Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Having Fun in Comic Text Scene Study - Interview with Andrew McGinn

Andy, we're excited that you'll be teaching Comic Text Scene Study at Freehold this quarter. Can you talk a little bit about your experience with comic scene study work?

Thanks! My experience with comic scenes is pretty much a love affair that I keep returning to. One of the reasons I love comic texts is that I apply so many of the core techniques you would with any other scene, but I know that the end result will be really fun. I love fun. I love it. It's learning about why the scene is funny, and then using that knowledge to send your performance energy in the right direction.

A fun example: Many moons ago I once got to tour the country playing the great role of Sir Anthony Absolute in Sheridan's The Rivals, a classic comedy about trickery, gossip, and getting the girl. So this guy is a big-hearted, very passionate, very sort of clownishly masculine guy, and the character is in his late 60's, meanwhile I had just graduated and was 23 years old. Everything about him is just plain big. So in I go having all the fun in the world being as huge as I can, and nothing -NOTHING- was funny. Getting a little time to think after those embarrassing moments, you realize that my having fun was the only discernible action on stage. The character of course needs to be doing things to people in order to achieve his goals, just like in every other play. Once I started treating it like any other scene I, as a performer, am working way, way, way less hard and the scenes became a hilarious riot. It's a case of channeling all that fantastic desire to have fun and make people laugh into the scene that was written. I certainly wish I had understood the scenes better when I started, but once I did, I had never had more fun on stage.

What roles have you played that have had a strong comic element and what did you discover in the process of playing them?

Well what's on my mind the most right now is of course Watson, from the recent production at Seattle Rep of Hound of the Baskervilles. The big discovery unique to that role for me, was that elegance can be funny. I’ve done a lot of classical comedy that like Hound of the Baskervilles has a lot of wit, irony, and language humor but the thing about the Watson that David Pichette and Robert R. Hamilton Wright wrote was that he was a patient and elegant man. Sometimes I got uncomfortable with that because I thought I wasn’t being funny enough, but then of course there’s times when Watson would lose his cool and THEN came the big humor. You see, without the grace there was nothing for Watson to fall from, and regain. ... and that’s just another example of how time and time again knowing and trusting the script really is the thing.

Are there any misconceptions actors have in approaching Comic Text work or skills that are particularly useful for an actor approaching a piece of comic text?

Mostly the thing that gets in folks way is that they don't think learning the mechanics of their scripts is part of the fun. But I’m here to tell you: It is!!! It's like listening to your favorite song and you're just waiting for the the chorus to send you off ... yet for us we're listening to the script waiting for the inspiration that's going to send us off! Listening to a script you know is funny moment-to-moment is like a delightful game of anticipation, like peek-a-boo.

What are you looking forward to in teaching the Comic Text Scene Study class this quarter?

Aw man, I'm so amped about this class. So much of acting training can be so heavy, and here we'll have a genre that is inherently not heavy, but meanwhile we'll be using the same skills: Dropping into a fiction, responsiveness, clarity action, the pursuit of objectives .... and in addition we'll look at common elements of comedy that makes them funny like extreme stakes, total failures, status reversals, and irony. It's going to be a fun and fascinating time. I'm amped!

Andy will be teaching Comic Text Scene Study at Freehold beginning April 6. More information can be found here: Comic Text Scene Study

My Studio Series Experience: Performing Outside Your Comfort Zone by Karen Polinsky

Surely, you’ve experienced that dream: The orchestra tunes up, the curtains part, and there YOU are, the prima ballerina in a tutu of pale pink chiffon. Happily, I can personally attest, being part of the Incubator Studio Series is nothing like this archetypal Jungian nightmare. Though it does mean taking a risk, your creativity and hard work is guaranteed to please the audience and teach you more than you ever imagined.

This is my second year as a playwright in the Incubator Studio Series. Last winter I was so terrified I nearly quit before I started. I had no mentor, no director, no actors and no experience staging a play. Six weeks later I was in the Rendezvous Room toasting the exhilarating success of a hilarious one-act called “Every Place Is No Place,” with a merry band of strangers who had somehow turned into a magical theatrical troupe. My new one-act “The Birdhouse Paradox” – though with only one week left, I confess I have the jitters – is every bit as promising.

My favorite part of this process is when the actors interrogate me about the back stories and the quirks of the fictional people I have created. Each and every time I discover these characters have not been fully-realized. Together, we explore who they are, what they fear, and how they react under pressure. In the process we end up revealing parts of ourselves that could not be shared in any other way.

The Incubator Studio Series offers fledgling-to-professional writers, actors, choreographers and directors the chance to perform outside of their comfort zone. The Project Lead defines the challenge. With feedback from the mentor Elizabeth Heffron, and director Rebecca Tourino, fourteen vague pages turned into seven pages of witty, insightful dialog. This year, the critique is aimed at helping all of us to learn together. Designing your project to address the next phase of your development is just one of the incalculable joys of the Incubator Studio Series.

I may never dance Swan Lake, however, after two seasons in the Incubator Studio Series I can say that I am a playwright. The opportunity to stage an original work in the Freehold Blackbox may not have realized all of my dreams, but it has changed my life.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My Studio Series Experience by Lisa Skvarla

Last year I had the opportunity to do the Studio Series at Freehold Theatre. I was recently in a solo performance class, and the studio series gave me the opportunity to take it to the next level. My solo show was called "My Father's Daughter." It was a tribute to my father, who had recently passed away. The studio series expanded my work in progress that I did in class and made it more polished, working toward a professional performance.

In the beginning, we were able to choose our own director and crew. I chose Teresa Mosteller as my director and Kathryn Skvarla, my daughter, as my crew and assistant director. Both were familiar with my content and the story I wanted to tell. Freehold set us up with a mentor, Elizabeth Heffron, who helped us out in our rehearsal process. We met with her in the very beginning and again at the end. She was very helpful in pinpointing what needed clarity, what worked, and the direction we needed to go in our story-telling.

Teresa and I met once a week, and as it came closer to performance day we met more often to tighten the work. Each artist was given a maximum time limit of 15 minutes. I was fortunate because my show was already 15-plus minutes, so all I had to do was shave some time off. It made me focus like a laser beam on what I really wanted to say.

Freehold also added a layer of luxury by letting us add lights, sound cues, and music. The lights really made a difference in telling the story, and the music we selected was from the big-band era -- perfect for setting the tone of my dad's time. One of the songs we selected was the actual song my father and I used to dance to out on the patio at night. The music added so much beautiful expression. During dress rehearsal, the lighting crew was very helpful in meticulously setting the lights and working with my director on getting the sound cues perfect.

Opening night I had the jitters! I was really nervous! The only people who had seen the performance thus far were my classmates, Teresa and my daughter. I had no idea what to expect. It was a FULL house! I have to say I was extremely surprised to hear the reactions from the crowd. I definitely found out immediately what worked and what didn't. The audience was fantastic, and the enthusiasm for the show was tremendous. People were laughing, crying, cheering and mournfully quiet. I felt so supported, loved and connected to the audience.

Afterwards, the feedback ranged from "You touched my heart" Grown men were crying-Yes,crying- and saying "I know your father, I know what he stood for" One woman thanked me for bringing her boyfriend back, for restoring his faith in live theater! Then, to top the event off, one woman came up to me and said, "When you are ready, I would like to produce your show." Wow! That doesn't happen everyday. I met people who I can now call friends. My confidence increased as a first-time writer, and my creative abilities as an actor skyrocketed. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity.

Thank you, Freehold.

******************************************************************** Join us for Freehold's 2014 Incubator Studio Series running two weekends, March 27 - 30 and April 3 - 6 with Program A & B in the first weekend and Programs C & D in the second weekend. Reservations Required via Brown Paper Tickets (Pay What You Can at the Door).

Monday, March 3, 2014

Exceptional Beginning Acting Classes in Seattle at Freehold Theatre this Spring

Freehold's highly acclaimed spring Acting, Auditioning, Voice Over classes (and more!) are now open for registration at Freehold Theatre in Seattle.  Freehold Theatre is a Seattle acting studio and theatre that for 22 years has been providing extraordinary theatre and fantastic classes taught by exceptional faculty.  Classes open to adults ages 18 years of age or older. Be sure and sign up now as our classes fill quickly.

We are privileged to have highly acclaimed artists as faculty including Darragh Kennan (The Hound of the Baskervilles, Seattle Repertory Theatre); Elizabeth Heffron (playwright for Bo-Nita at the Seattle Repertory Theatre), Andrew McGinn  (The Hound of the Bakervilles, Seattle Repertory Theatre), Sarah Harlett (Middletown at ACT), and many more.

We offer classes for the beginner as well as the advanced trained student.  There is truly something for everyone!

Here is our complete list of our great Spring class offerings ...

Step I: Intro to Acting, Section I with Stefan Enriquez
Step I: Intro to Acting, Section II with Christine Marie Brown
Step II: Acting with Text with Sarah Harlett
Step III: Basic Scene Study with Christine Marie Brown
Auditioning with Darragh Kennan
Comic Text Scene Study with Andrew McGinn
Intro to Biomechanics with Paul Budraitis
Meisner: Text with Robin Lynn Smith
Playwriting I: Point of View with Rebecca Tourino
Singing for Actors with Lucia Neare  
Spoken Word and Performance Poetry with Daemond Arrindell
Voice with Rhonda J. Soikowski
Voice Over with Gin Hammond

More information or to register:

or by calling us at (206) 323-7499.

If you are looking for outstanding training in a supportive atmosphere,
Freehold is the place.

Freehold Theatre Lab/Studio
2222 2nd Avenue, Suite 200
Seattle, WA  98121