Lesson: Say What?
this month's acting lesson, I'd like to talk to you about speaking
on stage. When a playwright gives dialogue to an actor, whether
spoken or in gestures, there is usually some reason for itůsome
purpose. Your job as an actor is to find that purpose and show
it to the audience. And, if you can't find it, any good director
will be more than happy to point it out for you.
you shouldn't feel that this applies only to "big parts" (i.e.
characters with lots of lines). Whether you have one line or one
thousand, you should treat each of them with the same amount of
also entails speaking all lines so that they can be heard. Even
if you're in a "quiet moment" on stage, you still have to speak
loud enough for everyone to hear, including the old guy sitting
in the back who is hard of hearing. If you're not delivering your
line(s) so as to be heard, you're cheating the audience. Here's
a good rule of thumb to gage volume: "If you feel like you're shouting,
you're speaking at just the right volume." Don't worry; the director
will tell you if you're too loud.
that everyone can hear you, it's time to talk a bit about importance.
Although there's a reason for each line to be there, it doesn't
mean that each should stand out equally.
like a piece of classical music. Although the continual march of
a tuba is painfully important (i.e. purposeful), it rarely has
the melody, and thus should not be as pronounced as the instrument
with the melody. If you took that tuba out, it wouldn't be at all
the same or nearly as good.
musical concept should be applied to acting. You might not have
any speaking lines at all; you may be an extra, but the concept
still holds true. Just as the tuba completes the musical picture,
extras complete the overall effect of what's presented on stage.
Remember the old phrase, "There are no small parts, only small
Joshua, I thought you were talking about speaking on stage."
still am. As the saying goes, "Actions speak louder than words." This
is the reason that I mentioned dialogue as being either spoken
or made with gestures. When you don't have lines, speak with your
actions. Show some intent, some reason of why you're where you
are and why you're doing what you're doing. Show some (say it with
you stand out when you're not supposed to, you've missed your purpose
and probably weren't doing what you were supposed to. You can sort
of compare it to somebody running sound, whether it be for a concert
or church or whatever. As long as everything sounds good, you don't
directly notice the guy. But, once microphones start ringing and
everything gets out of whack, you most definitely notice him, and
you know he's not doing his job. Be the smooth-running sound guy.
Joshua, what if you're not a sound guy? What if you're the one
standing at the microphone?"
that? You say you've gone from being a tuba to being a trumpet?
Well, first off, congratulations. And, secondly, get ready for
some hard work. As an extra, you were part of a large team of horses
pulling the carriage. Individually, your load was pretty easy because
you had so many others who were helping you pull. Now, you've become
the driver, dictating where the horses should pull and at
now have a nice bundle of lines to memorize, but remember, just
because you have more lines does not mean that any of them have
decreased in purpose. Each line is still just as important as every
other line. Some of them just need to be a bit more pronounced
than others. So, in truth, you've become more than just a trumpet;
you're now the whole brass section, and your co-stars are the woodwinds
and the strings (so as not to leave anybody out, we'll say that
the stage hands-those who work behind the scenes-are the percussion
instruments in our symphony of theatre; the director is, of course,
most cases, when you're the lead character, you not only have to
memorize the boatload of lines you've been assigned but also nearly
everyone else's lines so as to know what your cues are. Memorizing
all of the lines around your own not only helps you to keep track
of where things are going; if someone forgets/misses a line, you're
one of the few who can cover and have it make sense. By this time,
the audience will be so used to hearing you talk that they'll think
it was one of your own lines and never know the difference.
leads back to the whole business of purpose. The purpose of
you picking up these missed lines is to keep things running smoothly
and making as much sense as they would if they were spoken correctly.
that's the end of this lesson. I hope you learned something, but
you shouldn't stop there. The old saying, "Knowledge is power," is
a bit misleading. What it should state is, "Applied knowledge
is power." So, don't just leave this stuff sitting on the backburner.
Pick it up and start using it. You might notice a change for the
better in your quality of acting.