This past weekend I had an interesting experience and I want to spread the news! I spent Saturday afternoon at an actor’s workshop.
I’ve always loved the theater. There is truly something magical about it. Whether it’s Broadway, local community theater or a small intimate playhouse, when the lights go down and the curtain goes up¬it’s magic...
Did I ever want to be an actress? Beyond a childhood fantasy of wanting to be a “movie star,” probably not.
On the other hand, my sister, Terry, always had a serious interest in acting. In high school and college, she was very involved in drama. But like many of us, reality and responsibility seemed the mature path to follow when choosing a career, and she got a degree in political science and became a paralegal.
But as for many of us, as the years begin passing, the biological clock seems more important to us than the alarm clock…and filling our bucket starts taking priority over filling our closet and living room.
Terry hired an acting coach¬ and lo and behold, she quickly landed a part in a local live production. She has also assisted in directing a play and has done some commercial television spots.
Not looking for big bucks or awards, she is just doing what she loves doing, and she is having fun. Now, many of her evenings and week-ends are spent at “acting workshops.”
A workshop came along this past weekend taught by local Dallas resident, Michael Raines.
Dr. Raines attended Trinity Repertory Conservatory in Rhode Island and worked as a teacher in drama at Eastfield College in Mesquite. He has worked at professional, academic and community theaters across the Northeast and South. He is a 15- year member of the Turtle Creek Chorale and a member of the Central Christian Church Choir. He was selected as one of the top five professors at Eastfield College. And he was nice enough to let me tag along with my sister and see just what goes on at these “workshops.”
“Bring a towel and a mirror and wear comfortable clothing” read the instruction sheet. The session began with some “loosening up” exercises, just as if you were embarking on a run or an aerobic workout.
Using principles drawn from a two-year graduate program of exercise technique, and those similar to the Alexander Technique, Raines uses the warm-up session to help students learn how to release unnecessary tension through mind-body awareness, observation and relaxation. The method focuses on balance, ease of movement and coordination, applied to such daily activities as sitting, lying down, walking or lifting.
Basically, they are simple exercises that many of us have done at our doctor’s recommendation when suffering from back pain. But the purpose of the exercises in acting class is to put you in touch with your body. Raines himself is not a certified Alexander technique instructor, but he is a strong believer in the exercise and made sure participants were given the name of a local certified specialist.
“Our body is an instrument,” said Rains. “Body, mind and voice are all we have on stage.”
The warmup session was followed by a video featuring discussion of technique and method by Konstantin Stanislavski and Mikhail Chekhov .
Born in Moscow in 1863, Konstantin Stanislavski was the father of method acting and had a more profound effect on acting than anyone else in the twentieth century.
Mikhail "Michael" Chekhov was a Russian American actor, director, and author. He developed Stanislavski’s technique so that actors like Lloyd Bridges, Gregory Peck, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman and other famous actors could use the method to create characters.
After the video, we were ready for the real acting to begin. The participants were each given a copy of a short script, basically of conversation with no particular meaning.
These brave, actor people seemed to have no reservations about being paired up with someone they didn’t know and instructed to create and enact an impromptu skit using the dialogue in the script.
The afternoon continued with other fun “play acting” workouts, much like those enjoyed as a child. ”If people remained in their free-state of childhood, unchanged by the rules of society, there might not be a need for acting workshops,” said Raines..
The workshop enforced the idea that acting is fun.
We already know the theater is fun. Perhaps I just wasn’t paying attention before, but it seems like more and more often I hear someone say, “can’t make it that night, I have tickets to the theater.”
There are more opportunities to be a member of the audience or a member of the cast in the DFW area today than ever before, sort of like the culinary influence that overtook America. If you like it, do it! Learn all you can and have fun.
If you want information about forthcoming area workshops, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.