Life Lessons from the Stage

Make Trouble and 31 Pieces Of other Life Advice from the Stage

Life advice from those who spend their lives trying to recreate Life.

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It's not a theatre camp.

No, I've spent the past four out of five weeks with the Make Trouble theatre intensive summer program. That essentially means after four weeks of twelve hour days, six days a week, I have not only grown as a performer but as a person. Theatre is an art form, in the most general of terms, born from mimicking Life, so it makes sense to use what's done in the rehearsal room in said Life as well.

So Thadd, Amanda, and Jim (the biggest Trouble Makers and most brilliant instructors a gal coulda asked for), this one's for you!

Here's some life advice from those who spend their lives trying to recreate Life.

1. Everything starts with breath.

We all forgot how to breathe. Seriously, we as a society still think our ribs are cages and not wings. We need a full tank of lungs to not just survive but actually do, so try to take a good and sound breath before you do your next thing that needs doing. Act on your breath, and things will change for you. There's something about fully using your stock of air that changes the quality of your work, I promise. Same with group tasks; especially for group tasks! Life happens when we breathe, so breathe.

2. Act from the crisis.

Put yourself in situations of crisis. Those moments of self-inflicted challenges are when you realize you can do so much more than you thought you could. Same thing if the situation isn't self-inflicted. When Life is just hammering us down is when we grow into thriving. "Do one thing a day that scares you" and sit in it. Your brain will beg you to stop at all costs, but it will ultimately thank you for strengthening yourself in the long run. We do a physical training here called Suzuki, which is literally standing in positions biologically impossible for the skeleton.

The training is the worst pain I have ever fathomed, and I had an organ removed, and yet, sitting in that deep squat with my tailbone tucked in and my heels off the floor is one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. Finally getting to release and sit in the realization that I not only survived that third Charlie Horse but improved in my form is too good of a feeling to not go back and do again the next morning.

3. Don't look at the floor.

We cannot fix our problems, let alone society's problems, when we, personal or communal, refuse to hold our own power and look people in the eye. Don't be submissive. Don't look away from what's happening in front of you.

4. Don't leave your scene partner.

Don't leave anyone behind because you got uncomfortable with the reality of the situation. We go on stage together, we come off stage together. We are all human beings, and we must care for each other as such.

5. You need less than you think you do to survive.

Wake up early and stay up late, your body can handle it. Milk every second of living out of each day. You can work for 14, not see your family, live off of frozen chicken breasts, and still THRIVE. So whatever worries you have that "you can't make it because of (blank)", stop thinking like that- because you absolutely can.

6. Be okay with being seen and heard.

You literally occupy space on this earth, so let it be known! Rip the band-aid of self-consciousness off and just be seen. Your life is a gift passed down by years and years of ancestors, don't insult your relatives' strife by shying away from the gift of being right here, right now.

7. Kinesthetically respond.

Don't regret anything. If you have the impulse to do- then do it and do it to the fullest extent of your capabilities. Stop trying to stifle your urges to act because it is in the action of that urge that life happens.

8. Give in to your body.

Just scream. Get it out. Life inflicts so much, and our bodies take that beating and spit back out a cacophony of emotions. Let them out. When we don't, they just clog up our bodies into numbness. Empty yourself, you will be so thankful for it. All huddled on the floor, our directors called to us to "Let it out!", all the emotion we had just conjured up that brought the eight of us into this dog-pile, to just set it free. I will never forget the sound. NaSwana did just that, and the room was changed. She gave in to what needed to be released and it created a certain magic in us all. Your feelings are valid, so validate them.

9. Do things out of love.

Acting out of love is always so much more interesting than acting out of hate. Think back, who is someone you aspire to be that didn't act out of love? We don't aspire to be like horrible people, nor do we want to surround ourselves with nor emulate such atrocities. Life gives us plenty of shit to deal with anyway, so stop contributing and cut out those who do. It's so boring to be mean nowadays, innit though? It's so much more compelling to see someone take Life's blows and still carry on, unbeaten.

10. Put what you like to see on stage.

Create and embody the things you admire. Don't just be a fan anymore, literally be it. Life is so effing short, so why not be who you want to be?

11. Don't be an audience.

Be present. This is your life right now. You have the choice to react to your situation or enact a new situation. Stop waiting for the time to tick by until you're somewhere else. Honestly, are you happy with how you're spending your precious time?

12. Cherish the very littlest of things.

Listening to a song with the windows down, sneaking out of rehearsal to see that pinky-blue sunset, hearing your roommate Jaimee hum that shitty emo song you've been playing all week in the car, getting knocked off your feet three times by sticky salty ocean waves and jumping back onto your feet- triumphant. This is living. Go live some more.

13. Realize Life finds a way.

Your town does not suck. Your attitude to your location sucks. Go and really explore and find where the life is, who the life is born from, and how you can put them into your life. Life will find a way to thrive, it's just a matter of you finding it or creating it.

14. Indulge

In any way that you can. Stretch. Breathe. Sit in silence. Seriously, when was the last time you just smelled the air after it rained? Or give in to a tear-jerking belly laugh?

15. "Life happens when you stretch before bed."

"Five minutes of downward dog a day. Does miracles." -Jim Senti

16. You need to be ten percent "Fuck you, Ann."

Or "Fuck you, (Insert Any Person Who Asks Things of You)." You don't actually have to listen to anyone, but you do because you don't want to lose your job or get a divorce or whatever. Just keep your wits about you and know when you're being asked too much of or what's being asked of you isn't okay.

17. Play within your boundaries.

With "Fuck you, Ann" in mind, even though you are supposed to live within certain rules or requirements, you can always find a loophole in what you're allowed to do. You were told to drop your hand on a ten count, okay, so how can you play with your voice during this rehearsal? Your boss put you in charge of the boring PowerPoint presentation, so how can you make it not suck this time?

18. Put on your Beyoncé body.

Habitualize the strength of the human existence. There is power in your footstep, so make that stomp be known. Your hips are biologically meant to swing. It's not being provocative to have some Beyoncé sway to your walk, it's necessary. And yes, you are actually a few inches taller. You were subconsciously taught to be small and take up little space, but just put your shoulders back and pick your head up and you'll feel that Knowles power resonating through you. Exude the power and confidence you have the right to exude.

19. Don't be scared if you're the first of your kind.

Everyone was the novice at some point in your life. Even though it can be incredibly scary being the first to walk such a path, there is honestly no greater joy than seeing that path be walked. One of the great joys of these past few weeks is hearing my ensemble member Eli speaking his Shakespearean verse in his molasses-like North Carolinian tongue. Rapier is "Ray-peer" Tybalt is "Tih-bahlt" and Rosaline is "Rozz-leen" and it was pure magic to listen to.

20. Say "yes"

Why not say yes? Things happen when we agree to the new situations we're put in rather than ignore the gifts Fate has bestowed on us. Heck yes, I'm going to see a drag show at a gay club this weekend even though I have a 12-hour rehearsal the next day. Heck yes, I drove all the way back to the Arts building to kill a spider that was on Erin's car because she was afraid to do it. Why not?

21. Don't act anything.

What's the point of faking things for people? If you're not happy, don't put on a smile. Stop spending your precious time pleasing others and hurting yourself by putting on a front for the world. Be honest with yourself and with your world.

22. Act with intention.

By intention, I mean "what you want." So don't waste any more time/resources/energy doing things that don't help you achieve "what You want." We like to live in complacency because not making big changes is safe, but why not cut out everything in life cold turkey that simply isn't helping you better yourself?

23. That's the play now.

When something unscripted happens, roll with it. Stop trying to control everything, shutting down when things "go wrong," or ignoring the (they're not "problems," they're…) new situations you're in because life doesn't rewind. You simply have to roll with what you're dealt and let what happened in the past not affect your present.

24. Give yourself permission to give a shit.

We are all trained to not care and to be critical and to be hateful just because "that's the way society runs." Theatre training is all just a means to strip away that cynicism and get back to the purity and raw emotion of when we were three. There's no honor in being the only one who didn't "cave" into crying at a sad movie. If something affects you, let it fully impact you. Try to actually start caring again.

25. Stop commenting.

Self-deprecation and cynicism are defense mechanisms like it or not. Own that you just "failed" or did something "weird." Don't waste time trying to protect yourself by telling everyone that to you it did fail or sucked or was weird. Change your mentality from negatively commenting to silently celebrating you actually tried at all.

26. Don't tell me about it, show me.

Stop dreaming about your Million Dollar Ideas or your ultimate fantasy. DO IT! Stop telling everyone about your little daydream of an apartment in Paris and work towards paying for that flight and first month's rent!

27. If it matters to you, then it matters.

It doesn't matter if it is the most embarrassing, ridiculous, ungodly act of whatever, as long as you do it with all of your everything, people will support you. Don't waste anyone's time anymore doing things halfway. If you believe in it and act fully in that belief, whatever you do will be meaningful.

28. Do a self-diagnostic.

It's fine that you aren't the ideal of perfection. Just give yourself a little time every day to check in to yourself and know who you are today so you can figure out how you can roll with it.

29. Discomfort is different from pain.

Sit in the discomfort. You honestly most likely don't need to take a break, or stop, or need to postpone this any longer. Fight through your discomfort and great things will come. You will realize your strength and steadfast will and all the panic and pain will have been worth it.

30. Be okay with contact.

Physical contact, eye contact, company, and community. Let people in. Every moment of contact should be that of literal connection. The next hug you get, don't be the one to break it off. Just sit in that fantastic moment of connection a bit longer. Breathe with them. Feel their heartbeat. The fact that we as a society fear connection so much is why horrible humans get away with treating other humans horribly. Re-engage with your sympathy for the world by re-engaging with your human contact.

31. This is the work.

The training to be our best selves never ends. It's a constant, daily, effort to improve. There will always be obstacles in your way, always something or someone preventing you from everything you've ever wanted. Get them out of your way. At all costs, no matter what it takes, never give up on getting them Out. Of. Your. Way.

And most importantly... Make trouble.

Cover Image Credit:

Lauren Memery

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The Differences Between Live Theatre And Film

Film actors and stage actors aren't really that different... are they?
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Everyone has seen a movie and knows how amazing they can be. Theatre can also be amazing, just in different ways. Live theatre and film are similar in some respects but they are very different art forms. Theatre is familiar, larger than life, and lacking in special effects, whereas film has new material, less dramatic and obvious acting, and can be edited to show anything that is needed. Theatre and film are both visual art forms containing actors portraying characters, have scripts, and are widely appreciated, but they are not meant for the same place or people.

The biggest difference between live theatre and film is the location of the audience. On stage, the audience is far off and as they must be able to see and hear a performance to enjoy it, performers must act for the back row. This creates a larger than life performance which only works onstage. Whereas in films, the camera can always see you and the microphone can always hear you. Therefore, you do not have to act so over-the-top. Instead, doing less than you would in real life would be better. In fact, David Patrick Green states in his article, "The 3 Major Differences Between Stage and Screen Acting," that “reality is less enhanced when a camera and microphone become involved. In fact, due to camera-work, score, lighting, and other effects, it is sometimes better to do less than you would in real life because so many things are augmenting your performance.” In theatre, projection of your voice is a constant need, whereas in film you could whisper and the microphone would pick it up. Lloyd Kremer states in his article, "Theatre for the Film Actor," “Theatre is also much more demanding of the various vocal disciplines: volume, projection, and enunciation. In film work, many of these concerns are relegated to the Sound Man.”

Theatre is familiar in that the roles being portrayed have most likely been portrayed several times before, and the characters are very well known by the audience and the actors. Whereas in film, the characters with rare exceptions are being created for the first time. This makes portraying a movie character much easier than portraying a character in a play or musical. Green also states in his article, “the audience and critics will compare you to past versions of the same show. Because many stage characters have been played over and over, there is only so much leeway an audience will accept before they start to complain.” For instance, if Hamlet came onstage and said “To be, or to not be,” the audience would be enraged that you dared mess up a famous line of Shakespeare. Whereas in film, if you mess up a line the only people who will know are you and the people on set with you. Theatre is also familiar in that it gives actors plenty of time to get acquainted with their characters with rehearsal, but with film, that is not the case. As Eugene states in his article, "Stage vs. Screen: What's the Big Difference?" “...you will receive very little, if any, rehearsal time. Depending on the size of the role, you may not receive any direction. Films hire actors under the assumption that they will come to set performance-ready.”

Theatre and film are also very different in writing. Plays are written and then directors get ahold of the play script and adapt it to fit their stage and actors and sometimes even give it a bit of a modernized twist, whereas the screenplay for a film can be in revision as the acting is happening. For television shows, the scripts are written as the show is happening and the actors can get the script revisions while they are filming, whereas in theatre, the script is already written and no major revisions can really be made. In plays, every character has a description and it is the director’s job to decide how they want to interpret that onstage, whereas, in film, the director more or less makes up the character’s description. Lenore DeKoven says in the chapter “Directing: The Similarities and Differences between Film and Theatre” of her book, "Changing Direction: A Practical Approach to Directing Actors in Film and Theatre", that “...the director’s work calls for an overview of the material and an awareness of the throughline and outlines for each character…”

Live theatre is very unpredictable. Anything can happen when you are onstage and it is an actor’s job to just roll with whatever happens and keep going. After all, “the show must go on.” Julia Kelso shows in her article, "Theatre vs Film: What’s the Difference?" many different things that could go wrong, such as “...an actor completely forgetting a line, a prop being misplaced, or that one stubborn section of the set breaking in the middle of a monologue.” On camera, you can redo the same scene as many times as you like, so you never have to worry about forgetting a line or tripping over something on the set.

Live theatre and film are very different art forms, meant for different audiences, yet both are essential to an actor and having experience in both often helps better your acting. Theatre is familiar to people, while film is brand new. Plays are written and then adapted, while screenplays are adapted while they are being written, and theatre is unpredictable and actors have to be flexible and willing to work through whatever happens, whereas with film, you get as many chances as you need for things to be perfect.
Cover Image Credit: henry edwards 2, now here this respectively

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I'm Still Not Emotionally Over The Fact That Anastasia Closed

Emotionally and theatrically, I'm still rather grumpy

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Hi there, just a short little vent from your friendly local theatre kid.

NO! GOD NO! NOOOOOOOOO! (Insert Michael Scott Gif)

I won't go on for too long, I just need to officially get over the fact that the majesty that is the Anastasia musical has closed. This isn't an angry vent, more of a heartbroken one. I know that, even on opening night of a musical on Broadway, the closing is always looming, but I'm still bummed.

The show was off-Broadway in 2016, but it made its Broadway debut in April 2017. I discovered the soundtrack right at the height of graduating from high school, so I will forever tie the music to this poignant time in my life, but that's neither here nor there. Despite my emotional attachment, the music is amazing in and of itself, and it is that music (and so much more) that allowed Anastasia to kick butt on the Broadway stage for almost 2 years.

Amazing performers like Ramin Karimloo, Derek Klena, and Christy Altomare (just to name a few) help bring the story of the lost Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia to life for a captivated audience. A story of heartbreak and loss but also love and self-discovery, Anastasia offered a little something different to anyone and everyone who sat down in the theatre to watch it. It balanced so many emotions that the audience was left laughing then crying in one fell swoop, often occurring within moments of each other.

Funny numbers like The Countess and The Common Man and Learn To Do It make the audience want to clap and sing along while songs like In My Dreams and Close The Door make you want to openly weep from the audience. They portray the emotions the way someone who has lost seemingly everything would go through. My personal favorite of the musical, In A Crowd Of Thousands, marks a turning point for more than one main character, and it's one of my favorite songs in all of musical theatre.

At the end of the day, I'm simply sad to see such an amazing thing go before I ever got to see it on Broadway (although I was lucky enough to see the traveling show), but I live in hope that this amazing story and musical will soon see the revival it so greatly deserves.

If you are a theatre kid, and even if you're not, take an hour and a half out of your day to listen to the music. It's beautiful from start to finish and definitely deserves listen.

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