Posts Tagged ‘art’

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.







1920475_10152073790794983_1207531938_n ~j.d. schofield


Reflections from The Shadow of the Cross

In Play Reviews on April 3, 2013 at 1:04 pm


Throughout the history of mankind, art has been a display of cultures, of traditions or famous tales and stories. But it has mostly portrayed lives, etched to remind those who gaze upon it of the difference made because of the scene they see.

But what if that art, those painted figures of people whose eyes stare lifeless upon their frame, could voice their thoughts?

This question is explored through this year’s production at Bob Jones University of Living Gallery where famous works of art such as Michelangelo’s Pieta and The Last Supper by da Vinci are suddenly life size. This year, however, they actually come to life and the audience was taken back two thousand years through eleven pieces of art to see and listen to witnesses of the single event that most changed the world. What if we could hear the words of those in The Shadow of the Cross?

Living Gallery Drama 2013

The artwork itself is meticulously preserved to ensure accuracy. Having seen some of the original paintings, these enlarged versions (containing sometimes up to fifteen live models) are mirror images in comparison. You would have to be looking very closely and know a great deal about the originals to ever spot a slight difference. The tableau artists did a tremendous job on replicating the artwork. The models are perfectly placed and blended into the work and at first, an audience member might not notice there are people in or on the paintings. To create this effect, each model must sit through hours of make-up to be transformed into their character from the painting or sculpture.

Living Gallery Drama 2013

The lighting is another element other than the make-up that creates the “living art” effect. Through side, over head and front lighting, we are able to see the shadows of 3-D actors amongst paintings and discover details in the work that are often lost in a smaller-scale 2-D original. In the Descent from the Cross, with the original work by Adam Lenckhardt, eight models take their stance as a carved statue with the same appearance as having been made of one piece of ivory. The effect is really remarkable.

But this production does not just display the art. It lives it. Over the years, different dramas have been incorporated into the showing of the life size art pieces. Each was compelling and a beautiful portrayal of God’s love and sacrifice for the redemption of man. But there is something provoking, dare I even say powerful, about seeing people step out from art that many of us have gazed upon before, and hear what might have been the words, the emotions, and the struggles of those who lived in the time of this Christ, this Jesus. The director, Paul Radford, expertly guided his cast to capture the audience in the first moments of the performance. With the entrance of the Centurion, we are immediately brought to the cascading darkness drawn upon by the death of Christ. The Centurion was grippingly played by Jason Houtz who pulled our thoughts to believe in his struggle to understand who this Jesus is and why would He die. The portrayal of Peter, by Ben Nicholas, in Peter’s Denial and then in The Storm on the Sea of Galilee was also very real and believable. The audience is able to identify with and understand each of these characters in some way and be able to say ‘part of that is me’. In a clever choice by Paul Radford, the angel Gabriel lights up the auditorium and calls out to the audience. Be watching for this moment. It really is thought provoking. At each piece of art, we are drawn to listen to the heartbeat, the core values, of those who lived through the death of Christ.

Living Gallery Drama 2013

But this story does not end with death. In perhaps one of the most captivating moments of all, each main character previously displayed in the art, returns to the stage with echoing words that ring throughout the auditorium crying out to God with whys, rebuke, desperation and belief. This culminates with a triumphant resurrection of the Savior in the work The Resurrected Christ. With soaring orchestration and voices raised, the living Christ Jesus is glorified and an audience member walks away with this probing question; am I in the shadow of the Cross?

Living Gallery Drama 2013

DSC_0252 By Meagan Ingersoll