Don’t Get Carried Away! – ‘Why don’t you just try acting’

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Photo Credit: Magic Madzik via cc
We are delighted to republish Prof. John Palmer’s ‘Theatre Briefs’ series, Actor Hub hope you find them as useful as we have.
This series of short essays about acting is reprinted with the kind permission of Professor John P Palmer of London, Ontario, Canada. He wrote these ‘Theatre Briefs’ for use by students and fellow actors during classes and rehearsals. Where he has relied on material from others, they are cited.
Lest you get too deeply immersed in thinking about your inner intentions, outer realizations and actions, your super-objectives, goals, and the subtexts, consider the following:
The great George Abbott, dean of Broadway directors and playwrights, was asked by Alan Schneider to play the husband in a revival of Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth.” Abbott had not acted in over twenty-five years.
George Abbott has this to say about “Method Actors” (which typically means those trained by Stanislavski, the Strasbergs, Sandy Meisner, or their students such as Norman Schwartz:
“One of the major faults of too many productions is that the actors have sloppy diction. It requires great persistence to get a play clearly spoken, and the actor who swallows his words is cheating. Generally he doesn’t know he is not distinct; he is striving for a certain quality and since he knows his words he presumes you do.
The method actor is a frequent culprit — he has worked so hard for inner feeling that he forgets to bring it out into the light where we can get a look at it.
He has struggled successfully at such difficult tasks as pretending that he is a tree in full bloom, but he has never learned to say a final “t”.
When actors and actresses come into an audition and take off their shoes before beginning to read, or go to one side to commune with their inner selves while we all wait, I suspect them of being phonies; I fear that they will be fakers who have thought a lot about feeling and little about technique.”
Please think about your technique. In particular:
  • Pay attention to the consonants – enunciate clearly
  • Speak slowly – make sure the audience can follow you
  • Use your diaphragm to control your voice
  • Don’t speak to the back wall of the set
  • Gesture with your upstage hand
  • Look at your partner’s downstage eye or ear
  • Don’t upstage your partner when s/he is speaking
  • Try to stay downstage, not upstage, when there’s a choice
  • Be conscious of your hands, eyes, and feet – are they doing and saying what you want them to do and say?
  • Project – make the Queen (the picture on the rear wall of the theatre) feel as if she’s on stage and a part of the cast.
These essays may be reproduced at no charge for non-commercial purposes. Just please acknowledge the original source (John Palmer) and his blog Eclectecon.
Also please retain the attributions included in the briefs.
You may not use these resources for commercial purposes.