APPLYING THEATER (TERMS) TO OUR STORIES – Part 2

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I’ve always felt theater is filled with principles that can hold value in other parts of our life. Many of them are like metaphors, analogies, or word pictures that can serve to point the way, give some direction, encourage the things we do in our day-to-day communication. With my history as a theater teacher and experience as an actor and storyteller, I’ve thought about a few of these things and come up with some thoughts concerning our regular living and relationships:

 

SPEAK UP!

 

Your audience wants to hear every word from your mouth. It’s all about telling the story in a play. We tell the actor to use their diaphragm as they use their character’s voice, and  to “reach for the back wall”. Long ago this meant an actor(s) needed to speak loudly and clearly so that anyone sitting in the “cheap seats” (last several rows of the theater) could hear their non-amplified voices.

 

To do this takes practice and it means using your instrument every day, not just at play practice or in performance. When I taught theater arts and directed young people, I would encourage my actors/students to rehearse their lines outside, in the shower above the roar of the waters, or in an empty large bathroom or room. Doors and windows shut, of course.

 

We tend to not speak up (use volume) anymore. Do you find you have to ask people, “Could you say that again, please?” I don’t think you’re losing your hearing. I think we, culturally, are too busy speaking on our devices and with our fingers, and not with our voice. To use your cell phone to talk with someone (a voice-to-voice call) is a rare thing these days. Even talking without a microphone is rare. And oh no, what do we do if the blessed microphone goes out? We’ll have to actually raise the volume of our voice to be heard. As you know, someone in your audience is going to say: “Speak Up! We can’t hear you back here.”

 

At a recent theater experience the sound was off. You couldn’t hear the actors’ lines. Poor amplification or an issue with the sound was going on. It was frustrating for the audience. You could see people getting restless and tuning out. The actors were unaware as they assumed, they were being heard. Had they been aware, they could have filled the room with their skillful voices as they were a group of fine actors. Finally, the amplification improved but we had missed out on some great dialogue in the play.

 

There are some things about our stories and other’s stories where it would be great if we would all just speak up more! We might need to bethe encouragersof others speaking up. When we share first it makes it easier for someone else to then share. Or we might need to say, “Could you say that again, please,… we didn’t catch that back here?” We might need to lead the way, too, by being the example of the first one to speak with more volume, enunciation and with good pacing.

 

RESPECT ONE ANOTHER

 

Theater is a community. You become very close through rehearsals and performances. As actors, we depend upon one another to communicate the message from beginning to end. We are ALL important in the telling of the message—the story—on the stage. In theater, one of the “the golden rules” is—give all you can to your fellow actors’ success on stage.They, in turn, are going to do the very same thing for you. It’s also one of the 5 basic rules of improv, too.

 

Have you ever heard another actor say of a fellow actor that they’ve partnered with on stage or in a film, “She/He was sogenerous on stage”?  This means the actor gave to the other actor in such a way that they were able to do some of their best work as they partnered with them in the scene (play), or in the film.

 

It should be that way for us in life, too. As we move through living out our stories, what happens in your story should matter to my story.

 

Respecting one another is the act of holding someone in high regard.

 

What if we were alltrying to make life a little better for the other person simply by being present and supporting them in their story. Amazing things would happen, right?  For one, we’d feel supported and included in life. Lonely – Smonely! We would be each other’s greatest advocates. Our Facebook comments would be thoughtful.  We would add to each other’s Instagram feeds and stories rather than ignore, send a quick emoji, or comment with our opinion. We would find joy in tweeting, posting and commenting in such a way that others felt buoyed up on the waters of their stories… of life.

 

It’s really about respecting others and KINDNESS. Kindness to a stranger is a good human practice. How many times have you let someone go ahead of you in store line when they have 1 or 2 items and you have about 15 items? Sure, you have to wait a little bit longer, but conversation is likely to present itself with a “thank you, an “I’m so late,” or an “I’m so hungry for this bag of potato chips”. I say potato chips, because that was in the hand of the gentleman behind me at Thrifty’s. Or how about the simple courtesy of opening or holding a door for a someone/a stranger behind us, entering at the same time we are? It’s an unexpected gesture today in our hurried, head-down-and-on-the-phone culture. It sure means a lot when it happens.

 

Respect for others grows with small gestures of kindness. For theater students the small gestures of kindness happens in the give-and-take in a scene or in an improv (like in conversation), the sharing of props and costumes (the lending/borrowing of an item), the comments of “good job… well done… love your scene… you add so much to the show.”  It really is huge in the act of listening and attention given to the director or stage manager.

 

Could all of the above be paralleled to our workplace, family and friend relationships, neighborhood living, the comings and goings of life?  Of course, it can.

 

“Being beautiful (handsome) and charming (clever) can help you for a little while, but being respectful helps you for the life time.” (Author Unknown, can’t locate him/her but it’s a good quote. The parentheses are my own emphasis.)

 

Here’s to hoping Speaking Up! & Respecting OneAnotherhit a universal chord of truth about your own story and your communication with others.

 

If you didn’t read my last blog, it’s entitled, “APPLYING THEATER TERMS TO OUR STORIES, Part One” and it covered: Entrances and Exits, Staying in Character, and Covering For An Actor When They Dry Up (Forget Their Lines).

 

Continuing in this vein, my next blog will be about how “The 5 Rules of Improv” apply to our stories. I’ve done improv forever and a day. I remember it being my first taste of theater in Mrs. Blackwood’s third grade class. I use it all the time in real life. We all do. We’re all very good improvisers.