Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Yelling at the Bottom of a Lake

Man alive. In my voice sessions, I more and more frequently find the big, clear, deep, bell-like center of my voice and hear suggestions of color that I don't hear elsewhere... especially on stage. Oh, the frustration! Doing Banquo outside, I'm not getting anything like the production or clarity I get in the rehearsal room. Christie Hernquist (Lady M.) and Brian Rooney (M.) can be heard clearly in the way that the rest of the cast is struggling for. The roof of my mouth is raw (though not the back, which is good), and I sound to myself as if I'm yelling at the bottom of a lake. And the less I say about 'nuance,' the better. I ain't gett'n none. Again, Christie is doing better than the rest of us. In fact, she's quite remarkable, especially since this is her first verse show.

The space we're working in is particularly difficult, I must add. It's big. It's outdoors. 'Nuf said.

Of course, this hasn't been a great day, all around. Today's voice session was a bit rough--it was odd, in fact, since my voice sounded GREAT but I couldn't find pitch to save my life. Also, I'm stinging a little from having lost a couple of parts in auditions lately, parts I should have been able to get (I was just the right type for one.)

What should I change in audition? Focus better. Make better, bigger decisions about objectives, work more quickly with impromptu 'as ifs,' and take a few frigg'n risks. The last part I think I should have gotten went to a an actor I consider to be weaker than me (in my hubris--what, me, hubris? You're shocked?), but he came in with a ballsy audition and sold the jokes. So, good on him. I gotta do my homework (yes, Neal, baby, I hear you--let myself breathe into where I am, and don't worry about 'stepping up.' The point is well taken.)

This weekend, between run-throughs, I'm getting to work on a business plan for PENDLETON. I have some ideas about what distinquishes Neal and I as a creative team, and will begin to jot them out as a blue print for researching and structuring our pitch and road map. I think we have something good in PENDLETON. Neal also wants to begin workshopping it soon, which is going to be a lot of fun, and deeply informative. The actor who plays a key part--Zach Sherman--is exciting on screen, Neal's a terrific writer, the theme is good, we get to horse around in eastern Oregon, I get to act, and learn how to put a film together. It doesn't reall get better than that. There now. I feel better already.

I'm also finding ideas coming in on me for a series of Bogosian-style monologues, at a friend's suggestion. I have a working theme and I may have a literary source to work from. I'll learn a lot and stretch myself by putting these on the page, into workshop, and on camera.

Good night.


David Loftus said...

What, David, you couldn't hear my Groomsman in Act 1 Tuesday night?

Seriously, you keep complaining about lack of nuance outdoors, but do you really think the stronger actors in this show are displaying none? Keep in mind that Shakespeare composed for "outdoors," or at least very large spaces with no miking, so the plays were written with the sort of difficulties we are facing very much in mind. One has to find other methods of communicating nuance besides volume: speed, tone, vocal timbre, physical (visual) nuance, etc.

I've noticed that several actors initially "cheat out" well to the audience, but bring the volume down when turning to speak to someone next to them (an automatic and natural but mistaken move; if you're turning away from the audience, you likely need to pump UP the volume -- the other actor should be ready for it), and then forget to turn up the volume again when they look back at the audience.

David said...

David, I think most actors would agree that there is less rather than more nuance in an outdoor performance. That's not a criticism of us. It's just the way things are. All the tools you mention we use, but nonethelss, it ain't a black box. None of those tools will make up for lack of 'intimacy.' How could they? We're yelling at the top of our lungs (remember, even the Globe had acoustics. Outdoors, we have none.)

Anyways, as much as I bitch about lack of nuance outdoors, "nuance" may be over-rated. The text itself has nuance enough. If we get it out there so that the audience can UNDERSTAND it and follow the story we're doing our job.

David said...

And I didn't say that the 'stronger actors' are displaying none. Yes, they are, but not as much if they were indoors. Why be defensive about that?

Anonymous said...

Just a quick ammendment...Christ H. Actually gave a stunning performance that was partially in verse as the lead in Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet at PSU. She was fabulous. She used both comtemporary language and verse very naturally. Love her! Can't wait to see her take on Lady M.


David Loftus said...

Who's being defensive? I was merely urging you to regard the space and how to act in it as an opportunity and a challenge. Of course there is less nuance in an intimate, indoor space than outdoors, but this is not the first time you have spoken about loss of nuance here, and your May 18 entry seemed to rule it out altogether:

> I like the 'beingness' of film
> as opposed to the 'performance-
> ness' of stage, especially an
> outdoor stage, where all nuance
> is lost.

Also, there are "acoustics" in every space, everywhere, never "none." It's likely the close-in buildings at this year's space provide more than you had last year for "Othello," and certainly more than the summer cast has in most of the other Portland parks.

You may think you're "yelling at the top of your lungs," but you're not, and rarely is anyone else. I'm certainly not, except perhaps on the line "Sinful MacDuff/They were all struck for thee." And yet I suspect most people can already hear the vast majority of my other lines quite well. Neither have I ended an evening of rehearsals particularly hoarse, though I expect that will change this coming tech week.

Loosen up. Play more. Experiment more. And open your mind. I think you are often too quick to judge -- yourself as well as others.

David Loftus said...

> Of course there is less nuance in an intimate, indoor space than outdoors,

Oops. I meant to write the opposite, of course!