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Non-ACT Workshops

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Acting Lab @ TheatrePEI

This acting course is designed for actors to strengthen their craft, starting from whatever stage of development the participant has reached. Through on-your feet practice, we will develop common tools to create truthful acting. These “tools” are:

1) Trusting your instincts
2) Being unwilling to ever say “that will do” (tenacity)
3) Being Brave in performance (abolish fear, take the “big leap”)
4) Exercising lateral thinking (art should be surprising yet inevitable)
5) Appreciating for “ensemble” playing (i.e. exercising generosity, saying “yes” as the primary impulse)
6) Exercising rigorous creative speculation (“what if…”, “I wonder why…”)
7) Rigorous appreciation of the need to constantly reassess the stakes of any set of circumstances (“how close can this situation be to ‘life and death’ and still be true to the text)
8) A connection to breath and voice which is both active and relaxed throughout the actors entire performance

These tools will be developed in on your feet scene study and rehearsal during a six-week course.

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Posted by webmaster on 08/18 at 02:55 PM
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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

TheatrePEI’s Introduction to Directing Workshop

This six week workshop is for people who are or will be directing in a play.

The principle concept we will be discussing is collaboration.  Once the director can find the words to communicate what s/he wants in language that stimulates designers, actors, stage managers and producers, the idea directs the thoughts and dreams of everyone involved.  Everyone has a talent - it is a matter of finding it and releasing it. This search and release is the job of the director.  This workshop will lead you to find the words to express your ideas and activate the talents and energies of the many collaborators in the community required to create a successful play.  Starting with how we choose a play, through casting, design and acting rehearsals, this workshop covers each of the collaboration a director must undertake in the rehearsal process.

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Posted by webmaster on 08/17 at 02:52 PM
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Thursday, July 01, 2004

Eighteen Tips for Memorizing Lines

Some of the Women of Canterbury have asked me for tips on how to memorize their lines.  I’ll try to provide some here.  I’d be happy to follow this up with a workshop—as was also suggested—if desired.  But if you already have your own method of memorizing, or if you are doing well with the various aids provided for the Murder, carry on ? you may not have anything to learn from what I write here.

It is a commonplace that people have different learning styles. Some are better with visual aids, others with aural or tactile; some like abstractions such as numbers, while others prefer concrete examples or images; and so on. No doubt, however, everyone learns some things in each of these ways. My own method for memorizing lines is to throw in everything possible.

I’ll take as my first example something I had to memorize this very month: a paragraph from the one-person play, Yr. Obedient Servant: An Evening with Samuel Johnson, by Kay Eldredge.1 The year is 1745, and the place is London, England:

The horrors of daily living make men callous and life cheap. People who live near here complain that cries of murder victims keep them from their sleep. For sport they go and watch animals tied up and stoned. Or people being whipped or branded with a red-hot iron for petty crimes. Or out to Tyburn—eleven hangings there last Monday. Crowds gathered as if it were a festival—people who work twelve-hour days, six days a week, but always take hanging days off. There are 143 things now that can get you hanged. Oh, it’s not a crime to trick a man into debt, then sell him to a slave ship for the war against Spain. Not even a crime to steal a child. But you’ll hang if they catch you stealing its clothes.

Here are the eighteen things I’m doing with this paragraph:

1. I have typed it out on my own, and this new version is what I work from, not the original script.

2. I have freely put in my own punctuation if it seems to help (e.g. I’ve added a comma after “143 things now”).

3. I have typed the piece using lots of my own paragraphs, indentations, and separate lines, so that sense divisions are clear, phrases are isolated as separate units, lesser items are subordinated to main items, and parallel structures end up looking parallel on the page:

The horrors of daily living
     make men callous
and life cheap

People who live near here complain
     that cries of murder victims keep them from their sleep
      they go 
and watch animals     tied up
and stoned.
people being     whipped
or branded with a red-hot iron
for petty crimes.
out to Tyburn
eleven hangings there last Monday.
Crowds gathered as if it were a festival
people who work     twelve-hour days
                                             six days a week
but always take hanging days off.

There are 143 things nowthat can get you hanged.
Ohit's not a crime to trick a man into debt,
          then sell him to a slave ship for the war against Spain.
     Not even a crime to steal a child.
          But you'
ll hang if they catch you stealing its clothes.. 

4. I have made an audio tape of myself speaking this piece, somewhat slower than normal, without much emotion, and with extra-careful enunciation (e.g. “There are 143,” not “There’re 143”). If the piece had been in dialogue, I’d have enlisted someone else to be the other voice(s).

5. I am playing this tape (in fact, the whole play—about 50 minutes) in my car as I drive. This is an obvious place for me to listen to a tape, since I’m half an hour from Charlottetown, and 40-45 minutes from Kensington and Indian River. Others might play such a tape while working around the house, or out in the garden (with or without earphones or a Walkman).

6. For the first many times of playing, I don’t make any particular effort to memorize. I just listen and let my voice drone on. Over and over and over.

7. After a while, I start trying to say the piece aloud as it is playing. I don’t go back to fix any hesitations. And at this stage, I’m still working in big units, the whole play in fact. Over and over and over.

8. Eventually it’s time to get to detailed work, especially where I’m stumbling. Either listening or on the page, I start to analyze the content. What is said?  Why?  What’s the context?  This particular piece is about people seeing so much cruelty around them that they and the system are callous. Why is it in the play?  Because Johnson is NOT callous; he’s sensitive to these evils.

9. I make sure that I understand every word and idea. “Tyburn,” near the Marble Arch in London, is where they held public hangings.  Twelve-hour days, six days a week, is seventy-two hours ? a lot of work.

10. I try to paint pictures in my head of what I’m saying (lots of possibilities here: animals tied up, a child without clothes).

11. I also try to analyze the language. To get from one of my self-created paragraphs above to another (that is, to the next main idea or thought), I try to see if there are linking words. Usually a good author is fairly kind in this respect, since good writing doesn’t jump around arbitrarily. It’s not too hard, for example, to link the opening general statement of “the horrors” to the first example of such horrors, “murder victims,” or to link the example of “hanging days” to the following generality of the “143 things now that can get you hanged.”

12. Still on language, I look for rhyme (“keep ? sleep”) and alliteration (“make men”  and “complain that cries”). I also look for repetition, which is an easy place to stumble. After “men,” this author uses “People” and that word is repeated twice more: “people being whipped” and “people who work”.  But in between the second and third use comes “Crowds.”  So the order of all the words here for folks in general is “men ? people ? people ? crowds ? people,” five instances in all.

13. As in the above example, I use counting a lot. I tell myself there are THREE examples of how people are callous: murder, sports, and Tyburn (though hanging is really another sport). Within sports, there are also three: animals, whipped, branded. A lot of authors like to list things in threes ? so when it’s four or two, I try to remember that as an exception.

14. Maybe this tip is not for everybody, but I also use the alphabet heavily, especially for lists. There doesn’t seem to be a good example in this passage, but elsewhere in the play I have to say, “I was part of the conspiracy for the destruction of paper—hack work—writing anonymous articles, reviews, essays, poems.”  How to get these four kinds of writing in the right order?  Well, the first one starts with A, the first letter of the alphabet, a vowel which also alliterates with “anonymous.”  The next word jumps into the middle of the alphabet and starts with a consonant, R. The next jumps back to the next vowel after A, E for “essays.”  Finally the last starts with another consonant, P, which is just before R in the alphabet, or almost. So it’s A - R - E - P.

This particular tip is not nearly as laborious as it sounds. I find I can go through the entire thought-process above while still saying the four words quite quickly, because what I have actually memorized is the pattern of jumping. Much more often than one would think, there is some such pattern to be found in the first letters of words in lists. And it is amazing how often lists turn out simply to be in alphabetical or reverse-alphabetical order.

15. Back to the audio-tape, there comes a point when I try to say the words on my own, checking my stumbles at once against the tape. (Occasionally I pay attention to my driving too.)

16. Back to the typing, I cover the page with another page, say each line, and then reveal it.

17. At some point, late in the process, it’s time to enlist a friendly person who will hold the script, prompt me when I can’t remember, and (in the case of dialogue) read the other lines.

18. I don’t let any of the above go too far before the basic blocking (moving from place to place on the stage) is done in rehearsal with the director. This is because where I am on the stage at the time of saying a particular line is a vital aid to my memorization. It’s just a basic association of words and place: “Since I go left here, I must be saying X”; “I find myself saying X, so I must be going left.”


So much for my personal example. I’ll now take the part of FLORENCIA2 in the opening chorus of Murder in the Cathedral, and see how many of the mechanical devices above I can apply. In this case, as in most plays, it is also necessary to know well—if not fully memorize ? the immediately preceding line or two spoken by someone else in the dialogue. I have included these context lines, and put Florencia’s in italics. Under each I’ve given some memorization ideas in short form:

  Some presage of an act
Which our eyes are compelled to witness, has forced our feet
Towards the cathedral. [Group 1] We are forced to bear witness.

—Group 1 = Florencia’s number one speech
—repeat “forced” from the cue line
—“eyes” in the cue line is the same idea as “witness” in Florencia’s line
—pattern of images in the 2 lines: eyes—feet—eyes (up, down, up)

The New Year waits, breathes, waits, whispers in darkness

—pattern: “waits”—then another speaker—“waits”—then Florencia
—alphabetical order: breathes, waits, whispers
—the new year is the darkest time of the year: in darkness
—pattern: waiting makes no noise, breathing makes a slight noise, waiting again makes no noise, whispering makes a bigger noise

While the labourer kicks off a muddy boot and stretches his hand to the fire,
The New Year waits, [Group 1] destiny waits for the coming

—these lines follow immediately from the last example, so really there are two things close together that Florencia has to say, both of them about waiting. The second is also the second time for Group 1
—repetition of structure: The New Year waits, destiny waits
—coming suggests the coming of Christ, in December, which is now

Seven years and the summer is over
[Group 1] Seven years since the Archbishop left us

—repetition of seven years
—rhythm of the two lines is identical
—start of new idea, first mention of Thomas
—easy place to stumble, thinking the Group 1 line is first ? but get the summer “over” first.

King rules or barons rule;
[Tutti] We have suffered various oppression,
But mostly we are left to our own devices,
And we are content if we are left alone.

—maybe the king and the different barons oppress in different or various ways (some may be trying to apply the droit du seigneur???)
—word oppression might have been oppressionS. Use of singular, not plural, is Eliot perhaps suggesting an older form of language. But the NEXT line ends in a plural.
—it is the first Tutti and a long one ? lots of oppression for lots of people
—but still, just THREE lines: Statement line 1, But line 2, And line 3
—there might be `devices’ of oppression—torture instruments—but we prefer our own devices
—two `L’s’ in line 2” mostLy we are Left
—content starts with C, and the previous big word, devices, with D = reverse alphabet
—left repeated in line 3
—line 2 and 3: we are, we are, we are ? 3 times (which suggests memory tip no. 19: use personal associations. A frequent song heard at U of Toronto football games in my callow youth was “We are, we are, we are, we are the Engineers; we can, we can, we can, we can demolish 40 beers” [tune: “Mine eyes have seen the glory.”].)

Shall the son of Man be born again in the litter of scorn?
[Tutti] For us, the poor, there is no action,
But only to wait and to witness
—these last lines of this first chorus = Florencia’s first lines: wait, witness (which are alphabetical)
—there is no action quite like giving birth, I suppose
—“litter” = hay, straw ? a very “poor” place to be born
—first line of this tutti has four beats, the last three; without only there would “only” be two


Finally, whose problem is it if someone forgets a line in performance?  It’s EVERYBODY’S problem. Don’t just wait and witness the agony of this poor person ? HELP OUT. And be understanding ? it can happen to anybody.

Posted by ACT One Editor on 07/01 at 05:28 PM
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Saturday, March 27, 2004

TheatrePEI Course Re-offer! - Reminder

Course Re-offer!  TheatrePEI’s Spring Workshop: THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR

This course is the “101” of directing essentials. It will define the basics of scenic action and intention and help guide directors through the process of getting actors off the page and onto the stage. The course will conclude with directed presentations of scenes. Participants must be prepared to take on acting roles for fellow directors.

For more information on this course…

N.B. ACT will consider funding up to 50% of various workshops, including this one. If you are an ACT member and would like to take this course, please contact a member of the executive (or contact me by clicking on Past-President below). Dollars have been set aside in the budget for this kind of activity, but they are limited. Don’t wait too long before applying for them.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Fundamentals of Truthful Acting

PEI Theatre Festival Workshops
Fundamentals of Truthful Acting with Duncan McIntosh

A theatre technician once said to me - I know how to build a set, a costume, a lighting plot -  in fact, everything you need in the theatre. The one thing I don’t know how to build is a character. This workshop is an introduction to building a character.

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Posted by webmaster on 03/17 at 08:07 AM
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Voiceworks - Sounds for the Actor; Body, Mind and Spirit

PEI Theatre Festival Workshops
Saturday, March 27th

To the actor, the voice is a priceless instrument shaped from a lifetime of experience and applied in countless, creative ways. In this three hour workshop, participants from beginner to advanced will get a chance to revisit the wonder of the human voice. Warm-ups, games, text and exercises from the silly to the sublime are used to help you build confidence, strengthen your technique and explore your own unique instrument. Please wear clothes to move in and bring a short passage from a favourite play.

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Monday, February 16, 2004

Course Re-offer! : THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR

Course Re-offer! TheatrePEI?s Spring Workshop: THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR

This course is the “101” of directing essentials. It will define the basics of scenic action and intention and help guide directors through the process of getting actors off the page and onto
the stage. The course will conclude with directed presentations of scenes. Participants must be prepared to take on acting roles for fellow directors.

The six two hour seminar sessions will include:
<li>Which Way is up? - Defining the Acting Space</li>
<li>Baffle with Bullsh**t - Knowing the piece</li>
<li>Because I said so - Motivation and the actor</li>
<li>Star-maker - casting considerations</li>
<li>The Real Work - managing rehearsals</li>
<li>Scene Presentations</li>
Instructed by Wade Lynch. Thursday evenings from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM, dates from April 1st to May 6th in Charlottetown.

Class Fee: $90.00 for TheatrePEI members, $115.00 for non-members

Class size is limited; preregistration is recommended. Contact TheatrePEI for more information or to register at 894-3558 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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Friday, February 06, 2004

Warehouse Committee Meeting

Greetings, ad hoc warehouse committee.  These are my rather delayed notes from our meeting of Jan. 29.

Greetings, ad hoc warehouse committee.  These are my rather delayed notes from our meeting of Jan. 29.

Re the party on Feb. 29:

7-10 p.m.

Optional dress-up as ACT prop or set piece or role.
Optional recitations or addresses on subject of warehouses, or leaping, or leaping in warehouses.

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Saturday, January 17, 2004

TheatrePEI’s Winter Workshops

TheatrePEI’s Winter Workshops: Acting and Directing / Elements Of Acting

TheatrePEI’s Winter Workshops: Acting and Directing / Elements Of Acting

This course will appeal to actors interested in expanding and reinforcing their range of acting styles. Six two hour evenings will be spent exploring such topics as:

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