitless possibilities and continual artistic explorations. One of the most amazing things about the CalArts program is the ability to shape yourself into the artist you desire through the program and collaborative efforts in the community. I hope to open my heart wider to all possibilities in acting, story-telling, voice work, movement, direction, writing, collaboration and creation. In light of this upcoming creative journey, I am going to attempt to structure the blog around artistic exploration and instruction. Some entries might be dedicated to a particularly stimulating subject or production or serve as instruction or…poetic musings. Either way, I hope the writing will continue to improve while functioning as a reflection of my journey and my desire to be known as a successful and loving teacher/coach.

I’ve been doing some coaching here are there, along with receiving some excellent coaching prior to my grad school auditions. In the entire unit of an audition, one portion seems to be greatly under-addressed but of significant importance: The Entrance/Beginning/Slate. I’ve constructed a small tutorial in light of advice I have been given and from my own experience. These items are in no particular importance, all serve of equal importance.

1. Do NOT Underestimate. Do not for a moment, think that walking through that door, into position and announcing yourself and the piece is not important. Auditioners usually know in the first moments if they are interested in you, even before you have started your monologues. If their mind is made up before you start speaking, best make the best impression possible.

2. Shine Your Light. A couple steps before passing through the doorway, center yourself, breathe and shine your inner light through that doorway. Imagine a light shining forth from your heart, that light is you. Define it by warmth or coolness, color and brilliance. Shine that light through the doorway, into the room and fill the space with your energy. Really breathe in the entire space and expand your energy/breath to every corner of the room and especially to those people sitting in the seats. A lot of people would call this “stage presence,” yes – but really its just your ability as a performer to fill the space with your energy and be present in the space and moment. Fill the space with your light, energy and YOU.

3. Confidence! Confidence! Confidence! Walk into that room with presence and confidence. Stand straight, shoulders back and head held high – show them that you WANT to be here. Allow that light and energy to take you into the room with strength and purpose. Keep your eye contact focused. There is nothing wrong with taking a glance around the room (taking in the space) but do not drop your head or look to your feet and when you step on your mark greet your auditioners with soft, focused eye contact. Let them know that you are here and that you are ready.

4. Enjoy yourself! The auditioners want to see a performer that wants to perform and enjoys every minute of it. Don’t be afraid to smile and allow your energy to express that you enjoy what you do. They want to invest in someone who is invested and loves the field as much as they do. I think that my enthusiasm and joy for CalArts is a large reason why I was accepted into the program. These programs/directors/producers want artists who want to be apart of their endeavor, don’t be afraid to show your bliss.

5. Relax. Easier said than done, right? I’ve always been a believe that some nerves are good and I think most coaches would agree. HOWEVER, those nerves should not be expressed in vocal, body, emotional or energetic tension. Be sure that before you walk into the room, you release any tension and tap into your breath. Allow your light and energy to speak for you without bodily tension. Connect with your spin, allow your shoulders and pelvis to fall and your feet to be grounding. If you find that when you get to your mark, some tension has emerged, take a breathe and release it before you speak.

6. The Slate. Be sure that your voice is warmed up properly (this will be addressed in another entry) and speak with a free and clear voice that is rooted in YOU. I was instructed to slate this way:

“My name is First Name Last Name. I will be performing Miranda from The Tempest.”

Two separate sentences, do not string this information all together. This information is just as important as the text itself. Now obviously you do not need to use this exact wording, but I find it the most professional and preferred. Also note, I did not mention the playwright. Why? THEY KNOW. If you are doing anything of some popularity (Ruhl, Wilde, Ibsen, Pinter, Mamet, Shakespeare – yes…they have heard EVERYTHING from him), they will know who wrote it. The exception lies here; if you are doing something that is MUCH less well-known, a new play or perhaps a lesser known work by a popular playwright, then it is possible that you could include it. However, I still would not. I would know who wrote it and if they ask (after the audition), then inform them. Its a tricky way to save on time AND, if they do not know who wrote it and want to know, they will generally ask at the end.

7. Breathe. It could be said that this instruction will almost ALWAYS be included in every entry however…it is especially important that you breathe as you are walking into the room, take a breath to release tension and pause and breathe after your slate before you start your text. Practice walking and breathing. You would be surprised at how often we hold our breath when walking into an audition, especially with the anticipation of the slate and monologue. Practice your entrance with breathing. When you finish your slate be sure to give yourself proper amount of time to transition into your character and breathe. Auditioners really appreciate seeing an actor take the time to transition between the slate and the piece, its shows that the artist respects the character they are about to present, the piece and the craft. So breathe when you walk. Breathe when you speak. Breathe when you transition.

8. DO NOT RUSH. Take your time. Do not rush your entrance. Do not rush your orientation to the room/space. Do not rush your slate. Do not rush your transition into the piece and certainly…do not rush the acting. DO NOT RUSH.

9. Focus. A wise and talented friend once lent me an excellent focusing tool for auditions that helps alleviate nerves and focuses the performance. When you enter the room/audition, your focus should function like this:

– Focus on your breath/energy/light before you enter the room

– Focus on the room/space, fill it with your energy and light as you walk in and orient

– Focus on the auditoners, take them in, acknowledge them and remember, you are checking them out as much as they are checking you out.

– Focus on you, through your introduction and slate

– Focus on your character as you transition into the piece, focus on the individual you are portraying

– (As you end the piece) Focus back to them (auditioners) and thank them

– Focus that light through the room as you exit

It seems like a lot of details to remember without even beginning the text of your piece but if yo practice just this much over and over again with a coach, teacher or friend, all of this will become second nature.

If you have any questions or suggestions for a posting, I’m totally open and feel free to contact me. This is not meant to only function as how-to but will also serve as artistic exploration in topic or technique.

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