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Living the part: Secrets to getting in character

An actor’s job is to bring life his or her characters in a story or script. A great actor is can get into character and make people believe that he’s not an actor but the character himself. Although it is a difficult, here are some tips on living the part:

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Read and understand the whole script

The script will tell you more about the characters than any other resource material. Learn how your character reacts to the others by reading the scenes and interpreting a personality, which forms the basis of the depiction.

Become the character

Once you understand the character’s personality, you can comprehend why the character reacts the way he does. Your reactions will appear more natural if you have a good understanding of your character.

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Feel the emotions of the character

If you don’t have the same experiences as the character, you can take their emotions and think back to when you felt the same way. The memory doesn’t have to be the same but if the feeling is similar, you can use that as a foundation for how you act.

It takes more than just memorizing lines to become a good actor; you have to pour your heart and soul into your role to convince your audience. But, if you manage that, then you’re well on your way to becoming a great star.

Image Source: stageandcinema.com

I’m Louis P. Habash and I’ve been a theater actor for more than 20 years. If you enjoyed my blog, you should also visit my Google+ page for more discussions on acting and other tips from the stage.

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REPOST: Older Actors Are Taking to the Stage

Growing numbers of older adults are joining theater companies and signing up for classes in acting, directing and play writing.This article has the details.

A Stagebridge performance of ‘Hair’ in Berkeley, Calif. The group offers 30 classes a week and has eight performing troupes.

A Stagebridge performance of ‘Hair’ in Berkeley, Calif. The group offers 30 classes a week and has eight performing troupes. | Image Source: wsj.com

Clovis Clark, age 59, is a professional nurse. But she also has spent time recently as a conniving, murderous sister and a madam in a brothel.

Her latter roles came courtesy of an Atlanta theater group, the Past Prime Players.

“I love this,” says the Ellenwood, Ga., resident, who has performed in dramas, comedies, murder mysteries, skits and monologues. “Acting is an opportunity to become someone else.”

The 50-plus crowd is stage-struck. Across the country, growing numbers of older adults are joining theater companies and signing up for classes in acting, directing and playwriting. Many—empty-nesters or newly retired—have never set foot on a stage and are seeking new outlets. But many others, like Ms. Clark, caught the acting bug in high school or college, before pursuing other (paying) careers.

Return engagements
Now, they’re back. And finding new rewards.

“The experience of acting is very different as a 50-something-year-old,” says Karen Sellinger in Albany, Calif. She majored in theater in college but opted to be a psychologist.

Now, at age 60, she’s taking classes at Stagebridge, a senior theater company in Oakland, Calif.

“There’s not this dog-eat-dog competition,” Ms. Sellinger says. “It’s a…community where we’re all rooting for, and supporting, each other.

“We’re all struggling with health issues and memory,” she adds. But “I’m not thinking about my stage of life on stage. I don’t feel my knee hurt. Age is not a part of it.”

Stagebridge is evidence of the trend. Currently, 250 people take one or more of the 30 classes taught weekly in acting, playwriting, improv, storytelling, singing and musical theater, among other subjects. The number of courses has doubled in the past five years. At least half of the enrollees are ages 50 to 70.

In all, the company has eight performing troupes that visit schools, senior centers, public theaters and adult day centers. Every other year, the nonprofit commissions a play in which both professionals and students act.

“The appeal for many is that they know they’re going to be working with a group of people,” says Stuart Kandell, the founder of Stagebridge. “What they may not realize is that the group becomes a real family. Laughing, depending upon one another, making mistakes and recovering together builds a real bond.”

Bonnie Vorenberg, president of ArtAge Publications’ Senior Theatre Resource Center in Portland, Ore., which works with theater groups across the country and internationally, says she now has 791 senior theater groups in her database—up from 79 in 1997. While the growth is welcome, new organizations, she says, invariably face a steep learning curve.

Put another way: “King Lear” isn’t always the right play to start with.

“What works well for older actors is a very narrow genre,” Ms. Vorenberg explains. “Plays can’t be too long—short work is best, at 10 to 20 minutes—[and] they can’t be too difficult because that would require more rehearsals, and people will say, ‘I’m not doing this.’ But they can’t be too easy because then actors won’t be artistically challenged.” (Some companies have actors read their scripts on stage; others require them to memorize their lines.)

Scriptwriters, directors and actors say that, increasingly, shows with modern, realistic themes resonate. Audiences—and, in particular, older theatergoers—want to see older adults in positive roles, whether it’s having a new job or being sexually active.

Says Mr. Kandell at Stagebridge: “Theatrical literature has mirrored the popular cultural views of how we see older adults: either as pathetic victims trapped in nursing homes or as super grannies surfing huge waves and running marathons.”

Money trouble
Another challenge for senior theater groups: money. Actors are usually amateurs—not a big draw for donors. And funding for aging doesn’t usually go to the arts. Rather than considered life-enhancing, theater groups often are regarded as a frill.

The challenges haven’t deterred Monciella Elder, 61, from becoming a theater director and playwright. In 2009, the professional singer and actor had to stop performing due to multiple sclerosis. “I was so depressed,” she recalls. Then a nearby senior center asked her to run its drama club. Soon after, she left to found Past Prime Players in Atlanta.

Ms. Elder has taken the 18 or so actors, ages 57 to 68, “from ground zero,” she says. She trains them in voice projection, character development, improvisation and acting, along with lighting, sound and set design. In the past four years, she has written and directed more than 20 plays and skits.

For casting, she puts commitment before auditions. Actors must agree to attend twice-weekly, two-hour rehearsals, and three or four a week closer to production.

Her troupe has played at churches, women’s conferences, dinner theaters, schools and senior centers, as well as large venues in Atlanta, New Orleans and Atlantic City (where Ms. Clark played her role as a lady of the evening). Along with lighter themes, Ms. Elder has tackled spousal abuse, death and loss, and sexual orientation.

Before every performance, the actors tell the audience, “We may be past our prime, but we still love to play.” Through her work, Ms. Elder also hopes to dispel stereotypes about aging and to inspire others in their 50s and beyond. Her message: It’s never too late to follow your dreams.

Right on cue, after every performance, Ms. Elder says her phone rings with inquiries from audience members who want to join the Past Prime Players.

At a recent rehearsal, she suggested the group take a week off. They wouldn’t hear of it.

“I can’t get them to go home,” she says. “They’re enjoying themselves so much.”

To find out more about the roles men and women play both on the stage and in television counterparts, subscribe to this Louis P. Habash blog

From one stage to the next: Stage vs. on-screen acting

Acting Tips

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There’s a huge difference between acting for a stage play and filming for a movie or a television show. Making the move from one stage to the other will require some adjustment. How is the stage different from the screen? Here are some points to help you out when making that transition and how to deal with it:

Audience location

Obviously, you’re closer to your audience at a stage play. They can be a hundred feet away or right in front of you depending on where the stage is. On-screen acting has a larger audience—all people with television sets or access to movie theater, can be potential audience members.

Material

Stage plays are familiar; do you know how many times Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has been done by different companies? In theater acting, you have to act how the audience expects you to. It’s different on-screen because the material is unique and the only thing people will expect from you is to develop the character into a real person.

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Voice and movement

On stage, you have to use movement and gestures to convey emotion so that even the people from the farthest corner of the theater can feel and see you playing your role. TV or movie actors don’t need grand gestures to express their emotions because they have background music and other cinematic effects to augment their performance. However, voice and movement should be appropriate both on-screen and on stage.

Hi, I’m Louis P. Habash and I’ve been a musical actor for a long time. Follow me on Twitter for more acting tips for the stage and for film.

Two Hats in Hollywood

They say making it onto the big screen is a dream that so many people want that the competition sends a lot of people packing things up and heading in the opposite direction of the glamorous Hollywood hills. There are countless actors trying to make a name for themselves in the moviemaking business, and yet massive shifts have taken place in the industry where aspiring actors, directors, screenwriters, and other film buffs are no longer subjected to just Los Angeles and the outlying tentacles of show business that surround it.

Independent cinema and DIY antics have made moviemaking something just about anyone can do with the right ideas and enough diligence to make their own unique mark on the landscape. Louis A. Habash, an actor and film critic based out of San Francisco, has combined his love for visual artistry into parallels examining life behind and in front of the camera, and getting this unique perspective can possibly explain a lot about where the industry is headed and what we, as viewers, are likely to see.

 

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Arguably everyone loves a good movie, and over the last couple of decades we have seen household names take on new responsibilities, some we could never have possible imagined. Ron Howard, for instance, went from Opie Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” to an Academy Award-winning Director that has completely redefined moviemaking in new and exhilarating ways. Clint Eastwood, who became one of the most iconic figures of the spaghetti western and would go on to play other legendary roles like Dirty Harry, is now widely-regarded as another steadfast pioneer in the Director’s chair, making such acclaimed films as “Unforgiven,” “Bird,” “Mystic River,” and “American Sniper.”

Louis P. Habash, unlike most of us, is one of those individuals who can take his experience behind-the-scenes to give us an in-depth look at what such transitions mean within the industry, and how they have shaped the way filmmaking is being done today, and where it could likely go in the upcoming future. As many would point out, independent is quickly becoming one of the staple components to eye-catching movies these days, and as long as untethered scripts continue to fall into the laps of adventurous, unwavering directors and producers, then we are going to be on a whirlwind of a ride during our visits to theatre over the next few years.

To learn more about Louis A. Habash and his take on where filmmaking is potentially headed next, or for a sneak-peek at films he sees as paving new ground in the industry, visit his website for recommendations, insight, and information on the business. It never hurts to have someone on the inside, and with backstage access like this, we may finally get the whole picture.

Independence Never Tasted So Good

Within a timeframe that could arguably be squeezed into the last decade (or maybe a tad more), the idea of independent cinema has taken on a variety of characteristics that many would either shun or dismiss as under-the-radar gems that happened to be picked up by one of the big studios and put into the limelight with overfunded publicity that overshadows artistic integrity.

A lot of critics might agree, but there is undoubtedly a trend happening in the filmmaking industry that seems to embrace unapologetic, unorthodox screenwriters, directors, and production teams in a way that might send reverberating shocks of anxiety into the blockbuster bleachers. Louis A. Habash, an actor and film critic based out of San Francisco, is undoubtedly in a prime location to feel the rippling effects independent cinema is having on the moviemaking industry, and in a way a lot of cinephiles are standing in the outermost regions of the business quietly applauding the accomplishments of an underdog who has waited far too long for their chance at the title.

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By the look of things so far, we are already in store for experimental filmmaking that no longer has to abide by overbearing budgets and big-name studio execs who care about nothing but overheads and ticket sales. Now, we have a new breed of filmmakers that are more than happy to snub their noses at the Hollywood elite and make the kinds of movies they themselves have always wanted to see.

Quentin Tarantino is by and large one of the most influential figures in independent cinema, and that was etched in cinematic stone with finality upon winning the 1995 Best Screenplay Oscar for “Pulp Fiction.” Ever since, his movies are eagerly anticipated at the theatre and now cause rampant buzz on the internet with endless conversation on fantasy collaborations, possible retirement announcements, leaked screenplays, and other speculations that follow someone who is arguably the most successful, and most spearheading figure in independent cinema today.

For someone like Louis P. Habash, the ability to stay inspired by the work of Tarantino is likely not that difficult, but following developments in his career and what could or could not be deemed as a rumor is never an easy task. Film critics are always on their toes no matter who they are covering, but with someone like Habash and a background in acting, the stakes are far more personal and tangible.

Follow Louis P. Habash on Facebook for more acting and filmmaking-related topics.

Get educated: Best acting schools in the US

Image Source: tv-filmschools.com

A lot of people wanting to go into show business have taken acting very seriously. One way to gain experience other than attending auditions and enrolling in workshops is to get a degree in acting. There are plenty of schools offering good drama programs and conservatories specializing in particular acting skills and techniques. These are some of the top schools you should look into if you really have the passion for drama:

Yale School of Drama

Lupita Nyong’o’s recent success in the Academy Awards is an obvious indication of the competency and brilliance of Yale’s drama program. Many of Yale’s acting graduates have also easily gotten agents after graduation. The school’s reputation and excellent training grounds will surely help you on your way to your dream of becoming a great actor.

The Julliard School

As one of the world’s most highly regarded schools for the arts, Julliard is a fine choice if you want to start a career in drama. It’s competitive and hard to get into because of their strict requirements. But once you get in, you know you’ll get proper training and guidance from the best of the best. Be prepared for high stress and high expectations.

American Conservatory Theater (ACT)

The San Francisco theater offers a highly competitive drama program. It only accepts a dozen graduates per year. It’s also unusual because you don’t even need to have a degree to apply. They also have training options for younger individuals and a summer program. Popular alumni include Nicolas Cage and Darren Criss.

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There are many other top schools and degree programs providing training for budding actors and actresses. You just have to find one that’s suited to your skills and preferences.

I’m Louis P. Habash and I’ve been acting in theater for over two decades. Subscribe to my blog to understand the art of acting and living in show business.

How do actors memorize their lines?

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Learning your lines and knowing when to deliver them is one of the most challenging tasks of an actor. Getting onstage and performing in front of all those people is not all of actors’ worries. Forgetting lines is also a nightmare from which it could be hard to recover.

If you’re having any difficulty committing lines to memory, here are a few helpful tips for you:

Writing them down

Do you remember in school when your teachers would ask you to take notes? It’s not because they want you to waste your time jotting down information that can be found in your textbook. Writing makes it easier for you to remember these information. The same can be said about your lines.

Write down your ideas before you sit down to a keyboard.

Image Source: openworldmag.com

Read and re-read the script

How much can you remember after you’ve read something once? Barely anything, right? At most, you’ll be able to recite a single short sentence. If you read your lines enough times, they will eventually get burned into your memory. How long it will take depends on how well you can memorize and the pace differs from person to person.

Scrap paper method

For this method, you need to find a scrap piece of paper (or anything you can cover your script with). Once you know your lines, cover them with the paper, look up (avoid looking down on the script), and check if you’ve memorized them.

Image Source: wikihow.com

The secret is to find a method that works for you. Don’t let a long script scare you. If other actors can do it, then so can you!

My name is Louis P. Habash and I am a musical theater actor. Like my Facebook page for more tips and tricks to ace your next audition.