How to Act (3): Theatre actors and their secrets

Roger Allamhas worked with the RSC, the National, Shakespeare's Globe and in the West End. TV and film includes The Thick of It, Tamara Drewe and Parade's End. Here's what he says:

Learn your lines so well that you never have to worry about them.​ ​Keep a notebook about the play, the character, the period, your moves. It'll help you remember what you have done so far – especially if you're having to rehearse in your spare time rather than all day, every day.

Never go dead for a second on stage. Even if you are doing nothing, do it actively. Listen.​ ​If something goes wrong – say someone drops something – don't ignore it. Try to deal with it in character.

Warm up your voice and body. Get used to the size of the auditorium; if you don't know it already, go to the worst seats in the house and have conversations with people on the stage so you get to know what kind of energy is needed to be heard.

Be ambitious. The great actor, director and playwright Ann Jellicoe commissioned writers like Howard Barker and David Edgar, and put on magnificent, large-scale plays in Dorset that involved the whole community.

On the other hand, probably avoid Aeschylus's Oresteia or anything by the German dramatist Heinrich von Kleist.​ ​Try not to worry about embarrassing yourself. That's a lifetime's task.

The Victorian actor Henry Irving said: "Speak clearly and be human" – but if you listen to his recordings, the boundaries of that are pretty vast. James Cagney said:"Never relax, and mean what you say." I think that's pretty good.

You are released from the miserable aspects of having to earn your living in this marvellous business called show, so have fun: be as serious as you like, but enjoy yourself.

How to Act (2): Theatre actors share their secrets

Miriam Margolyes has worked at the RSC and in the West End; she has been touring her one-woman show about Charles Dickens and his female characters since 1989. Films include The Age of Innocence and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

She doesn't see any difference between amateurs and professionals – so she would give her tips, such as they are, to anybody. The aim of any actor is the same: to tell the truth in such a way that people will be entertained, uplifted and surprised.

Listen before anything else. Read the text over and over again, and make sure you know the lines. Go and see other performances, and be critical about them: work out whether you'd have smiled in that place, or turned your head at that moment.

Never show off. You can sometimes come to a particular point in a show and think, "I'm really good in this bit." Never, ever think that. Never read reviews. She hasn’t read hers since she was in rep.

Never know more than your character knows. She isn't talking about research; she means that when you are performing, you must stay inside the truth of your character. Don't signpost to an audience what they should be thinking.

And the most important thing is to breathe. If you stop breathing properly, you get a sore throat. And if you stop breathing, you die.

Young Producers Programme at the Battersea Arts Centre London

The Battersea Arts Centre Young Producers Programme provides talented young people with producing training, including professional masterclasses, workshops and access to resources. 

The Young Producers are given a brief, budget and support to create and produce their own events within Battersea Arts Centre's youth takeover, Homegrown Festival. This is an exciting opportunity to bring out-of-the-box ideas to Battersea Arts Centre, from DJ nights to experimental performances and live debates. 

Participants will gain an introduction to producing through workshops in scheduling, budgeting, marketing, project management and artist liaison as well as learn from Battersea Arts Centre producers and arts professionals that run a range of events. Previous guest speakers have produced club nights, cabaret socials and independent festivals. 

They are interested in hearing from people with a wide range of interests. You do not need experience to apply. Past Young Producers have included beatboxers, art students, sixth-formers, actors, fashion designers, hairdressers and emerging theatre producers. Several have gone on to produce their own shows professionally, work at Battersea Arts Centre and even start their own events and production companies. 

The programme is free of charge. Age 16-29. For more information and application go to  https://www.bac.org.uk/content/39597/young_people/homegrown_1229/make_new_theatre/young_producers?utm_source=BAC&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=8768730_Universities%20email%20follow-up%20Oct%202017&utm_content=Young%20Producers%20more%20info&dm_t=0,0,0,0,0

Michelle Terry New Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe

An Olivier Award-winning actor and writer, Michelle is well-known to the Globe’s stage, having starred as Rosalind in As You Like It (2015), as Titania/Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night's Dream (2013) and as the Princess of France in Love's Labour's Lost (2007). She also directed Richard III, King John and As You Like It for The Complete Walk (2016), a series of short films created as part of the Globe’s celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

Michelle Terry says: ‘The work of Shakespeare is for me timeless, mythic, mysterious, vital, profoundly human and unapologetically theatrical. There are no other theatres more perfectly suited to house these plays than the pure and uniquely democratic spaces of The Globe and the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. I am so proud and excited that I will be in the privileged position where I can offer artists the opportunity to come together to reclaim and rediscover not only Shakespeare, but the work of his contemporaries, alongside new work from our current writers. For us to then share those stories with an audience that demands an unparalleled honesty, clarity and bravery, is all a dream come true.’

Michelle most recently starred as the eponymous king in Henry V at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, and as Grace in Katie Mitchell’s production of Cleansed for the National Theatre. Her other stage credits include Much Ado About Nothing, The Crucible and Love’s Labour’s Lost (Royal Shakespeare Company), All’s Well That Ends Well (National Theatre), Privacy (Donmar Warehouse) and In The Republic of Happiness (Royal Court). She won an Olivier Award for her performance in Tribes at the Royal Court in 2010 and she is an Associate Artist for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Michelle also wrote and starred in the Sky One series The Café with Ralf Little; with Rob Hastie she created My Mark, the Donmar’s ten-year project to chart the political growth of the next voting generation; most recently she co-wrote and performed Becoming: part one with Rosalie Craig at The Donmar Warehouse. Michelle trained at RADA.


National Youth Theatre of Great Britain

The National Youth Theatre of Great Britain is a world-leading youth arts organisation. Established in 1956 as the world's first youth theatre, they have nurtured the talent of hundreds of thousands of young people over 60 years. They inspire, nurture and showcase exceptional performers and theatre technicians from Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commissioning brave and relevant new writing and reinterpreting classic stories for our time.

They are ambitious as the young people they serve, platforming young talent on West-End stages, in stadiums world-wide and at iconic sites both homes and abroad. Their world renown alumni include: Helen Mirren, Daniel Craig, Colin Firth, Rosamund Pike, Daniel Day-Lewis, Orlando Bloom..

National Youth Theatre gives young people the opportunity to learn as much about themselves and how to relate to others, as they do about acting and technical theatre. Whilst some of their members go on to become well-known faces of stage and screen, many others go on to be great lawyers, journalists, doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs, CEO's and much more.

Last year, NYT awarded £140,000 of bursaries to young people in need to ensure that financial barriers do not prevent young people from reaching their full potential. 

What's on at the National Theatre London in Spring?

The Royal National Theatre in London is one of the United Kingdom's three most prominent publicly founded performing art venues, along side the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Opera House. The theatre presents a varied programme, including Shakespeare and other international classic drama and new plays by contemporary playwrights.

Coming up in Spring at the National Theatre is a new play by Yaël Farber, Salomé. The story has been told before, but never like this. This charged retelling turns the infamous biblical tale on its head, placing the girl we call Salomé at the centre of a revolution. Internationally acclaimed director Yaël Farber (Les Blancs) draws on multiple accounts to create her urgent, hypnotic production on the Olivier stage from 2 May.

On 30 May, two new plays openings with Common by DC Moore and Barber Shop Chronicles by Inua Ellams. The latter is a dynamic work that takes the audience from a barber shop in London to Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Lagos and Accra. These are places where the banter can be barbed and the truth always telling. Starring Anne-Marie Duff and Trevor Fox, Common, set during the industrial revolution is a dark and funny new play, an epic tale of unsavoury action and England's lost land.

Also worth noting, the National Theatre offers a free Backstage App, a gateway to a vast library of content about theatre, exploring what's on the stage and much more.


Blocking in Theatre and Films

In theatre, blocking is the precise staging of actors in order to facilitate the performance of a play, ballet, film or opera. Both 'blocking' and 'blocks' were applied were applied to stage and theatre as early as 1961. The terms derives from the practice of 19th-century theatre directors such as Sir W. S. Gilbert who worked out the staging of a scene on a miniature stage using blocks to represent each of the actors.

In contemporary theatre, the director usually determines blocking during the rehearsal, telling actors where they should stand for the proper dramatic effect, ensure sight lines for the audience and work with the lighting design of the scene. Each scene in a play is usually blocked as a unit, after which the director will move on to the next scene. The positioning of actors on stage in one scene will usually affect the possibilities for subsequent positioning unless the stage is cleared between scene.

During the blocking rehearsal, the assistant director, stage manager or director takes notes about where the actors are positioned and their movement on stage. it is especially important for the stage manager to note the actors' positions, as a director isn't usually present for all performances, it is the responsibility of the stage manager to ensure that the actors respect the blocking each night of performance.

In film, the term blocking is sometimes used to speak of the arrangement of the actors in the frame. in this context there's also a need to consider the movement of the camera as part of the blocking process.

Run-through, Cue to Cue and Dressed Rehearsal

The dress rehearsal is a full-scale rehearsal where the actors and musicians perform every detail of the performance. For a theatrical performance, actors wear their costumes. The cast members may use props and backdrops; they do not use scripts, though the stage manager and director might. AN 'open-dress' is a dress rehearsal to which specific individuals have been invited to attend as audience members. 

In theatre a performing arts ensemble rehearses a work in preparation for performance before an audience. Rehearsals that occur early in the production process are sometimes referred to as 'run-throughs'. Typically a run-through doesn't contain many of the technical aspects of a performance, and is primarily used to assist performers in learning dialogues and to solidify aspects of blocking and stage movement.

A Q-2-Q or 'cue to cue' is a type of technical rehearsal and is intended primarily for the lighting and audio technicians involved in a performance, although they are of great value to the entire ensemble. It is intended to allow the technicians and stage manager to rehearse the technical aspects of a performance - when lights have to be turned on, sound effects triggered, and items rolled on and off the stage - and identify and resolve any glitches that may arises. Performers typically do not rehearse entire scenes during a Q-2-Q, but instead only perform dialogues or actions that are used by the stage manager as a marker for when to initiate technical sequences of cues. 

Riotous Company Theatre of Stories

Riotous Company is a crossover theatre of stories, music, pictures, poetry and dance founded by artistic director Mia Theil Have in close collaboration with patron Kathryn Hunter, composer Nikola Kodjabashia, designer Luis F. Carvalho comprising a collective of artists and associates.

Riotious Company is committed to and experienced in giving workshops for young people and professional practitioners internationally as part of rehearsal periods and touring activities. Riotious invites young associates to become part of the company and learn through apprenticeship. 

Step by Step by Step is an entertaining in-depth work demonstration performance on actor's training and dramaturgy. it gives a look behind the scenes, into the early formation of the actor and the laborious journey to the stage performances. 

Riotous is an associate company of Third Theatre Network through Manchester Metropolitan University. Their Have features as a practitioner in publications by professor Adam Ledger, as well as new research by professors Jane Turner and Patrick Campbell.

Yellow Earth British East Asian Theatre

Yellow Earth inspires, creates, produces, nurtures and champions the best of British East Asian Theatre. They aim to make the invisible visible by bringing unheard voices and stories to audiences worldwide, by taking timeless classics and approaching them with fresh eyes. They seek out and nurture east asian artistic talents, and create opportunities for these actors, writers and directors to make bold, imaginative and thought provoking theatre.

Hello Earth theatre was formed in 1995 by five British East Asian actors, Kwong Loke, Kumiko Mendl, Veronica Needa, David KS Tse and Tom Wu. The company sought to develop work that would widen the choice and type of roles being offered to East Asian actors at that time and to create work that brought together their physical skills and western drama school training to present plays that explored their cultural heritage.

Over its 21 years history, Yellow Earth has worked with many of the best East Asian actors, writers, directors, designers to create a wide range of award winning work from new writing to bold adaptations of classics; from family friendly shows to participatory and site responsive work. Yellow Earth also provides professional development for East Asian artists while inspiring the next generation to get involve in the arts.

The company is named after the seminal Chinese film, Yellow Earth directed by Chen Kaige, with cinematography by Zhang Yimou. The film was part of the 5th generation of "new wave" mainland Chinese film makers to come out of the 80's and its combination of poetic lyricism and dark drama inspired by many artists and audiences around the world.

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