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REPOST: 1 Thing Every Aspiring Sitcom Actor Must Know

This article by Backstage‘s Rebecca Strassberg talks to one of the founders of the Actors Comedy Studio, Gunnar Todd Rohrbacher, about what it takes to be in a sitcom. Read the interview below.

Image Source: backstage.com

Image Source: backstage.com

Gunnar Todd Rohrbacher founded Actors Comedy Studio with Lauren Bertoni in 2011 and continues to educate actors on scripted comedy and audition technique in Los Angeles.

What is the goal of Actors Comedy Studio?
We opened it as a counterpoint to improv and sketch comedy training that has proliferated massively in Los Angeles. We address the needs of actors who want a career in comedy in the current market. Improv and sketch, which is where so many people gravitate for training…it’s theatrical training and stage training, so what the system actually needs is great actors to audition well with the clear knowledge that no auditions are improvised.

What goes into your famous Acting for Sitcoms class?
I work on the comedy last; I work on the truth first. I make sure the acting is great, then there’s an element of how important the cold reading skill is by itself because of how fast the system moves at this point—actors are often having to audition with a script in their hand. And then the technical aspect, [such as] framing and shot composition, projection, and scaling your performance so you’re not broadcasting it out the way you would in the theater while you’re auditioning for a camera.

What’s one thing actors should know about sitcom acting?
Don’t let the response from the [audition] room be a gauge of how well you did or didn’t do at performing comedy. A lot of times when people aren’t laughing, that’s when they’re thinking about how to hire you. If they’re laughing, they’re just an audience.

Tell us about the $20 workshops you offer.
The $20 workshop program was introduced about a year ago, and I think the most relevant part of that is that Actors Comedy Studio doesn’t make a profit. Casting directors and casting associates charge between $250 and $500 to come in, so the math is right there: $20, 20 people—that’s $400 right there. What I’m doing is so that actors can meet and form relationships with casting directors at the lowest possible price point and have those workshops conducted in an educational facility as opposed to an entirely workshop-type facility. Then in class, I can talk to the students and follow through with them about a workshop experience. I personally, along with Marisa [Chen Moller, the workshop program co-organizer], ensure they have educational value, that we’re following California state guidelines, etc.

Can a knack for comedy be taught?
Absolutely, that’s super easy. Some of the greatest comedians in the world fulfilled roles in scripted comedy, and some people who are not funny or gregarious or known for being funny in their personal lives at all are comedic icons; Mary Tyler Moore is a great example. She’s not known as a person for really being funny, yet there she was on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”— two iconic roles that everyone will remember for all of television history.

What are some currently examples of great sitcom acting?
“The Big Bang Theory”; I think the acting on “New Girl,” for sitcom actors, is terrific; and even though it’s coming off the air, “Parks and Rec”; and I’ll give you a premium channel show: “Veep” is outstanding—it’s just mind-bogglingly good.

 

Get some expert tips from professional actors by visiting this Louis P. Habash blog.

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REPOST: For actor, roles are doors to his dream

 

Joseph Marrella, a Boston actor shares his experiences as an actor in this article from The Boston Globe.

 

At the Davis Square Theatre in Somerville, actor and former teacher Joseph Marrella coached Kat Meyer, 17, through preparations for college auditions.

At the Davis Square Theatre in Somerville, actor and former teacher Joseph Marrella coached Kat Meyer, 17, through preparations for college auditions. | Image Source: bostonglobe.com

 

Boston actor Joseph Marrella, 30, is usually cast in character roles like the young dad, the best friend, or the sidekick. Now performing in “Shear Madness” at the Charles Playhouse, he has appeared in Lyric Stage, Cutler Majestic Theater, and New Rep performances as well as commercials and corporate videos.

He also works as a monologue coach for aspiring drama students through My College Audition, which provides instruction for the competitive college audition process. “It’s rare to be a working actor without some sort of secondary income,” said Marrella.

You’ve done corporate and commercial work, including an ethics video for an engineering company, a training video for an office supply company, and others. How do these differ from stage work?

In the theater, an actor is trying to reach the back row, so the performance is “other-sized’’ so the far-off audience can get a hold of it. But when you’re in front of a camera, everything the face and body does is close up, so the smallest eyebrow raise or blink is magnified. It’s crucial to be as “small” and natural as possible.

How much can an actor in Boston earn?

It depends on your union affiliation, and whether you’re doing stage work, commercial, industrial, or ads. There are some smaller nonunion theaters where the actor might get a $100 or $200 for an entire production — or might just be working for the credit or experience. The next level is smaller regional theaters. Salaries can start around $350 a week for union actors.

You taught high school theater arts for four years. Why did you leave that to return to the stage?

I was teaching during the day and had rehearsals at night. It was incredibly time consuming but I adored my time there. Part of me was missing, though. I realized I wanted to challenge myself and go back to acting.

For My College Audition, how do you help students choose monologues that best suit their talents?

Students need to pick pieces that speak to them. They should look for less famous pieces by playwrights they love. The piece also needs to be age appropriate. Colleges not only want see your talent — they also want to see who you are.

Why is “Sesame Street’’ puppeteer and Muppets creator Jim Henson your hero?

The Muppets were one of the first things that made me want to perform. Henson is the ultimate dreamer and storyteller and he believed that the arts, of all forms, could make the world a little better. That hope has been my mantra as well.

 

For more advice on how to fulfill your dreams in becoming a great stage actor, follow this Louis P. Habash Twitter account.

 

REPOST: Helpmann Awards winners dominated by Sydney theatre talent Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh

 

Get to know more about the actors and actresses who dominated this year’s Helpmann Awards by reading this article on The Sydney Morning Herald.

 

Richard Roxburgh won the award for Best Male Actor in a Play for <i>Waiting for Godot</i>.

Richard Roxburgh won the award for Best Male Actor in a Play for Waiting for Godot. Photo: Getty Images | Image Source: smh.com.au

 

It was a clean sweep for Sydney in the theatrical categories of this year’s Helpmann Awards, held Monday night at the Capitol Theatre.
The Sydney Theatre Company flexed its acting muscle with Richard Roxburgh winning best actor in a play for Waiting for Godot and Cate Blanchett’s best actress win for her turn in The Maids, a role she just reprised to raves in New York. And Belvoir adds to its list of things to celebrate this week – the company marked 30 years at a celebration on Sunday – winning Best Play for Angels In America, the almost eight-hour two-part epic directed by Eamon Flack.
Luke Mullins was named best supporting actor for STC’s Godot; Robyn Nevin won best supporting actress for Angels.

 

Best actress: Cate Blanchett (right) won Best Female Actor in a Play for her turn in <em>The Maids</em>.

Best actress: Cate Blanchett (right) won Best Female Actor in a Play for her turn in The Maids. Photo: Lisa Tomasetti | Image Source: smh.com.au

 

The Lion King’s grand Circle of Life number on the actual Lion King set (the Disney musical is doing such big business that the company took a ”hakuna matata” attitude to sacrificing Sunday shows for Helpmann rehearsals).
While Biggins tells Fairfax he was “tempted to shoot a gazelle” during rehearsals, he chose instead to stay out of the way of the herds of puppet savannah beasts migrating up the Capitol Theatre aisles on their way to Pride Rock.
On the glitz and glam front, there were also performances from Strictly Ballroom The Musical, Les Miserables and The King and I – or Kings and I, with Lisa McCune flanked by two Siamese monarchs in Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Lou Diamond Phillips during the number.

 

Musical stars: Opera Australia and John Frost's <em>The King and I</em> took home Best Musical.

Image Source: Musical stars: Opera Australia and John Frost’s The King and I took home Best Musical. Photo: Brian Geach | Image Source: smh.com.au

 

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, co-produced by Opera Australia and John Frost (who won the JC Williamson Award for a lifetime of achievements), took out Best Costume Design, Best Sound Design and overall Best Musical. It was a somewhat surprising win, given that The Hayes Theatre’s Sweet Charity – even as some questioned whether the independent production should have been eligible to be nominated at all – took home musical awards for Best Choreography, Best Direction and Best Actress for Verity Hunt-Ballard.
Craig McLachlan won Best Actor in a Musical for his Dr Frank N Furter, whom Sydneysiders will meet next April when The Rocky Horror Show opens at the Lyric.
Opera Australia’s King and I gongs were part of nine awards the national company took home – the rest were won for The Melbourne Ring Cycle, including Best Opera and Best Direction of an Opera for Neil Armfield.

With so many of the nominees and winners drawn from Sydney and Melbourne, there have been criticisms levelled at the Helpmanns for geographical bias: can an awards be truly national if judges can’t physically get to shows across the country?

Craig McLachlan won the award for Best Actor in a Musical for <i>The Rocky Horror Show</i>.

Craig McLachlan won the award for Best Actor in a Musical for The Rocky Horror Show. Photo: Getty Images |Image Source: smh.com.au

Adelaide-based Windmill Theatre’s win for Best Presentation for Children and Best New Australian work for Pinocchio, co-produced with the State Theatre Company of South Australia, added some balance, and Biggins says the Helpmanns have strived to be “as fair as possible and to cover as many thgings as possible – it’s a very broad church.”
Biggins, who directed the acclaimed (but not nominated) Noises Off for the Sydney Theatre Company, says that gripes about who won what, and why others weren’t even nominated are par for the course with awards shows.
Top billing: Luke Mullins and Paula Arundell in Angels in America, winner of Best Play.
Top billing: Luke Mullins and Paula Arundell in Angels in America, winner of Best Play. Photo: Heidrun Lohr
“A, it’s part of the industry. And B, winning is not the be all and end all,” he says. “I think anyone who managed to get a show on is pretty remarkable.”
Full list of 2014 Helpmann Award winners:
Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Play
Homegrown: Pinocchio was named Best New Australian Work.
Homegrown: Pinocchio was named Best New Australian Work. Photo: Supplied
Luke Mullins, Waiting for Godot, Sydney Theatre Company
Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Play
Robyn Nevin, Angels In America, Belvoir
Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical
Reg Livermore, Wicked, Marc Platt, David Stone, Universal Pictures, The Araca Group, Jon B. Platt, John Frost
Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical
Heather Mitchell, Strictly Ballroom The Musical, Global Creatures
Best Costume Design
Roger Kirk, The King and I, Opera Australia and John Frost
Best Scenic Design
Gabriela Tylesova, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Sydney Theatre Company
Best Lighting Design
Nick Schlieper, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
Best Sound Design
Michael Waters, The King and I
Best Male Performer in a Supporting Role in an Opera
Warwick Fyfe, The Melbourne Ring Cycle, Opera Australia
Best Female Performer in a Supporting Role in an Opera
Jacqueline Dark, The Melbourne Ring Cycle
Best Comedy Performer
Sam Simmons, Sam Simmons – Death Of A Sails-Man, Token Events
Best Cabaret Performer
Sarah Ward, Yana Alana Between The Cracks, Ebony Bott at fortyfivedownstairs
Best International Contemporary Concert
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band 2014
Best Contemporary Music Festival
Bluesfest Byron Bay 2014
Best Australian Contemporary Concert
Hunters & Collectors
Best Choreography in a Dance or Physical Theatre Work
Stephanie Lake, A Small Prometheus, Melbourne Festival, Arts House and Insite Arts
Best Choreography in a Musical
Andrew Hallsworth, Sweet Charity, Luckiest Productions & Neil Gooding Productions in association with Hayes Theatre Co.
Best Direction of a Musical
Dean Bryant, Sweet Charity
Best Direction of an Opera
Neil Armfield, The Melbourne Ring Cycle
Best Direction of a Play
Michael Kantor, The Shadow King, Malthouse Theatre in association with the Confederation of Australian International Arts Festivals – Adelaide Festival, Brisbane Festival, Melbourne Festival, Perth International Arts Festival and Sydney Festival
Best Male Performer in an Opera
Terje Stensvold, The Melbourne Ring Cycle
Best Female Performer in an Opera
Christine Goerke, Elektra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Best Original Score
Iain Grandage, When Time Stops, Expressions Dance Company and Queensland Performing Arts Centre in association with Brisbane Festival
Best Individual Classical Music Performance
Julia Lezhneva, Julia Lezhneva with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Hobart Baroque
Best Chamber and/or Instrumental Ensemble Concert
The Jerusalem Project, Melbourne Recital Centre and Sydney Opera House
Best Symphony Orchestra Concert
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Arts Centre Melbourne, Perth Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre and Sydney Opera House
Best Music Direction
Pietari Inkinen, The Melbourne Ring Cycle
Best Regional Touring Production
Jack Charles V The Crown, ILBIJERRI Theatre Company toured by Performing Lines
Best Presentation for Children
Pinocchio, Windmill Theatre & State Theatre Company of South Australia
Best New Australian Work
Rosemary Myers with Julianne O’Brien, Pinocchio
Best Visual or Physical Theatre Production
Whelping Box, Branch Nebula, Matt Prest & Clare Britton, produced by Intimate Spectacle & Performing Lines, presented by Performance Space & Arts House
Best Male Dancer in a Dance or Physical Theatre Work
James Vu Anh Pham, 247 Days, Chunky Move
Best Female Dancer in a Dance or Physical Theatre Work
Charmene Yap, 2 in D Minor as part of Interplay, Sydney Dance Company
Best Male Actor in a Musical
Craig McLachlan, Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show, Howard Panter for Ambassador Theatre Group & John Frost
Best Female Actor in a Musical
Verity Hunt-Ballard, Sweet Charity
Best Male Actor in a Play
Richard Roxburgh, Waiting For Godot
Best Female Actor in a Play
Cate Blanchett, The Maids
Best Opera
The Melbourne Ring Cycle
Best Play
Angels In America
Best Ballet or Dance Work
Chroma, Australian Ballet
Best Musical
The King And I

 

Louis P. Habash is a skilled vocal performer and a Broadway musical expert. Follow him on Twitter page for more related updates.

REPOST: Karen Walter Goodwin, Producer of Broadway Hits, Dies at 66

This article from The New York Times covers the story behind the death of Broadway producer Karen Walter Goodwin last June.

Karen Walter Goodwin Credit Brian Carroll | Image Source: nytimes.com

Karen Walter Goodwin Credit Brian Carroll | Image Source: nytimes.com

Karen Walter Goodwin, whose financial savvy helped create new sources of capital for theater productions, fueling the success of some of Broadway’s biggest hits, including “Les Misérables,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Miss Saigon,” died on June 30 in Annapolis, Md. She was 66.

The cause was complications of colon cancer surgery, her son, Nicholas, said.

In the early 1980s, when almost all theater producers were male and Broadway financing was largely a matter of finding deep-pocketed angels, Ms. Goodwin, who had been trained as an industrial psychologist, was working as an executive in the financial services arm of the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company.

She was interested in the arts and entertainment, and she recognized that though corporations and accredited investors often ventured into movies and art, they rarely did so in theater, which was perceived, not without cause, as too risky.

Her idea was essentially to provide an investment bank for nascent stage productions, putting together producers — who were enthralled by the idea of financial backers who did not crave or require creative input — and investors with proven track records who were willing to try their hand in a new arena.

As a result, previously untapped corporate and individual sources of financing began to find their way to the theater. Under the Mutual Benefit umbrella, Ms. Goodwin backed a Royal Shakespeare Company production of “All’s Well That Ends Well” in New York.

That show lost money, but then she and Mutual Benefit raised $300,000, about a third of the total cost, for the London production of “Les Miz.” Opening in October 1985, it returned 167 percent to investors in the first year and a half and went on to become an international megahit.

“In every other area of entertainment there are funds from financial markets, huge funds, but they have almost been enemies of the theater,” Elizabeth Williams, who became Ms. Goodwin’s business partner, said in an interview. “That 7 of 10 shows fails is true, but if you focus on people with track records — which is what they do in the financial markets anyway — you have better results. Karen was a visionary in bringing corporate funding to theater through syndications.”

Today, almost every fund-raiser for a Broadway show receives producer credit, but that wasn’t necessarily the case in the 1980s and ’90s; Ms. Goodwin often went unmentioned above the title in a production’s Playbill.

After the success of “Les Miz,” Ms. Goodwin and Ms. Williams became financiers for its producer, Cameron Mackintosh, and the English-language productions of his blockbuster shows “Phantom” and “Miss Saigon.”

Ms. Goodwin was a producer of “Annie Warbucks,” a 1993 sequel to “Annie,” and “The Ark,” a 2005 musical based on the biblical story of Noah, both of which ran Off Broadway.

With Ms. Williams, she formed Fifth Avenue Productions, which helped produce “Into the Woods,” the 1987 Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical treatment of Grimm’s fairy tales that ran for nearly two years on Broadway; and “The Gospel at Colonus,” an adventurous musical adaptation by Bob Telson and Lee Breuer of Sophocles’ “Oedipus at Colonus” that appeared on Broadway in 1988.

“First of all, she and her partner were unusual at the time because they were women,” Michael David, of Dodger Productions, the lead producer of “Gospel at Colonus,” said in an interview about Ms. Goodwin and Ms. Williams. “And they were very important to us. They came to us when we didn’t have any money and they had a little.”

Karen Jeanne Walter was born in Fort Dix, N.J., on April 8, 1948, and grew up in Maryland and Texas. Her father worked in the insurance business. She graduated from Southern Methodist University, where she and Ms. Williams were classmates, and earned a master’s degree in psychology from Northeastern University. She also studied at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich.

Ms. Goodwin’s first marriage ended in an annulment. Her second marriage, to Stephen Goodwin, a writer and teacher, ended in divorce. In addition to her son, Nicholas, she is survived by her father, Richard S. Walter; two brothers, Richard Walter Jr. and Michael Walter, and a sister, Donna Jeanne Walter.

Get the latest news on latest news on Broadway by following stage actor Louis P. Habash on Twitter.

Stage acting: Some tips for you

Stage acting requires more than just memorizing and repeating lines. It is a mix of voice control, body movement, and finding the correct lighting. Being an actor, I often find it hard to think about all these things while delivering my lines perfectly. But these are second nature to me now, and it will be, too, for all you aspiring actors. The important thing is to keep practicing, finding your own footing and employing these tips:

Image Source: whatstheidea.com

Image Source: whatstheidea.com

Acting is the ability to become another person. Basically, actors change skins to depict a story. Performances are part of real life and yet not. While we are showing a story that could (or has) happened, we must also take into consideration aspects that most people would overlook.

Image Source: ontargetcoach.com

Image Source: ontargetcoach.com

One of them is lighting. Our directors and stage managers normally arrange our positions (or “blocking”) so that our characters are presented with maximum effect. But actors also have to know their own angles. For example, if your character is the antagonist, your stage person must be highlighted in sharp relief. If a certain angle makes your cheekbones more defined, comport yourself accordingly. Follow your director’s instructions while angling your face to show off your assets. This is done through trial and error, and sometimes it’s best to seek the help of a friend (or even your stage manager!).

Image Source: rapgenius.com

Image Source: rapgenius.com

Another tip for actors is to take care of their voices. Most thespians forget that this is one of their most important assets. An actor’s voice can inspire millions or, if left unmanaged, send pain to the audience’s ears. Learn how to modulate your voice and try experimenting with accents. Since most of us do not know how we actually sound like, the best technique I found for voice acting is to record myself and listen to the tapes. From there I have found what works for me, and what I have to work on.

Louis P. Habash is a musical theater actor both by profession and passion. Visit this Facebook page to get a glimpse of life in musical theater.

REPOST: Folkert de Jong’s ‘scary and beautiful’ costumes for ‘CRY, TROJANS!’

Ugly and scary yet beautiful. These words best describes Folkert de Jong’s sculptures that made him discovered and got the chance to create costumes for “Cry, Trojans!”. Read more from this LATimes.com article.

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Dutch artist Folkert de Jong, known for his grotesque, evocative narrative tableaux, tries his hand at costumes and set elements for the Wooster Group’s spin on ‘Troilus and Cressida’ at REDCAT.


Image Source: redcat.org

Elizabeth LeCompte was walking past a New York gallery window when sculptures by Dutch artist Folkert de Jong caught her eye. “They were so ugly and scary and beautiful at the same time,” recalls the director of the Wooster Group. “It was what I always want for my work to be.”

LeCompte invited De Jong to create pieces for her experimental troupe. His costumes, set elements and props will be seen in “CRY, TROJANS! (Troilus & Cressida),” a retelling of Shakespeare’s Trojan War saga, which begins its world-premiere run Feb. 27 at REDCAT.

De Jong, 42, has gained international attention for his narrative tableaux featuring grotesque, evocative figures fashioned from industrial Styrofoam and other materials. He says his entry into the stage world has been eased both by the freedom the Wooster Group has given him and by the group’s collaborative, ever-evolving creative process. “I feel very close to their methods and the way they use theater as a medium to reflect upon social, cultural and political subjects.”


Image Source: koreaherald.com

The New York-based Woosterites, known for multilayered, multimedia deconstructions and mash-ups, initially enlisted De Jong for a Royal Shakespeare Company co-production of “Troilus and Cressida” in England in 2012. They played the Trojans and the RSC the Greeks, each side staging its part of the tale with, as they put it, “the seam intentionally left rough.”

“CRY, TROJANS!” which grew out of the co-production, continues through March 9 at REDCAT, a Wooster Group partner. “It’s the story of the Trojans … remembering their enemy, the Greeks … and re-creating a great battle,” says LeCompte, the show’s director. The people of Troy are “re-imagined as a fictional tribe of early Americans … which allows us to play with a lot of clichés, myths and questions.”


Image Source: stageandcinema.com

De Jong, whose installations have a theatrical feel, creates stage pieces and sculptures in a similar way: “mixing and sampling subjects, materials and techniques.” To represent the Greeks, he used flexible polyurethane rubber, textiles, clothes and statue molds and casts made years earlier. “Greek” elements were attached to the Trojans’ costumes, which he designed and built with his wife, painter Delphine Courtillot.

“The idea,” De Jong says, “is that the first impression of the Native American-inspired theme would be recognizable, but the audience would discover more and more behind the visual layers. These works are as metaphorical as the whole play is.”

Follow this Louis P. Habash Twitter page for more updates about broadway news.

Sundance makes its way to theater

Image Source: mountainhop.com

Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute has been known throughout the years as a vehicle for avant-garde films. Thought-provoking, envelope-pushing films have been on the menu of the annual film festival that also showcases star-studded galas.

The institute, however, has a lesser acknowledged initiative for plays and musicals. But now, Sundance is growing its influence in the world of theater. Just like in film, it is encouraging the same unconventional thought concepts. The institute has been increasing the number of workshops and labs on offer every year, helping artists explore beyond formulaic stories.

Image Source: umd.edu

The Sundance Theater Program, as explained by the organizers, is not competition-based. This means that all of the participants’ creativity is focused on the outcome rather than on jockeying to get seed funding for their own work. Sundance helps in the creative process, aiding writers and directors on polishing up their plays and musicals. Sundance also encourages and allows professional theaters to showcase these works.

Eleven plays made it through the process. Headlining 2013’s batch are “Fun Home,” a musical that follows the tale of a gay father’s suicide; “Appropriate,” a play about grown-up children who discover photos of lynching at their late father’s Southern plantation; and “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” a musical tale of an Englishman who commits murders to gain a family inheritance.

Image Source: reverbnation.com

Louis P. Habash has over two decades of theater experience as an actor. Visit his Google+ account for select updates on theater productions.