Schofie

Posts Tagged ‘acting’

ACTING: Imagination and Introspective Connectivity – Part I

In On Acting on September 10, 2014 at 7:55 pm

So, we have identified the actor’s tools. I now hope to dive into each tool, and explode it into something practical. However, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let it be known, no one tool will be enough to carry you as an actor. You need them all. You need to recognize the continuum that exists between them, and sharpen them in such a way that they work in tandem with each-other. Certainly, there will likely be certain tools you rely on more than the others, as each individual is uniquely skilled in certain skills as opposed to the others. You may not have to equally develop all of the tools. But you must not disregard the others, to be well rounded, you will want to actively engage each tool on some level or another. Once again, only so long as it is helpful to you and brings about observable results.

I love Root Beer Floats. They are perhaps the paragon of cultural achievement. Culinary excellence blended in utter simplicity. A euphoric blend of textures, flavors, temperatures, and sensuous palatability served up in simple confectionery genius. Apparently this guy named Robert McCay ran out of ice to serve with his soda way back in 1874, and partnered with an ice cream vendor, thus inventing the first floats. God bless him and his poor rationing-of-ice skills. That’s 140 years ago!

You know the thing about Root Beer Floats? There is a proportional relationship between the two ingredients. (That’s ice cream and Root Beer for you who are way behind) Two little ice cream, and you just have vanilla flavored Root Beer with frigid chunks of slop bobbing about. Too much ice cream, and you only get foamy mounds of ice cream without the refreshing liquidiness that is Root Beer. The trick is too create an iceburg of vanilla chilliness whose peak subtly emerges from a snug ocean of the brown waves of A&W, the summit only vaguely enveloped in the clouds of perfect, amber foam – and you need a crinkly straw – obviously.

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So I just got a brain freeze typing all of that. Are you lost in my metaphor? I am. What was I trying to say, anyway? Oh, yeah. Actors are Root Beer Floats. Our next few discussions will go very much hand in hand, as the mind and body are so intertwined. If you do something to the ice cream, it will effect the root beer. If you do something to the mind, it will effect the body.

That being said, some idiots go to make a Root Beer float, and forget to add the ice cream. I mean, Root Beer is delicious, but it’s not a float without it. Some of you introspective philosophers, analytical literature gurus, and psychological emotion-dissectors just love your root beer, but you have forgotten to add the ice cream. You spend hours in dark closets connecting your “inner you” to the given circumstances your character finds themselves in. You mechanically pick apart nuances in the literature of a play or screen-write. You bleed symbolism, and revel in the philosophical implications of the text. This is the root-beer. It’s the stuff audiences slurp up without actively thinking about it. It’s just there. Delicious to the connoisseur, but the average consumer is there to dig in with a spoon – they can actively engage with the physical. They see your body, they hear your voice. They can’t see or hear the hours you spent researching transgender-norms in Elizabethan London.

This is why I hesitate to start with the mind. Because a novice mistake is to over-think a role. I think I have spent enough time warning against this, so we will dive in – because despite my warnings, I do love my Root Beer.

10659203_10152449562634983_2792271583936868846_n ~j.d. schofield

ACTING: | The Basics

In On Acting, Uncategorized on August 27, 2014 at 5:36 pm

I am not here to insult your intelligence. We have a broad readership here at the Green Room, and I know some of you reading are veteran actors – the makeup and limelight are no stranger to you. But others of you are only just starting out. And as far as I’m concerned, I feel we all need to have a foundation of terminology from which we can understand each other. If we are to discuss acting, we must first define it.  As I addressed in the previous article, that definition has been evolving for everyone in different ways for thousands of years. I am not claiming to have unlocked the depths of the meaning of the term “acting.” Therefore, we shall be evolving our own working definition of acting throughout the course of this series.

I am a huge fan of simplifying things. Maybe to a fault. But I want this series to be insanely practical. To that end, we are going to boil away all the crap that we are not ready for yet, strip away the cliche’s and preconceptions that are misguiding us, and find the skeleton beneath all that fleshy acting theory.

 

So, Google is awesome. I’m not trying to be scholarly here. I just want to get you thinking. I want a discussion to evolve. And I know you know this stuff. But take a moment and read Google’s attempt to define our craft.

ACT| V. 1.) take action; do something. 2.) behave in the way specified.

N. 1.) a thing done; a deed. 2.) a pretense

 

ACTION| N. 1.) the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim. 2.) a thing done; an act.

 

ACTOR| N. 1.) a person whose profession is acting on the stage, in movies, or on television. 2.) a person who behaves in a way that is not genuine. 3.) a participant in an action or process.

 

ACTING| N. 1.) the art or occupation of performing in plays, movies, or television productions.

ADJ. 1.) temporarily doing the duties of another person.

Obviously these are all terms we would expect to be associated with the craft of acting. No one is surprised here, right? I didn’t think so. But I bet some of you are a little intimidated by acting. Some of you have found yourselves in a role and you just didn’t know what to do to make it “click.” If you have ever been frustrated on stage, set, or in rehearsal, then I always recommend taking a moment to step back from what you are doing, and ask yourself – “What am I doing?”

Did you ask yourself? Ask it again. What are you doing? Now look at those definitions again. What words do you see perforating each and every definition? What are you doing? – “DO,” “DONE,” “DOING.” Also, “TAKE,” and “BEHAVE.” These terms each imply action. They imply activity. They imply “acting.” Not helpful yet? Seem circular? It is a bit. Hang in there.

Stop acting. Start doing. Get this ideal image of what an actor is out of your head. Are you alive? Are you breathing? Can you move and speak? You are the ideal actor already. The ideal actor is capable of action. Anyone can act. I’m not the first person to say that, either. Get over it. Go do it.

Is this inspiring to you? Liberating, maybe? Not satisfying to you? Frustrating, even? Consider the celebrity whose performances you cherish the most. The only difference between them and you is the status “celebrity.” But “actor?” They share that status with you. You are equals.

Don’t believe me? Let’s examine the actor’s inventory, shall we? Every actor has 4 things. Really, every person possesses them too – well, at least 3 of the 4.

1.) MIND | You can think, right? You can reason, and you can understand. You can study. You can grasp ideas – take them apart and put them back together. You can do basic math. You can hear, and taste, and see, and smell, and touch, and your brain can process that stuff, right? You obviously can read, and even despite my slaughterings of the English language! Congratulations.

You might say, “Yeah, but I’m not very introspective.” Or “I don’t do logic so good.” Or “I hate working my brain, I’d rather go for a run!” If you say those things then SHUT UP. You’re missing the point. The point is you are an intelligent being – and probably more so than you give yourself credit for. Heck, compared to some of the air-heads in Hollywood you might be a freakin’ Einstein. Some of you know you’re rock solid in this category, if so – good for you. Go read another book – or the next category….

mind maze

2.) BODY | Limbs. All the physical senses. A voice. Eyes. A face. I’m not talking about body type’s distinguishing characteristics that determine whether or not you get a specific roll. I’m talking about your flesh and blood person that an audience can see and hear. Especially concerning you live-performance actors – your body is perhaps your greatest asset.

If that is the case, then sure, there are a lot of implications that go along with that. We will delve into them in greater detail later, but here are few things to consider. You got to be healthy. You got to be physically active. I’m not saying you have to be Michael Phelps, but your life should not be completely characterized by activities that require sitting. You got to care what you look like – at least a little. I’m not saying you have to be a Victoria Secret or Calvin Klein model, but you should know what you look good in. You should practice things like basic hygiene. You should learn how to breath and how to take care of your voice…… Okay, so we will spend a lot of time on that one in the future. If you remember nothing out of this paragraph remember this – and basic hygiene – seriously, wash your socks now and again.

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3.) SPIRIT | Okay, so this could get weird, new-agey, and super unhelpful really fast, so i’ll be brief. When we come back to this, we will go into much greater detail. This is sorta what I mean by Spirit. Spirit is characterized by some of the following key terms: Will, Drive, Commitment, Passion, Ingenuity, Creativity, Ethic, Imagination, Inspiration. We will have a pep talk later, but basically, to be good at acting, you have to want it. You have to pursue it relentlessly. These key aspects of your person go deeper than your brain. They are beyond logic and more powerful than reason. They are your Spirit.

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4.) TEXT | This last one is broader than you think. And I don’t mean to be vague, cause we’ll discuss it more in the future. It’s not necessarily words on a page, though often it is. The text of performance is the rich matter that you develop into an artistic form. The potter’s text is his play. The painter’s text is his paint. The musician’s text are his notes. The writer’s text are his words. So what is the actor’s text? It’s life. Ever hear someone speak of an actor “Wow, they really brought that character to life for me!” or ” His performance was just real.” These are indications that an actor understands their text. Some people might say,”Hamlet is just words on a page.” But I would say, the character Hamlet, or any part you may play are words on page, but if he stays there, no acting has taken place. No life has been given. So, what does this mean? How is this remotely helpful? We’ll talk about that more in the future. But for now, just know that you are in the business of life.

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So, have you done a self inventory yet? Every body has the first three. An actor with a job has the 4th. This is your acting skeleton. These are the muscles you need to exercise. You should be empowered to know that you have the same tools any award winning celebrity ever had to do what they do. And what do those actors “do”? They do things. You can to.

Everybody needs to sharpen these tools, and we all can be better. Actors, which tool do you think you need to develop more? Comment and let us know your thoughts.

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by j.d.schofield

Acting and Theatrical Forms

In On Acting on August 18, 2014 at 2:27 pm

So much of art is influenced by culture, and so much of culture is influenced by art. This may seem obvious, maybe even redundant to say, but it is worth noting because the bicameral relationship between the two massively broad concepts is so sticky. Any artistic achievement that has stood the test of time serves as an icon in some fashion to the philosophical undercurrents of the era from which it was birthed – or a symbol rejecting those undercurrents. Often the most notable are the achievements that pioneer revolution, or are the banner from the flagship of a new idea – a cultural armada that seeks to cultivate, sculpt, or reform society in some way. Not all artists actively pursue some political, social, or cultural end, but the way they think and create is directly effected by those themes.

I hope our discussion can be practical. So I don’t want to get too bogged down in philosophy and the cultural influence on how you will approach a role as an actor. But I would be remiss not to recognize it. For so much of our current schools of thought on acting stem directly from specific philosophical perspectives iconic to the time from which they were conceived. You as an actor would be wise to consider it, because when one person says “Diderot’s thoughts on acting are spot on! That is always how I approach a role.” or another says “Strasbourg had it right, man. This is how you should really approach a role.” You need to understand that each individual had a perspective unique to their position in culture and the philosophical and cultural ideas of their time. All of them may be valuable within their own context, but only so long as it is beneficial to you, the artist today.

That brings me to my point for this little snippet of thought. Acting is a progressive art form. What the masses enjoy in performance is perpetually evolving as the culture morphs. What works best on stage or film is ever changing, and the influences on that change are nearly infinite. This is why I might caution against an over-reliance on any one system. It may soon become antiquated, and you will find yourself a dying breed of actor. It is completely acceptable to cherry pick those ideas, concepts, and approaches that work best for you, and abandon those techniques that leave you frustrated or box you in as an artist.

If you have been acting for a while, this is something you should spend some time studying. Really dive into themes like Marxism and Capitalism. Seek to grasp the ideas behind Feminism, and the GLBT movements. Research Naturalism, Realism, Expressionism, Modernism, and Post-Modernism. And not just as pertains to theatre and acting, but specifically how those schools of thought effect culture and art in it’s broad vastness. You will start to see parallels in Theoreticians and the things they believe. You will start to form your own understanding and beliefs, and from your own personal culture you may find yourself developing your own method of thinking, of art, of acting.

If you are just starting out as an actor, forget everything I have said. This stuff is way too heavy. Because at the end of the day, you don’t want to be bogged down by philosophy in the moment of performance, you should be liberated by your method, not inhibited. If you are a novice or amateur, stop thinking and start doing. Seriously, experiment with what works for you, but you need to have done a good deal of acting to understand it’s challenges and applications before you start bothering yourself with all this lofty philosophical crap. And the same goes for the experienced actor, we need to always be careful not to over-encumber ourselves with too much thinking. The point of studying philosophical and cultural influences is to better understand the nature and purpose of art, to perhaps give you a practical vehicle for performance. If it is tripping you up, throw it out, or put it back on the shelf until you are ready for it. Because it doesn’t matter how much thinking you do, it is your body and voice the audience sees and hears, and if they don’t like it, it doesn’t matter if you believe it or not.

I wanted this week’s post to be a precursor to lightly examining theoreticians of the past and present, and I wanted to illustrate how what they have to say may be valuable and may be dangerous. So now that this is out of the way, lets look at a few different approaches.

Life-Philosophy

 

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1920475_10152073790794983_1207531938_n ~j.d. schofield

Schofie on Acting?

In On Acting on August 13, 2014 at 3:17 pm

So…. Actors have been around since the beginning of time. Even if you credit them Greeks with the origins of what we might consider traditional acting – you’re talking 534 B.C. or earlier. Thousands of years. Millions upon millions of flesh-and-blood persons have taken up the mantel of performance between then and now. And now, in an age where performance related media and live performance is historically more  accessible than it has ever been, it seems everyone is an actor. If you don’t consider yourself an actor, you probably have at least done it once. If you never have, you may have considered it. If you never have considered it, you still can’t avoid how greatly your life is affected by actors. They’re in the shows you watch, the features you love, the plays you attend, and the commercials that drive you nuts. They’re on the side of the street waving signs to get your taxes done for free. They’re on the corner of 5th and Main in black-and-white mime attire. They’re in the museum bringing Hammurabi and Abe Lincoln to life.

So, if we have thousands of years of acting tradition, theory, and history – and so many of us are actors today, why are we all so confused about how to do it? If there is anything I have learned after academically studying theatre for the last 8 years, and actively performing in productions in a broad range of functions, it’s that no-body really knows what they are doing. Everybody has ideas, theories, and their own little comfortable method that works for them. Some are dogmatic, others pragmatic, some are systematic, while others are enthusiastic and spastic. And that is fun to say really fast, by the way.

It’s just that acting is such a hard thing to quantify. Traditionally, we can identify an actor. But that’s because we see him in his element. His venue. He’s in my Tv, he’s on the stage before me. He’s behind the glass at the museum exhibit. But what is it he does? How does he do it? You ask any two acting celebrities how it is they do what they do, it is likely they will have two completely different answers.

I am still working out my own thoughts on the matter. I have some strong opinions. I don’t know that I can claim that they are exclusively correct. But I do have my ideas – like anybody else.

This is hopefully the first in a series of thoughts on the craft – my thoughts, others thoughts, stolen and borrowed thoughts. Now that I am done with school, and I am actively performing in the real world, I am starting to actually read those dusty books I hastily skimmed during my Graduate work. So roll up your sleeves, actors, we’re about to get nerdy….

 

hamlet

 

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David Tennant in Hamlet in 2008.

 

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1920475_10152073790794983_1207531938_n ~by j.d. schofield

“He called me a Fishmonger”

In Updates on June 19, 2013 at 3:53 pm

a summery summary

Happy summer from the Green Room! I know it’s been an incredibly long time since we’ve had a chat, you and I. At least a month and a half I’d say. But I think you can agree that we’ve had a pretty successful three-month-run here at the Green Room!  We are growing, and gaining readers, and expanding our scope with each new month. This all because of you! Bless your face.

I wanted to drop in and let you know what has been happening, and what is going to happen in the months to come. With summer upon us, the Green Room Staff have been flung to the far reaches of the Globe. This of course makes for difficult collaboration. But it also means we have been seeing more shows in different places all over the U.S.! With that in mind, the posts may come a bit slower, but the range of discussion should ultimately be deeper, better informed, and well connected.

I cannot speak for all of our staff (they have not all told me their incredible stories yet), but I can let you know what has been going on for myself of late. Last time we posted, we heard from our very own Jessica Bowers about the successful production of Dreams of Sonya. But so much happened around and after that time which we just weren’t able to talk about. So I shall attempt to encapsulate it all below.

yeah, I used encapsulate in a sentence

yeah, I used encapsulate in a sentence

When Your Life Goes Off Script

I said this post was about me, so I have to be honest. I didn’t see this production. I wanted to. I was excited for it. But, alas, I could not. I bring it up here because there are some great things to say about it without even seeing it. This was produced by the Senior Girls at BJU. It was not for academic credit, and was independently organized and produced. For those of our readers who have participated in any academic theatre programs, you can imagine how busy that last semester can be – mostly because you have done it – or will do it in the near future. So to produce a show of your own initiative and see it through to fruition takes guts during this time. I respect that.

Recently I had the pleasure of being the marketing director for an original production that took an incredible amount of collaboration and work to pull off – I know what kind of blood, sweat, and tears go into something like this. And I have always said that where there are no opportunities, you can create your own! So I want to congratulate the Senior Girls, (who have since graduated), on a reportedly successful production, and apologize for my unavoidable absence.

an awesome poster. no question.

an awesome poster. no question.

MADCAP THEATRE

Now, this portion is not meant to blow my own horn, because frankly, I had little to do with its success. But in early January, myself and a colleague of mine, Micah Thompson, founded a new organization – MADCAP THEATRE. The group specializes in improvisational acting and performance. To begin, we created MADCAP UNIVERSITY to train and teach improv. We started out with about 15 students who stuck with us for 6 weeks of intense training and truckloads of fun. At the end of the period we had a small show to commemorate the class’s glowing success.

Throughout this process, I had the opportunity to develop some of my skills as an educator, and had the joyous privilege of seeing these talented people grow into stronger performers. They all came from diverse backgrounds. Some were musicians, some were businessmen, some were teachers, and they all came together to collaborate on honing their life skills. This served as a powerful reminder to me how theatre is and always has been about community. It was such a joy to see so many people come together for a unified purpose.

Murder Mystery Mayhem for the win!

Murder Mystery Mayhem for the win!

Macbeth

Throughout this last year I feel like I have been regaining my sea-legs as an actor. That is to say, taking a year off from acting did me no favors. I have had the privilege to participate in several productions since then, but most recently I have played the role of Lennox in the Classic Players production of Macbeth. I love the play, don’t get me wrong, but when I learned of my new role, I had to ask my self – “Who is Lennox again?” After digging out my old “Shakespeare Unabridged” I rediscovered the minor character.

This was fantastic. The role was small, but that actually served to my advantage. Shakespeare is a horse of a different colour, and it’s not exactly like riding a bike. The brevity of my role gave me the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the Bard, and slowly digest the character without needing to feel any great pressure to perform. I was able to take ownership of Lennox, and by the time of performance, I was able to simply enjoy the artistic process of giving him life.

Thrilling tragedians since 1606!

Thrilling tragedians since 1606!

Hamlet

Feast or famine. I don’t touch Shakespeare for two years, and then suddenly I’m saturated with it. I’m not complaining.  I love Shakespeare, and Hamlet is hands down my favorite play. Ever. That’s why when I attended the Upstate Shakespeare Festival’s production of Hamlet I went in with low expectations. I did this for various reasons. First, I don’t like to be disappointed because I’m too critical. I like to enjoy myself, and give people the benefit of the doubt in the process. Second, It was a free production, open to the public, and performed out of doors in a public park. This told me it would have to be a filtered down version of the timeless master piece, and not too long so as too appease the masses. Not that it has to be this way – I just had a sneaking suspicion.

With all of that said, Shakespeare in the Park 2013 was a success as far as Hamlet is concerned. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I do have my criticisms, but it wasn’t trying to be the next RSC production of destiny. I think it tried to make this archaic text accessible to most anyone, and for the most part, it mostly did. I was able to look past the low production values (which are secondary anyway, in my opinion) and attach myself to the characters in new and entertaining ways.

A nice pate on their poster.

A nice pate on their poster.

Comedy of Errors²

A great play. (also by Shakespeare) I love this play. It’s fun. It’s light. It’s entertaining, and incredibly hilarious. What’s perhaps hilarious about this summer is the error* so many companies are making by producing the same play at the same time! (*see what I did there?) I have the privilege of playing one of the principle roles in a production by The Greenville Shakespeare Company, and our very own Lindsay Morgan is performing a similar role in the Upstate Shakespeare Festival’s production of the same play! As if to add insult to injury, The Public Theatre in NYC is currently in the midst of their production of Comedy as well! So apparently everyone is doing it. Therefore you all have no excuse to not see a production of Comedy of Errors  this summer! Click here to see details about the GSC show. Click here to see details about the USF show.

I have no words.

I have no words.

Support Local Theatre

I look forward to the fall when all our staff are back in one place, but in the mean time, I hope you are all keeping an eye out for shows near you! Now more than ever local theatre groups need your help to keep creating and growing. Remember they do it for you. I’m not asking you to take an exam, or go for a run, or eat your broccoli. I’m asking you to go to a play. C’mon, how hard can it be? You know you want to!

Stay posted for our future articles! We love you, readers! Happy Summer!

 

By Johnathan SchofieldDSC_0260-2

Dark Waltz

In Performance Reviews on March 5, 2013 at 3:08 pm

A Look into Kaitlin Chisholm’s Interpretation of               “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”

The unsuspecting audience member might chuckle through the first half of Kaitlin Chisholm’s senior recital, lulled by its musical introduction (played liltingly on an onstage piano) and its good-natured humor. By the end of the hour, however, Miss Chisholm masterfully carried the audience to the brutal but powerful ending of what recital coach Mr. Radford called “not a feel-good story at all.”

Kaitlin Chisholm actress/performing artist

Kaitlin Chisholm actress/performing artist

“A Good Man is Hard to Find,” a short story written by Flannery O’Connor in the 1950’s, is a startling tale that delves into the depths of human depravity. The story recounts the events of a family vacation to Florida through the perspective of the grandmother. The grandmother, both a sympathetic and a despicable character, serves as a commentary on self-righteous people. Miss Chisholm’s portrayal made it clear that this character was not to be respected, even though what the grandmother wanted most was respect. It is her fixation on the supposed refinements of her past that lead to her family’s demise when she insists on going down an abandoned road to find an old house. It is this diversion that leads the family into the path of a disturbingly “normal” psychopathic killer, who systematically slaughters the whole family, even the grandmother—who is, in fact, his own mother.

a disturbingly “normal” psychopathic killer

a disturbingly “normal” psychopathic killer

Miss Chisholm’s stellar characterization defined each character precisely so that there was no confusion as to who was who. She gave every character, from the grandmother to the gasoline station owner, a distinct voice and posture. They were not characters made to be loved as much as they were made to be learned from. As far as characterization goes, Kaitlin Chisholm admits readily that the serial killer, The Misfit, was by far the hardest to portray. She wanted him to come across as a normal person; a very relatable everyman. The last thing she wanted to do was to play him up as the stereotypical villain. His scariest feature had to be his normalcy, because it “makes the evil more evil when it doesn’t seem evil.” The resulting portrayal? An empty-eyed, but unnervingly conversational and truly “normal” sort of villain.

They were not characters made to be loved

They were not characters made to be loved

Several audio and light cues added gravity and interest to the telling. The set consisted of five brightly colored folding chairs arranged in front of a well-worn piano, its front panel removed to leave the hammers exposed. The chairs were rearranged from mimicking car seating to seats at a restaurant and then back to car seating as the story progressed. It became clear that the chairs represented the characters in the story. Kaitlin Chisholm occupied the middle back seat, indicating the grandmother’s place in the car, and referred to the other characters as sitting in the other seats, one per character. She showed the family’s car crashing by knocking over the chairs under blood-red lighting, with only the father’s chair remaining upright as he was the only one not displaced during the crash. As each character died at the hands of The Misfit’s henchman, she placed their collapsed folding chairs into a square bracket of light on the floor. She accompanied the grandmother’s death with a mournful rendition of “The Tennessee Waltz,” exploring the effectiveness of “music not making sense with what happens.” The effect was every bit as chilling as she had hoped.

The effect was every bit as chilling as she had hoped.

The effect was every bit as chilling as she had hoped.

The question burning in the audience’s mind was this: “Why this story?” Miss Chisholm was struck by the story’s gruesome, but accurate portrayal of evil. She wanted her audience to leave Performance Hall with the message that Flannery O’Connor set out to communicate: that we all are innately evil, and without the grace of God, a good man would not just be hard, but impossible to find.  

By Emma GallowayIMG_8607

The Trouble I’ve Seen

In Performance Reviews on February 27, 2013 at 8:12 pm

A Conversation with Meg Jones

          As the lights dimmed in Stratton Hall this past Monday, eager audience members looked toward the stage, waiting for the recital to begin. Much to their surprise, the opening lines were delivered from the back of the theater, sung in a deep and haunting contralto:

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen

Nobody knows my sorrow.

            Meg Jones came down the theater aisle in a meditative march, at last ascending the stage before stopping her song and taking the audience on a journey through the nature of human suffering.

Meg Jones: actress / performing artist

Meg Jones: actress / performing artist

            Meg Jones’s senior recital, The Trouble I’ve Seen, interlocks the stories of Job and three characters from the book Witness by Karen Hesse. Meg begins with the first chapter of Job, giving the scriptural account of Job’s incredible loss. Then she takes the audience center stage, where she portrays the interaction of three characters during the terrors brought by the Ku Klux Klan in 1924: Leanora Sutter, an African American girl; Esther Hirsh, a Jewish girl; and Sara Chickering, the woman who offered them both shelter from the Klan. All three experience the pain connected with racial discrimination and violent death. Meg Jones’s recital was no merely entertaining romp, but a deep-delving exploration of faith in the face of extreme suffering.

            I had the remarkable opportunity to interview Meg and ask her a few questions about how her recital came into being. When asked where she got the idea to do a recital centered around the theme of trouble, she said, “I want to do something that has to do with people’s perspective of what suffering is. It morphed from people looking from the outside to the inside and putting…ratings on people’s suffering…and after that I had, like, windows of different people and just different levels of suffering.” The “window” idea came after her coach, Anne Nolan, asked her to find a vehicle (a common thread) that would carry the theme across. Meg was leaving her dorm when she looked out a window in her stairwell, and had the idea to have every character “have a window, and the audience could see through their window…and they saw their suffering…some people’s windows are shattered and old and tattered while other people’s are colorful and beautiful on the outside and there’s dust and stuff on the inside.”

"The Trouble I've Seen"

“The Trouble I’ve Seen”

          While she started with having five separate stories in her recital, including an original composition and cuttings from The Hiding Place, she finally settled on just a cutting from The Witness and cuttings from Job.

          Meg Jones navigated the gripping tale with a commanding storytelling style, embracing both the narration and characterization with practiced precision. She transitioned gracefully from one character to the next, taking a meditative pace through the turns of the story. Her characterizations were nearly flawless: Leanora was sassy and cynical, Esther was innocent and cherubic, and Sara provided a stark adult perspective on the unfolding events. While Meg said that adopting Leanora and Sara came easily, performing Esther, with her muddled syntax and unique accent, was another story altogether.

          “At first I didn’t like her,” she told me, chuckling. “I liked her as a character; I just didn’t like performing her. She was just so hard for me at first. I don’t just have to act like a six-year old, but I have to act like a Jewish six-year old with an accent….I had to listen to some things on YouTube or just different people speaking Yiddish…as their home language, but they’re speaking in English and I wanted that accent of her—but I had to make it a little less mature that the grown-ups sounded….it was hard getting into that, but after a while, it became more natural to be her and then I didn’t hate it as much anymore. She was the most difficult to memorize because of the syntax….But in the end, she was the most enjoyable to perform.”

Senior Project for Performance Studies Degree

Senior Project for Performance Studies Degree

          The recital was not fast-paced, which may have disappointed a few audience members. However, a slow pace was absolutely necessary in order to stay true to the lyricism of the text and the heaviness of the material. The slower pace allowed the audience time to think about the ideas flowing through the narrative and to grasp the depth of what Meg hoped to communicate.

          “I wanted other people to see what our reactions are to other people’s suffering or our own suffering and I wanted them to see it through very real situations….I wanted them to see that even a child can see that the emotions you feel when you’re going through something like that are all human reactions…and knowing that although I’m going through this situation, it sums back up to God, that he is still there—and nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows but Jesus.”

by Emma GallowayIMG_8607

The Green Room Project

In Mission on January 23, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Theatre is collaboration. Any one person who attempts to go into or study this craft of their own ability and skill with no regard for those artists who will inevitably surround them will fail. This is a field of artistic creation which, at its crux, relies entirely upon the shoulders of collaborative individuals who humbly throw themselves into a craft at the mercy of those artists who are committed to helping that craft succeed.

As such, it is imperative that we understand one another. We must passionately seek the humble ability to learn from those around us in order to foster original, authentic creation in the hearts and minds of our colleagues, as well as in ourselves. This requires an ear that is quick to listen. This requires a tongue that is taught to speak boldly, yet meek to speak in respectful love. This requires the capacity for acceptance, and pliability. This requires the capacity for taking risks and accepting consequences. This requires the capacity for trust.

Do not allow these to daunt you, but rather inspire you to a deeper understanding of the humility you will need to succeed in the Theatre arts. By far, some of the most rewarding experiences and opportunities of your life lie in this field. The purpose of this collaborative community of artists is to foster growth by sharing those experiences with each other. Let us collectively be inspired by those things so great a God has gifted us to make for Him.

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