GUEST POST: The secret to the art of performance
Felicity Jurd first appeared on B.A.B.E. a few months back with a wonderful post on voice overs. Felicity is now back to share some of the secrets to the art of performance…rehearsal! I hope you enjoy.
The secret to the art of performance
– By Felicity Jurd
Lately in my classes, I have been struck by the number of performers I meet who have low confidence. They might have attended the best training college or have the stage hours of a true veteran, but many of them question their ability to speak in front of an audience, doubt their scripts and their ability to deliver them. Most of these issues can be addressed very simply by the art of rehearsal.
To rehearse simply means to hear something again. In French, and also in Swedish, what we actors know as rehearsal is called “repetition”. Well known master acting teacher Sandy Meisner created one of his key exercises called “repetition”. David Mamet derived his technique at least partially from his work with Sandy and formed his own adaptation of “repetition”. Dancers must take class every day to keep their body in condition and depending on the difficulty of their performances sometimes practice their performance for many hours a day in addition to a performance. It is not a question of vanity, but rather of survival and avoiding injury. Musicians must practice their instrument every day….you can see where I am going with this I am sure.
So when I hear actors talking about an audition, I can be sure that they had just spent half an hour talking to someone that they were stressed about the audition/performance but haven’t yet spoken the lines aloud.
Perhaps the lines have been learnt silently by writing them out. Perhaps the analysis of the scene has been done. Perhaps they have researched the background for the role and the overall setting of the script and who they will be meeting with. These are all very important aspects of preparation and they do need to be done. I am a big believer in preparation before you rehearse, but these aspects of preparation only take you so far towards the art of performance. To be confident in your acting choices, you need to speak the text aloud and that means more than once. How else will you know if your scene analysis is fitting the scene? How will you know if you have discovered the place in the body and voice that feels right for that scene or monologue? How will you know you can reproduce it take after take? show after show?
For some reason, speaking aloud invites judgement. Perhaps it is the act of committing to a character choice? Perhaps it is the fear of being incorrect in our scene analysis? Perhaps we are concerned about judgement of whether we are right for the role? All of these fears prevent you from doing your best work. Whether you are right for the role is in many cases irrelevant if you do focused acting work with commitment to your choices whilst staying open to direction in the audition.
At this point, I will tell you of a well known actor that I worked with a few years ago. He was working really hard on all his auditions and getting great feedback and recalls. He was the running favourite for this particular part in a new TV series and he and I started rehearsing his scenes in different ways, different approaches and helping him make the best choices for the scene with his movement, text analysis and voice work. A few weeks later, the casting director had called him in for his (then) fifth audition and at the end of the audition day he was told that he didn’t get the part. They went with someone with different coloured hair (although I am sure it was more the energy of the person not the hair colour). In that moment, he could have been very upset and he probably decided that he was going to dye his hair, but as a result of all the rehearsal and hard work he had done, the casting director brought him in as the first choice on a totally different job. So, that same afternoon, he booked a different character in a different show from a cold read in front of the director!
This is not an altogether rare story. He had mastered the art of performance! It is also a lesson in keeping a great attitude no matter how you feel your audition process.
The art of performance = Rehearsal
Record yourself (audio or video)
Experiment with different choices (remain flexible)
Hear your recordings (yes that means playback!)
Express through the voice (not just inflection)
Allocate time for rehearsal
Respond to your scene partner
Speak the lines with intention
Affect your scene partner with objectives
Listen during the scene allowing your body to respond
If you have questions about this article, feel free to contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About our B.A.B.E. guest writer Felicity:
Felicity Jurd works as a communications coach using applied theatre and vocal techniques to enhance communication of individuals and groups within corporate business in the UK. She also coaches actors privately for auditions and role preparation. All her courses draw on the elements of Pitch, Pause and Pace and are designed to help the actor perform confidently whilst remaining flexible and open to their specific audience, whether that be an audition for a new BBC drama, an independent feature film or a promotion interview to become Head of Accounts.
To find out more information about course material, availability for booking a group or private session in acting or communications, please click here: Pitch, Pause, Pace.