Category Archives: Focus

Eccentric Dance

(Certain portions of the following were taken from an article written in the LA Times by Susan King on 8/3/19)

Think of rubber-legged Ray Bolger in 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz” and 1952’s “Where’s Charley?”; long-limbed Charlotte Greenwood, whose trademark high kicks entertained audiences in such musicals as 1940’s “Young People” and 1955’s “Oklahoma!”; and the gravity-defying Nicholas Brothers — Fayard and Harold — whose leaps and astonishing splits were the high points of numerous musicals including 1940’s “Down Argentine Way” and 1941’s “Sun Valley Serenade.”

It was wacky and wild, dazzling to watch, funny and fearless. It wasn’t modern dance, and it certainly wasn’t ballet. The only word for it was “eccentric.”

On 8/5/19 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences shined a spotlight on eccentric dancing and how the art form has also played an important role in animation.

“What eccentric dance is, by definition, is very broad,” said dance historian Betsy Baytos, the curator and host of the evening, who is also an animator and eccentric dancer and choreographer. “It’s loose-limbed. It’s a pantomimic kind of movement, and it’s usually comic by nature. It’s essentially wrapped around the character.”  Since animated characters can have unique features and movements, choreographers must come up with over exaggerated steps that regular humans don’t make.

“We’re trying to convince you that there’re certain things our characters can do that you find illogical but look completely believable,” says animator Eric Goldberg.  “You have to animate a character with a certain amount of weight and intent and all the things that actually make it completely believable for an audience.”  Think of trying to incorporate the movement of a tail or the long neck of a giraffe.

The famous Nicholas brothers will be featured as well. Tony Nicholas, the son of Fayard, was excited to show Nicholas Brothers home movies that evening because they are “something to behold.” He screened some “exciting new footage we have discovered that no one has ever seen.”

So while Hollywood has honored more traditional styles of dance like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly to the John Travolta disco and Fame and Flashdance to Footloose and High School Musical, it’s nice to see the art of the eccentric dance get it’s due.

Can Theater Effect Change? 

Every revolutionary idea began somewhere. A small flicker, a spark really, that can set the world ablaze. Musicals and theater productions can be that spark, that initial light that can start a revolution. That revolution can change the world. 

Theater has been motivated by the change that writers and directors need and want to see in the world: whether it is racial inequality, poverty, diversity, homelessness, marriage equality, women’s rights, human rights, or a whole host of other social issues. Part of telling a story on the stage is entertaining the audience, another part is enlightening the audience or teaching the audience about what is happening around them. Whether they choose to see it or not is their choice. But for some, the story starts a change in them that sparks action. 

Theater can change the world one performance at a time. For as long as theater has existed, since the time of the Greeks and Romans, the stage has been used to express opinions and gather public opinion. Theatergoers can gain empathy for the characters that are on stage and understand how “the other half” lives. For example, The Diary of Anne Frank and The Sound of Music probably gave the audience a point of view that they had never considered before, that of a family being hunted by the Nazis or wooed by the Nazis to join the Third Reich military machine. 

Theater productions can pose questions about the role of our government such as in Hamilton. Racial divides, immigration, and the underbelly of politics are just a couple of the topics that can open the eyes of theatergoers. Add in the music, fully developed characters, and a script that can touch the soul, and a theater production can most certainly spark a revolution in mind and spirit in the people who attend and later talk about the production. 

What products have you seen that have touched you or changed your thought process? I can remember seeing Annie as a young child and realizing that not all children have an easy life and that there will always be people richer than me and poorer than me. Tell us about your experience in theater and how it changed you. 

 

Stagefright? We’ve Got You Covered.

actors in character on stage

We’ve all heard of picturing the audience in their underwear when a performer is nervous or suffering from stage fright. But this is usually for advice when giving presentations or announcements. The truth is… it is not common to think that actors get stage fright because they are always on stage, and they’re constantly acting in front of crowds. Let’s dive deeper into what it means to have stage fright, and how actors can prepare to reduce obstacles on stage.

An Actor with Stagefright?
The common association with actors is generally that they have extroverted personality types, are talkative, friendly, and personable when in communicating. In reality, every actor is different- and personality type does not dictate acting style. Sometimes, different scenarios, roles, audiences, and stage locations cause stage fright. If your significant other is in the crowd, you may be nervous or act/perform differently than you normally do. If your entire family is present, or if you know you’re being observed, it’s natural for these to cause stagefright. A particular stage design may be uncomfortable or foreign to you. There are a number of reasons to be nervous, but plenty of ways to feel assured as well.

Staying Calm Through Preparation
Anxiety has a lot to do with stage fright. You can go through a calm routine before performances to help reduce stage fright. Confronting anxieties before a performance is always recommended. Is everything in place in the dressing room? Is the crew prepared? These types of issues can be handled beforehand to prevent small worries. Don’t think about questions like “Is the front of the house full? Are we sold out?” These types of questions will only stress you out and add to the stagefright. Only think of preparations that make the show run, that need to be in place for you to play your role.

Perfecting Skills in Practice
Rehearsal is the time to ask your director questions about your techniques. If you’re unsure or feel insecure about something, ask enough questions in rehearsal so you know what your character looks like, and you know to make necessary adjustments to your performance. You can’t ask enough questions when learning a role. The more questions you ask about your lines and your appearance, the more confident you will be to perform your truest character possible.

spotlight on stage

Peer Support & Perspective
Asking your cast and crew for their assessment and opinions during rehearsal can allow you an outside perspective on your character. Try asking your peers if your character appeals to emotion, logic, and reason to see if you are credible and believable as your role. If anything sticks out as improper, inappropriate, or misplaced in your character’s performance, have them point out these flaws. The more precisely you receive feedback on your performance, the more confidence you will feel in your role and the less likely you will get nervous on stage.

Most actors’ insecurities on stage come from overthinking small details or a lack of preparation. If you cover your rudimentary bases through peer support, rehearsal, and preparation, then you will most likely perform to the best of your abilities.

Monologue Madness

actor on stage

A monologue is a long speech delivered by an actor during a theatrical production. Some actors love monologues, while others are impartial to them. Monologues come at a particular point in the production and they serve an important purpose. Let’s take a look at what goes into delivering a monologue, details, and other elements of monologue madness

Memorizing Long Passages
Monologues are long passages delivered at a single time. This is usually why some actors struggle with delivering monologues. If a role contains a monologue, that may be a deciding factor as to whether or not an actor will audition for that role during a casting call. Though people think actors are extremely good at memorization – because that’s the nature of what they do – it’s still a challenge during rehearsals, as it’s a process moving toward opening night. Actors must be 100% comfortable delivering the monologue before moving forward with the production.

monologue delivery

The Moment of a Monologue
The moments in which monologues are delivered say a lot about the essence of a monologue. Delivered at a pinnacle moment of the story line, monologues are usually intense dramatic moments of realization, passion, or emotion. This is one reason why actors may dislike monologues. As an actor with a role containing a monologue, you’re responsible for a big moment. You have all eyes on you, and sometimes you’re the only one on stage. A monologue is an important moment to the show, so it’s critical that you express yourself exactly how you should so the audience understands and makes the proper connections.

 

monologue drama

 

Monologues for Students
As a theater student, you may have had to deliver a monologue in place of a written test, or as a graded project. This is also overwhelming if it’s a deciding factor of your grade or your passing the class. Monologue memorization and deliverance is by no means easy, especially when you’re weighted with other stressors while trying to memorize and consciously deliver.

The strong, confident actors should take on roles with monologues. Usually main or directly supporting roles of relevance are characters of a production who deliver monologues. Practicing memorization, deliverance, as well as improving your forms of persuasion can help you excel when it comes to monologues.

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Choosing Your Next Production

Cast on Stage

If you have a theater group and you’re constantly putting on productions, read on for inspiration in choosing your next production. We’ve put together a guide to choosing your next production for your theater community. Here are a few things we think are important to think about when brainstorming your possibilities:

Anastasia

Deciding on the Type of Production
Do you want to do a musical? Do you want to do a situational comedy or a dramatic play? Do you want to perform a greek tragedy? A historical play or a romantic play? There are many subsets of plays and types of productions. When you narrow down your goal, you can then choose a script.

Thinking of your Actors
Deciding on a play depends on your strengths and weaknesses as a theater community. Sometimes the tell-tale signs of your next production can be evident through your actors’ strong suits. Make sure you have the right type of actors available to be matched with the right roles.

Spider-Man

Accessing a Script
Be sure you have access to ordering scripts for your community. Are there enough scripts available for the production of your choice? Be sure that you’re choosing from plays that are accessible, and that you have the rights to get ahold of the script.

Look to your Inventory
Looking at the props you already have and the props you need to buy can help you decide on your next production. If you have a smaller budget, and it’s always helpful for theater communities to spend as little as possible, you can look at what you already own. You may not need to buy much if you have a good selection and you use a little creativity.

Tarzan

Time and Duration
Think about how much time each production will take to rehearse and choreograph. You need to think about time from the beginning of your first rehearsal to your last dress rehearsal. Be sure that the plays you’re considering all fall within your time frame for preparation.  

Set Hands and Available Crew
Some productions take more help behind the scenes and backstage. Other productions require less stage help and more actors on stage. Every production is different, so being sure you have enough set hands and available help is something you’ll definitely want to think through before choosing a play.

Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart can provide you with the best quality backdrops for your productions. Visit our website to check out our inventory, and reach out to our staff with any questions.