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Friday, May 26, 2017

Love Games: I'M A POWER BOTTOM

No, you read that right. That is one of Pablo's lines. Yesterday we went outside after relinquishing Joe to Sedona, his primary director, and the three of us worked on projection. I had each of them chose a line and practice projecting it to me from far away. Watching Stewart gleefully shout to all of campus, "I'M A POWER BOTTOOOOOOOM" was a highlight of my day that I didn't expect.

 Projection is something I've found myself being responsible for teaching here. I've always had a large voice but, after 7 or 8 years of vocal training, I have picked up a trick or two. If I had to boil down the lessons that my 3 college voice professors have taught me it would be this:

Dr. Richard Poppino: Good singing is not a matter of trying harder, but trying correctly.

This translates to the fact that projecting is not being louder, but arranging your vocal chords and body in a way that allows the sound to carry farther. Imagine a scenario where you're playing a song on your phone, but it's still too quiet. Take your phone and put it in a cup or with the speaker facing the back wall of a cabinet and suddenly you can hear it better. The sound didn't get louder, it is just carrying to your ears easier.

Dr. Marc Callahan: Breath support is life, 💁.

Singers are afraid to use their breath. It's contradictory but it's true. We're used to singing very long phrases so we instinctively save our breath, but that causes all of the notes to be weaker. Imagine you have a ball of dough in your hands. The wider you spread it out, the thinner it gets. If you make the pizza too big, the dough won't be thick enough to support itself. We speak in pitches and talking is a very staccato form of singing. So having proper breath support is key.

Bereniece Jones: Smell the roses.

We're so afraid of deep breathing. Maybe it's because it takes conscious effort, maybe we don't like our stomach getting larger, or maybe we don't have the time. I could theorize all day on why learning how to breathe properly is not instinctive AT ALL. But Bereniece got one thing right. When preparing to sing, or project, you need proper breath. I have heard Broadway performers use this technique. Try it for yourself: inhale through your nose like you are trying to smell a rose and notice how your chest expands. Maybe you get that stretch and lift in the back of your throat like the beginnings of a yawn. That is great breathing and it's quieter (and deeper) than mouth breathing.

Caught up in my Love Games

It has been an extremely busy past couple weeks. I feel a constant pull and tug in every direction, but I've come to expect that. We have had a few ups and downs, but I feel that both PJ and I have taken it all with stride. With one person being recasted, Love Games is almost ready and I am so excited and yet so stressed. Pre-show jitters probably, just happening two weeks in advance. My nerves keep getting worse and worse even though I know it's all going well.
When I first wrote Love Games I didn't take it too serious. With time, that really changed. I saw the actors create these characters that felt so real. It's so amazing and heartwarming that a play wrote is almost ready to premiere. Everyone has worked so hard, and no matter the outcome I know I will be proud of what I wrote and what PJ created with my work.
We begin dress on Sunday and I am so ready to see the cast in costume (well all the casts in costumes), and to show everyone what we have worked for these past few months.

Run-Thrus: The Two Minds of Mr. Coffan

Hello All,

This week we have started company run-throughs and let me tell you it has been amazing to se what these One Acts have transformed into in such a short period of time. I still remember all of us reading over the plays that where chosen at the beginning of the term and now seeing them come to life has been amazing. I think all of you are in for a great festival. For my own cast, it has been extremely beneficial to run-through our show everyday this week. I have seen them make new discoveries and run with the notes that I am giving them. I also have been able to seem them gain confidence in their overall performances. The cue pick up is getting faster, the timing is getting better and we are thinking more and more about the story we are telling to our audience. After several days of working with the company, it was refreshing to get back to basics and have a rehearsal to ourselves. We are now able to have more conversations about what our characters objectives are and what their tactics are for getting there. We did a speed through as a cast as well which brought an immense amount of energy and focus - it helps the actors realize the need to listen to one another and that the other people on that stage have their back. I am looking forward to tech on Saturday and seeing things really transform on Sunday for our first dress rehearsal!

-Sedona

Love Games: Uh oh...

Uh oh... It happened. That unavoidable conflict that no director ever wants to hear, "I can't do the show". Yes, I had an actor drop out 2 weeks before opening. Now I will say this: They did not want to. They felt bad and like they were letting the cast down but, after hearing the situation, it was a conflict that was bigger than this show. Since it is a personal reason, I will not go in to it- in fact, no one but the stage manager and I should have to know why. I do hope he is able to deal with this conflict and that, outside of the show, it can be resolved. He agreed to stay for rehearsal that day, knowing that it would be his last as part of out cast, for the sake of his cast mates.

Now I was left with a quarter of my play missing, and some favors to ask. I got 8 "no"'s before I got a yes. And that yes wasn't even a yes at first. He said "Only if I'm your last option". 24 hours later, after hassling every actor I had in my contacts, I told him that he was my last option.

This actor is experienced and memorizes quickly. The only problem being that he is also a main character in another one act. Mr. Reginald Baldwin from The Two Minds of Mister Coffan! I really owe this guy. He took on two back to back roles right before opening and, so far, the cast has taken to him. Though he is a different style than my previous actor, they are all adapting and supporting eachother.

I have impressed upon the others how important it is for them to know their lines, blocking, and characters so that we can support our newest addition as he plays catch up. It is better to learn if you have a sturdy foundation. While it has been slow going, they have made notable improvements every time.

I think my problems are over, as long as this actor has the energy to keep going. His other director and I will be keeping a close eye on him. He may say he's alright but as soon as I see signs of him slowing down I will make him take a break. I overwork myself constantly to the point of illness and I will not be responsible for doing that to another.

The Skinner draws near

It's been a while since I've written one of these, and since I've written the last one, there's been some major progress made on SKINNER. As a credit to the cast, and to Brian, I'm laughing more at the script now than I was when I was first drafting the jokes, back when the jokes were still fresh. I really have to applaud all of them for being so willing to dive into this ridiculous little world that I created and shared with them. There have been several instances of me walking into rehearsal early, or showing up to a class in the lab early and finding the cast, or some of the cast, hard at work on the blocking physicality that the show calls for.

There's a sense of friendly competition going on between all the casts, and I feel like that's doing wonders for driving them to be the best in the show (and my cast is totally winning). Speaking of the show, it opens next Thursday (June 1st!) at 730 PM in the lab theater. Never in a million years did I think that something I wrote would be produced. Even after a few months of knowing and watching it come together, that surreal feeling has yet to go away, and I don't think it will for a while. I'm really proud of myself for creating something that's being brought to life, but I'm even more proud of Brian, Isaac, Pam, Lindsey, Alessandra, and Robert for taking that and giving it life and dimension that I didn't know it had. Hope to see you at the show! Don't let the Skinner get you!

-Mike

Friday, May 12, 2017

Love Games: Realism vs. Presentational

Love Games has been absolutely sailing along with 8 rehearsals under our belt and our first full run through coming up tomorrow. We still have a long way to go though and now that the show is completely blocked I'm ready to begin pushing technique.

I need more volume from everyone and clearer consonants. I sit in the front row and can only understand them because I know the script. We are riding a fine and changing line between presentationalism and realism in acting. I fear I might be confusing some of them with my blocking notes. We need to be big to stick with the melodramatic comedy of the piece, but this is not Comedia. Poses, movement, and stance should follow a logical pattern. This space allows for realism to come across fairly effectively, but we still need to think about sight lines. I think that the space is interesting in regards to sound as well. The actors and front 2 rows are out in the open room with a ceiling stretching past sight (I only realized how tall the room actually is this last winter when I was in the catwalks for the first time). So sound bounces around and carries freely. But the remaining rows are under the booth with a much smaller proportion of open air. I feel that sound gets cut off in that transition from stage to back row.

I also find myself using only the stage right and middle side of the stage. I have to keep it decently empty so that they have room to move around in the jewelry scene, but I'm worried about it becoming right-heavy. Our biggest staging concern other than that is how tiny the bed actually is considering that we have multiple actors on it at a time and they have complex blocking to do on it. My biggest concern is someone falling and hitting their head. The script calls for a lot of straddling and rolling around which if we had a fluffy mattress would be no problem. But we don't. We have 4 very solid wooden blocks with a blanket on top of it. They want to take this blocking faster but I'm making them take it slow until the flow and blocking is solid in their heads. Because if, for example, the actors are thinking about what line comes next when Pablo pushes Dahnrae off of him and not preparing physically to move, Nikki might fall and really hurt herself. I just need them to trust me. I know what I'm doing.


They are all prompt and attentive in rehearsal and it is clear that everyone cares about this production. The four of them met without Heaven or I outside of rehearsal for a coffee "date" and line study. I find it charming that they wanted to simulate the dating experience and relationship building they are going to portray on stage. They are quickly growing more comfortable with one another. Unless someone's sick, I'm going to introduce kissing at tomorrows rehearsal.


Also, I've taken to sitting on a table at the foot of the stage and often standing very close to them. I've never been for for "normality".

Scheduling: The Two Minds of Mr. Coffan

Presently, I am in the middle of acting in OSU's mainstage production of The Upward Beating Heart and if there is one thing that I have learned over the course of this term, it's that there are not enough hours in the day. Now granted, I have come to this conclusion many times but it feels especially pressing in this season of life. With graduation on the horizon, getting engaged, and being heavily involved with not one but two plays you could say I have a lot on my plate. In addition, I have a busy cast as well. Between sports, classes and jobs it has been difficult to coordinate schedules. Thankfully, through it all, we are still making progress. This last week we had our first off book date and I can see the characters coming to life now that the script is out of their hands. In this production especially, I am encouraging my actors to make big gestures (no t-rex arms as I am constantly saying) so that we can separate the fiction from reality. As Liz always says, acting can't happen until the scripts are out of your hands, and I can say - this is SO true. The sooner you are off book, the more that you can do. I'm looking forward to our next rehearsal where we will finish blocking the whole one act! It's good to know that I have a hardworking cast that keeps pushing through. Now that The Upward Beating Heart is up, I can't wait to devote more time to this project and see where it takes us without scripts!