Category Archives: Staging

THE ACTOR AND SHOWING OFF

No one wants to be accused of being a ‘show off’. It has the negative association of boasting, being vulgar, and being egocentric. But when pitching or presenting we are performing, and any performance requires a certain level of ‘show’. Showing off can be a positive thing. It can be about an enthusiasm to share, it can be about charisma and charm, and it can be about putting yourself out there. It is important to give oneself permission to show off.

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Various dictionary definitions cover the positives: to behave in an ostentatiously skilled and assured way with the intention of impressing others. Or: to behave in a way that is intended to attract attention or admiration (and that other people find annoying – the element to avoid!)

This is what an actor says about showing off:

Is showing off natural to actors or a by- product of performing?

I think if you are telling a story with as much conviction as you can, and you are trying to fill the space of the theatre with your energy, make sure you are heard by all, and have an intention to share with your audience, showing off happens naturally. I have, however, been watching many actors recently on stage and I think a bit of ego can go a long way in a performance.

How do you handle/manage showing off  without  annoying your audience?

If your intention is about telling a story, rather than just showing off, and you are using your charm in order to tell a story, you are maintaining integrity with the play. The play is not about you. The play is about the play. It is not for you. It is for your audience. That is the point. You need your audience.

When you give, your audience will appreciate your level of generosity. It’s called showing off with heart. It is easy to see when an actor is being indulgent and is only performing to please themselves and to take from an audience. Be generous and be joyful. Make showing off a gift, rather than a way to get something.

 I show off – I’m a very good show off. It’s what I do, it’s what I’m good at.” Robbie Williams

THE ACTOR AND ‘SPREZZATURA’

The challenge in most pitches or interviews is to rise to the occasion and perform at your best when it really matters. The experienced  will, or should, have worked on what approach for them is the best way to achieve this in term of preparation, mental and physical.

DECORO-NEW  The sixteenth century philosopher, an Italian, Baldassari Castiglione, described the ideal approach as having two necessary principles. The first, ‘decoro’, is the graft, practice, preparation and rehearsal, the essential foundations for any performance.

sprezzatura    The second is ‘sprezzatura’ a word he coined to embrace the lightening flash, the rehearsed spontaneity, almost a joy in improvisation that can bring magic.

What would sprezzatura mean to you as an actor?

When, after you’ve done all the work; learnt all the lines, made all your character choices, identified your objective etc, that you allow yourself to let it go and be free in the moment. When you are free in the moment, you are the most open to anything happening, because you are present and ready for anything to happen.

You take a risk, step outside your comfort zone, respond to what is around you; the audience, the other actors, the environment, and let the story take you. You stop trying to be a good actor, or trying to have something to prove and you give more of yourself.

Then, when you are available and free to play and feel, if you’re lucky, some sprezzatura will come along. I think that’s what art is. But you need to do the work first.

Is it something that you can bring to a performance everytime?

Some actors can, but no not usually. Your technique is your basis – for theatre anyway. Film is so revealing that in a way it requires you to give more of yourself, thank god you usually only have to do a scene for a days shoot. Giving so much of yourself can be draining.

The more you rehearse the more you work out how to access certain areas of your work, and how to hit those marks. The more you can live in the performance and be in each moment. Warming up can really help me get in that place of readiness and playfulness.

Essentially, being playful, not trying too hard, and being flexible are very good places to start if you want a performance with a bit of sprezzatura.

JUST BE YOURSELF, BUT BETTER

BE-YOURSELF-NEW  in a recent  coaching session, with a supposedly inexperienced and possibly nervous , speaker I was reminded that the first thing a coach should do is engage in some normal everyday conversation.

Chat away about something that interests both of you, listening and observing,  In almost every case, an entirely natural, animated conversation style will be revealed. Easy body language,  gesturing for effect and pausing for thought. You being yourself!

For a lucky few, this naturalness is maintained, seemingly effortlessly, in any performance. Few more so than Jamie Oliver. This is how A.A.Gill,  writing of his first meeting, described him:

“I can’t remember anything about it except he was one of the few people I ever met who had absolutely no fear of the camera. He was exactly the same on as he was off. There was zero performance anxiety. It wasn’t arrogance or vaunting confidence, he was just unusually comfortable behind his own character.” 

For the less lucky, most of us, the challenge is to maintain this naturalness under the pressure of performing perhaps for the first time.

Often the best first step is to  concentrate, not on the performance itself, but on the way you structure and arrange your script or content. Make it easy to deliver (and for the audience to follow), utilising the ‘rule of three’ with no more than three supporting arguments to your main theme. An earlier post  discusses this:  Handling the BIG speech nerves.

My book “It’s Not What You Say, Its The Way You Say It!” explores many practical aspects of performing naturally when it really matters, being yourself, but better.

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available in bookshops and from Amazon

 

THE ACTOR AND THE ……PAUSE

For the experienced, confident presenter or speaker the pause becomes natural. For the less experienced it’s more difficult and yet mastering it can be the surest way to improved performance.

In music as Claude Debussy once said: :”Music happens in the space between the notes.” The pause – for dramatic effect – is equally vital to acting. This is what I learned from one actor answering these questions.

How important is the pause to the actor?

It is everything, the difference between the ordinary and the exceptional performance. It should be part of an actor’s DNA.

How do you know when to pause?

Sometimes the author tells you by writing PAUSE in the script, or SILENCE when a major interruption is called for. The director will usually ensure the instructions are followed.

Most times however it is instinctive.A recognising of the sub-text, a sense of the moment, feeling for the response you seek.

It is everything that cannot be said with words. A look. A breath. A moment of connection. The most intimate and profound moments can happen in silence, when the emotional weight of something is too much to express through verbal language.

“The most precious things in speech are the pauses.” – Sir Ralph Richardson

“Thou weigh‘st thy words before thou givest them breath.”  William Shakespeare, Othello

 

 

THE ACTOR AND THE AUDIENCE

Pitchcoach-004-SeriousAudience In any pitch, presentation or interview before an audience the way you come across matters, usually more than what you actually say. You need to perform, something actors do for a living. This is what I learnt from one actress, Imogen Sage, when asked about dealing with an audience.

How do you handle nerves facing a live a audience?

Preparation is everything. Through constant repetition in rehearsal you become so familiar and so comfortable in the role that knowing your lines will be no problem, even if you are nervous. This means you can enjoy, rather than fear, the sense of occasion. This is something that actors live for.

How do you respond to a difficult or disappointingly small audience?

You do your job and give it 100%. You give everything and expect nothing in return.

Pitchcoach-005-ClappingAudience.

How does the audience effect the performance?

Perfomances do not exist in the absence of an audience. There is two way exchange of energy, with a shared sense of anticipation. As an actor you tap into this to be ‘in the moment’ and tune in to what kind of audience they are. As much as they are listening to you, you are listening to them.

The theatre is the involuntary reflex of the ideas of the crowd”.

Sarah Bernhardt

 

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