Acting 101

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Originally posted on on October 17, 2012

Tuesday night we watched Tim Weigand work with four of the leads in The Santa Diaries. He led them through some acting exercises designed to get them out of their heads and into a space where they become their character. It was fascinating to watch the actors reach that “aha” moment when that happened.

Casey Rauch plays Will Hawes. He has a huge part – the most lines and is on stage most of the play. He is the “grow and change” character and we have to see him transition from being an LA dick, just full of himself, to a man who remembers what’s important in life.

Jessica, the highschool sweetheart Will left behind, is played by Jenny Madino. Jenny is a singer, and has not had an acting role before, but she brings to this role a natural empathy for the character. She told me early on that she is the girl who decided to stay in her small town and not take her talents out to the world. Wait till you hear her sing!

Ashley Chroninger plays Brandeee (yes, three e’s — think Beyonce, Madonna — you have to set yourself apart). Brandeee is Will’s Hollywood starlet fiancee. This is a demanding role as it could easily slip into characature. We have to believe that Will loved her enough to want to marry her.

Erik Higgins, known locally as Groundhog, plays Will’s business snarky manager, Josh Shankman. Erik is having so much fun with this role. At one point last night he asked Tim, “Could I try this as a gay?” “Go for it,” was Tim’s reply and the result was hysterical. Nobody knows yet how this character will be presented on stage, but early in the process the actors have to try on different ways of portraying the character.

It seemed to me that Tim was trying to get the actors to create a universe on stage, inhabited only by themselves.  Learn to shut out the audience. You can only react to the people who are on stage with you. And you have to stay in character 100% of the time. The audience will know if you start thinking about the clothes you left in the dryer or the almost empty needle on your gas tank. And the minute you do that, you lose the connection with the other actors and your audience.

Tim said that when people think about great art, they think, “I couldn’t do that.” When they think about great music, they think, “I couldn’t do that.” But when they think about acting they say, “I could do that.” Watching the acting exercises last night let me know there’s way more to it than just standing in front of people and knowing your lines.

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