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Monday, November 18, 2013

Behind the Scenes Look at the World Premier of "The Three Gruff Billies or Why Houses Under a Bridge Are NOT Prime Real Estate"!

Greetings everyone.  My name is Bobby Keniston, and welcome to Theater is a Sport. This video is a behind the scenes look of "The Three Gruff Billies or Why Houses Under a Bridge Are NOT Prime Real Estate", a play I created on commission from Lakewood Theater in Madison, ME.  I was very proud of the performance.

This behind-the-scenes doc of the rehearsal process was made by Jeralyn Shattuck, and I can't thank her enough.

I am currently seeking publication for this play.  If you have any interest in performing it or reading a perusal script, please contact me at

Thanks for checking it out!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Theatre Educators--- Help Create Actors, Not Parrots!

Greetings, and welcome to Theater is a Sport.  My name is Bobby Keniston, and I am an actor, director, playwright, and theater educator.   I feel lucky to be all of these things.

There are a great many misconceptions when it comes to the idea of theater education, particularly at a high school level. While many people would recognize that it is not a visual arts teacher's job to tell a child, "This is how you draw a sun, and this is the only way to draw a sun," these same people may expect that when directing students in a play, or teaching a high school acting class, that you tell the students how to act. "Read the lines this way, with a big smile on your face, then when he yells at you, act sad by sticking your lower lip out and lowering your head. Listen to how I say the line and then do it like that." This is simply not true. Or, at least, I believe it goes against every little thing theater education should be about.

As a director, I try to NEVER give line readings (having people imitate how I would say a line). To me, that is akin to a visual arts teacher saying, "You can only draw that this way." The only time I will do this, the only, only time, is if I have a really little kid who cannot think critically about what they are doing, and, only then will I do that in a production that people are paying money to see. I don't even like to do it then. Even when directing "Annie, Jr." and "Anne of Green Gables" at the Center Theatre, I didn't do this unless absolutely necessary, and never with anyone over the age of five. Why, Bobby, you may ask.  The answer is simple.  I feel my primary role as an educator is to create actors and not parrots. It is my job to teach young people about MAKING CHOICES. That is perhaps the number one job of an actor--- it is what they bring to the table as an artist.

I do my best to give all cast members or students tools toward building a character, understanding a script, and discussing with them how they help to tell the overall story. From time to time, I will have a students ask me in a rehearsal or class, "How should I say that line?" I always answer that question with another question: "Where is your character at?" or "What are they thinking?" or, most often, "What does your character want?  What is their objective for speaking this line?"

In this way, I am helping to create actors, and actors who can analyze a script critically.  If I tell them exactly how to do something, I cease being an educator or a director, and I become a pirate trying to train his parrots.

A director's job is to put everything together to create an experience that is magical coming from the work of many, and not just myself. 

My job with high school students or even younger actors is to facilitate them finding the answers for themselves, guiding them to create something which comes from their unique perspective, and discussing changes if I don't agree with their interpretations, or don't believe it fits within the world of the play.  This is an important job. 

You see, this is what happens in real life, in the real world of theatre. Actors make choices. They are not told exactly how to say a line. And I will not condescend to my students by expecting less of them than I would of adult actors.
If  a student registers for my class, or signs up for my plays, regardless of talent, I do my best to bring the best out of them.  This, of course, has varying results.  But by doing so, I am providing a richer experience for this student, and giving them a richer education. 
I do not, at the high school level, believe in asking the weaker singers to only mouth the words, or the weaker actors to stand in the background like props or furniture.  If I do this, then I fail as a teacher and as a director.  When it comes to theatre education, it is just as much about the journey as the final result. 
So I want my final result to be spectacular?  Of course I do.  Is that always going to happen.  Of course it isn't. 
But what can always happen, if I do my job, is that students can learn to think differently, use their minds more creatively and critically.  And that is what makes a win in my humble opinion. 

I do not create parrots. I assist young people in realizing they are actors.
Thanks for reading theater is a sport.  See you next time. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

THEATRE ETIQUETTE and BASIC GUIDELINES for School and Community Theatre Actors

Hey everyone, and welcome to theater is a sport.  Today I wanted to talk about the very important topic of theater etiquette, for those people who are perhaps getting involved in community or school theatre for the first time.  Now, granted, every director may have different thoughts on certain subjects, but I think the guidelines as I have outlined below are pretty standard.
  • Please respect your director, stage manager, crew members, and fellow actors at all times. Be aware of their thoughts and feelings.  (This is perhaps the most important rule I can think of.)
  • Acting is a hard enough job! Please leave the directing/design/stage managing to the people with those jobs. I would ask especially that your refrain from giving your fellow actors unsolicited advice or direction... The director will take care of that stuff. (now, obviously, if someone asks you, "How do you think I was in that scene?", you can give them your thoughts, but don't so in a way that would be stepping on the director's toes.)
  • Remember that you  are part of  a team. There is no “I” in C-A-S-T (although, there is an “I” in director.)   :-)
  • Please arrive promptly to rehearsals. As much as I love the social aspect of theater, it is important to be efficient with time, so be ready to go right at start time.  Directors are usually early to rehearsals, so if you have questions for them, go in a bit early.  Also, if you want to chat with your new extended family (your fellow actors) before rehearsal is always a good time.
  • Please, unless there is a personal emergency going on, silence your cell phones or turn them off completely during rehearsal. (Let your stage manager know if you have to have an exception to this rule). Cell phones ringing (or being answered) are very distracting to the rehearsal process.  I literally have had students rehearsing a scene stop, answer their phones and actually start a conversation, mid-rehearsal.  Did not please me, to say the least. 
  • Please don't chew gum while rehearsing a scene, unless it has been discussed that your character is a gum chewer.  It's a mouth and diction obstruction, and an unnecessary one at that.
  • Please try to keep a positive attitude and stay focused while we rehearse. Sometimes, things may go very slowly with a lot of stops. Please stay focused and on the ready to resume.
  • If you have questions about a note a director gives you, please speak to  them about it after notes are given, and privately. This goes also for any thoughts and suggestions. I am a collaborative fellow, but I don't like to get off-track while I'm giving notes. This doesn't mean I won't listen to your thoughts. I may not always agree with them, and, as director, I would ask you to trust me to try it my way, but I will always listen and consider your thoughts. Promise.
  • Be safe! Don't jump on and off the stage, or put yourself or your fellow actors in any kind of risk at rehearsal (or, well, anywhere). We want to make sure we all stay healthy for the show!
  • If you are going to be late or miss a rehearsal, give as much advanced notice as possible, and, ideally, give that information to the stage manager, and not the director.   
**** Do not take advantage of stage kisses.  Make sure everyone is comfortable.  At a theater I have been a part of for years, there was an actor we learned who had trouble keeping his tongue to himself during stage kisses.  This is very unprofessional (unless the kiss has been choreographed and planned that way).  Taking liberties like that with your fellow actors is wrong, and, quite frankly, pretty creepy.  And, in case you were wondering. that actor, once found out, never appeared in a play there again.
****Please do not make negative comments or suggestions to "improve" a designer's work.  (For example, "That set piece should be painted yellow, not green", or "Man, that costume is ugly.")  If you have concerns about something, please talk privately with the director, or, just keep your thoughts to yourself for the good of the show's morale.
  • When we get to the point of being off script, if you need a line, just stay in place, stay in the scene, and call “Line”, and the line will be provided. In this way, you can stay focused and move smoothly. A lot of people will step out of the scene and make a big fuss (I have done this myself out of frustration), but it really is better to stay in place, say "Line" and then continue. 
  • I know these guidelines may seem many, but honestly, remember, it is called a PLAY for a reason. It is good to have a good, productive FUN time in a TEAM environment!  Do your part to make sure everyone has a great time.
Thank you for reading this post, and I hope that you have found it helpful.

Remember, theater etiquette is important, and theater is a sport.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Thoughts on Building a Character

Whether you are cast in a community theatre production or a multi-million dollar movie, building a character is an actor's job. Sounds simple, right? Well, in my experience as an actor, director, and playwright, I have found that building a character that is unique in its own ways can be a very big challenge. Below are some of my thoughts on what an actor can do as “homework” to start giving their characters a life of their own, thereby facilitating a richer experience not only for the audience, but for themselves as well.

  • Read the script. And then re-read it. As you do, pay close attention to how your character helps tell the overall story. What is your role in getting the overall picture across?
  • What does your character want? It is important as an actor to ask yourself what your character's objectives are. Most likely, they have a grand objective for the show, but they also have objectives for every scene they are in (sometimes even from moment to moment). Really think about what your character wants whenever they are onstage--- after all, why else would they be there.
  • How do you get what you want? Your character's ACTIONS informs how your character is played. Actions are what a character does to get what they want. For example, does your character flirt, deceive, or threaten to get what they want? Or do they coax, plead, or promise to get what they want? There are many, many verbs to create many, many actions. And have fun figuring it out! Play!
  • Create an Autobiography! This can be a wonderful exercise to be creative about your character. Write out your character's life story. It needn't be an epic, but give them a back story: where are they from, what were there parents like, what major events have shaped who they are within the world of the play? Write this story in first person, i.e., “I was born in the Bedford Falls hospital at...” etc. For those with larger roles, there may be a lot of clues in the script. For those who have less clues in the script, here's a chance to create a great identity for your character. Every “townsperson” is more than just a “townsperson”! They are a human being! Give them a story that influences their reactions every time they're on stage. Give them a name, and give them a purpose! Have fun and be creative, but be sure to stay within the “world” of the play and within the playwright's intentions (for example, in “It's a Wonderful Life”, it probably wouldn't be wise to give your character a backstory that includes being a super villain on a distant planet who fell to Earth on a meteorite).
  • The movie poster: This is an exercise I use with my casts a great deal to help the process of creating a physicality for their character. Imagine that your character, no matter how big or small it might be in the play, as the star of their own movie about them. What do they look like on the movie poster? Do they stand tall, chest out, shoulders back? Do they hunch? Do their eyes shift to the sides, or look straight on? Are they smiling? Are they angry? Really close your eyes and picture this movie poster, and then begin to bring the physicality in your body. Mimic the posture, and see if it feels right. In time, try walking about and seeing how the character's posture translates into a walk. What feels right? What part of the body leads your character? Where is your energy located? Imagine what your character looks like, and remember: they don't have to look like YOU. Eventually, you will have to try to look like THEM.
  • Voice: What does your character sound like? Look for hints in the script. Do they speak haltingly? (“I'd like...a...uh... glass of...water?”). Figure out a cadence that seems right to you.
  • Relationships: How does your character feel about everyone they interact with? Many may find clues in the script, but if there are no clues to be found, then determine on your own. In “It's a Wonderful Life” especially, it is important that everyone have thoughts about others in the town. It is a small town story, with small town gossip. Everyone knows everyone. You all will have opinions on Mr. Potter for example. You may have gossiped about who Violet is dating now.

All of this character building work is vital when building working inner lives and motivations for every character on stage. This is what makes a production tight and believable. The more you know your individual character, the more you are doing your part to help tell the story of the play.

And when you know your character, you can let go and really begin LOOKING and LISTENING and REACTING to your scene partners.

Thank you for reading this post.  In case you can't tell,   I am in the midst of directing a production of "It's a Wonderful Life".  Yay!

Until next time, please remember--- theater is a sport.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

MY PROM DATE WAS A FELON, featured play in this month's Brooklyn Publishers' Newsletter!

Greetings, loyal readers of my blog!

I wanted to let you all know that my play, My Prom Date Was a Felon, is the featured play in Brooklyn Publishers' October newsletter.  If you click HERE, it will take you directly to the newsletter where you can read a new essay I wrote about the play called How This Playwright Finally Went to the Prom (all about how I can live vicariously through my characters), and, until OCTOBER 9TH, you can download a FREE perusal e-script of the play!

As many of you regular readers already know, this is a play that I am very proud of, and I am so excited that this newsletter is giving people a chance to learn more about it and to even read it for free!

I would be remiss if I did not mention that this newsletter also has information and synopses of many other great plays for schools and community theaters, including plays by some of my playwriting pals.  In fact, I'd recommend signing up for the newsletter so you can always see the great stuff that's coming out from the many talented folks at Brooklyn Publishers (who published my very first play and got me started in this business!)

All righty.  I guess that's it.  Again, you can follow the link above, or, hey, I'll make it simple, and say that you can just click HERE!

Monday, September 30, 2013

"BREAKING BAD" Finale and Greek Tragedy: A thank you to Vince Gilligan




I suppose the mark of any great work of art is that it is divisive, though I must confess I was surprised to see so many people dissatisfied with "Felina". I personally believe it to be a most stunning and fitting denouement to a series that truly deserves comparisons to a Greek Tragedy.

Part of the issue that seems to be sticking in a lot viewers' respective craws is that the series finale was "predictable". "Lydia and the ricin", "Walt going after Jack and the gang", are two big points people are making as arguments. But I ask these people: the foreshadowing with the gun made it clear long ago that Walt was going after somebody, and really, by this point, who else would he be going after with that kind of firepower? And Lydia and her tea has also been foreshadowed abundantly. Now, I think most fans must confess that Vince and all of the other writers on "Breaking Bad" are pretty clever, right? So isn't it logical to assume that perhaps they wanted us (the viewers) to know, or at least strongly anticipate these two plot points?

Here's the deal: "Breaking Bad" has been about a man backing himself into corners and finding a way out for five seasons. The writers have provided more amazing solutions than I could have ever dreamed of. However, the reason "Ozymandias" was so satisfying, at least to me, was to finally see the tragic hero with no other corners, no other solutions. He had to run.

After "Ozymandias", in true Greek Tragedy fashion, there was nothing left but denouement and catharsis. And "Felina" provided this. Big time.

In a sense, because "Breaking Bad" has such a loyal, rabid following (I am part of that--- in fact, this is the first time I have ever posted on a message board)--- this final season and all of its secrecy has led to a kind of achieved mythology of its own. We have been guessing about this last episode ("Will Jesse die?", "Will Jesse Kill Walt", and a million other things), and, of course, we all perhaps believed that this was going to be one more corner and one more clever solution we didn't see coming.

But that's not the point to tragedy. In Ancient Greece, the audience knew how the story ended, but they still went there for the catharsis, to see things tie up. To finish the journey.

And, besides, I don't think people are giving Mr. Gilligan and co. enough credit. There were still surprises, even if, as some people claim, they called how Walt was going to use Gretchen and Elliot (which I personally didn't). I was surprised when Walt admitted that he liked it, that he did it for himself (a tragic hero admitting his tragic flaw). But I think, perhaps the greatest surprise for me was that this finale didn't involve Heisenberg tying up loose ends and taking care of business. It amazed me that Walt came back as Walt. And, no, I don't think that makes Walt any more sympathetic, but merely reminds you of his humanity. He did not come back to be the kingpin, or the badass... he came back to end things on his terms.

And, to die, of course.

This episode, while riveting, was not designed to be "shocking" in the way others have been. Haven't we had enough "shocking" from this show? What is so brilliant about "Felina" is that it is about the inevitability of a person's actions, and following that inevitability. Mr. Gilligan gave us a series where the questions were answered... he didn't skimp, he didn't cheat. He delivered a Greek Tragedy, and a final image so haunting of our morally bankrupt tragic hero dying in the arms of his "Felina" so to speak. In the embrace of the only place he ever felt significant.

So, from me, Mr. Gilligan, I simply say thank you.

Monday, September 23, 2013

FREE E-SCRIPT OF THE WEEK: My play, "Betty Lou Twinkle's Tabloid Scandal" FREE THIS WEEK At Brooklyn Publishers!

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen.  My play Betty Lou Twinkle's Tabloid Scandal, a satire about teenage fame, is the FREE e-script at Brooklyn Publisher's website this week!  This means you can download a perusal copy for free, read it, and see if it is a play that you would like to produce!

Click HERE to do so! 


Why should you want to read my play Betty Lou Twinkle's Tabloid Scandal for free?  Here are some reasons:

1.  It's funny.

2.  Teenage fame and teenage celebrity deserve to be satirized and made fun of.

3.  It has the line:  "A teenage girl's belly button on display helps to make her a star in every way."

4.  The play contains one of the most overbearing stage mothers you will ever see in print.

5.  There is a character named Charlie Jabbar, based off of Paula Abdul. 

6.  It has the line: "If a girl has been in magazines, or is filthy rich, it's okay to be a bimbo, it's okay to be a... young woman of temperamental disposition."

7.  Betty Lou just wants to play soccer.

8.  There's a character named Versailles Waldorf-Astoria (guess who she's based off of?)

9.  Betty Lou's mother writes songs with lyrics like "Come on baby show me that  your love is real/ My mamma won't mind if you cop a feel."


10.  Betty Lou's secret friend happens to be a Catboy.  And, she may or may not be in love with him.

Okay, so there's ten good reasons to read my play, Betty Lou Twinkle's Tabloid Scandal, the free e-script of the week at Brooklyn Publishers. 

Again, click HERE to get it! 

Thanks for reading my blog.  Until next time, please remember:  teenage fame deserves to be made fun of, and theater is a sport.  Bye bye for now. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Greetings, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to theater is a sport. 

I don't know about you, but I love performing monologues (I also like writing them very much, but today's post is about acting).  They're juicy, aren't they?  Not only that, it gives an actor the opportunity to have the undivided attention of an audience for a little while, and to challenge themselves to be as engaging as possible for two, ten, or even twenty or more minutes. 

And, of course, monologues are often used in acting classes and for audition purposes.  I remember nervously learning my monologues when I was auditioning for acting schools, working them until they felt like they were a part of me. 

Below are a few guidelines for student and community theatre actors about preparing a monologue, whether it is for an audition or a performance, a stand alone piece, or part of play. 

If you have taken a monologue from a play for an audition or acting class purposes, make sure you have read the ENTIRE play before performing the monologue.  This is vital in understanding where the character is, what there goals are, what they have done so far to achieve them, what obstacles are in their way... all these great questions you need to know the answer to in order to create a compelling performance. 

Again, if you are doing a monologue for an audition or for an acting class, you need to develop a character just as you would for an entire play.  You need to develop an appropriate voice, walk, physicality, motivation... in short, all the stuff you would for a standard play. 

Obviously, this is important.  Is your character talking to an unseen character?  Are they breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the audience?  Are they talking to an unseen video camera for a documentary?  Are they talking to themselves, thinking and feeling out loud?  You need to know who you're talking to in order to sharpen your character's intentions. 

Obviously, this is very important as well.  People behave differently when in a library than when in a grocery store.  Or in a bedroom or in a Laundromat, etc., etc. 

This is a question that an actor should be aware of always, monologue or not, because a character is a collection of wants, and the actions they perform to achieve what they want.   In a monologue when it is just you speaking, it is so important to be precise in what your character wants.  Otherwise, why bother even have a monologue?  Your character needs to earn their speeches, remember.

You may not believe what I'm about to tell you.  In fact, you might be thinking, "Bobby, you're crazy."  But I have found, in my experience, that memorizing a monologue is actually quite a bit easier than memorizing little tiny lines that pop in here and there throughout a play.  Having said this, it is important to be confident in your knowledge of the piece.  The last thing you want when trying to engage an audience, teacher, or casting director, is to be thinking..."Oh, no, what's my next line".  You want to know your monologue cold, so that you can stay in the moment as much as possible.  I have always found it helpful to test my memorization by writing out the monologue... more than once.  And, of course, you should be running through it a great deal... a very great deal.  Over and over and over.

And most importantly...

Just because you are acting by yourself, it doesn't mean that you are not connected to others... your AUDIENCE is your scene partner.  You can play off of their energy as you would another actor onstage.

I hope you have found these tips somewhat helpful.  I know, from my experience, that they have always helped me. 

Until next time, please remember... Theater is a Sport.  Sometimes even a solo sport.

To learn more about my work, please click HERE, or HERE, or HERE, or HERE.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

FEEDBACK: Praise and Criticism

Hello everyone and welcome to Theater is a Sport. 

Here is one e-mail I received this last Friday (note:  I did not change a word):

"Hi I think this is how I reach Bobby Keniston?  I am the Director of Theatre at St. Paul's School and am interested in producing The Re-programming of Jeremy.  I would like for you to guide me through the process of achieving the rights?

Would also love for the playwright to possibly come in to discuss the process of writing this fine piece.


This obviously made me feel good.  Especially the part about "the process of writing this fine piece."  The play he is talking about, The Re-Programming of Jeremy, is an unpublished piece I am very fond of, and I'm very happy this nice gentlemen David liked it and wants to produce it.

Here is another e-mail I received on Friday, this one by a seventh-grade actress (I also did not change a word, though removed her last name):

"I recently purchased the end of the movie to preform in a forensics competition and received it in the mail today. I am a little confused by the ending, all if that leading up to one line changing his decision. It diminishes then piece and takes away drama from it. My friend and I are disappointed to preform it and wish it had ended another way. Could you explain what you were thinking?

Taylor  (a seventh grade actress)"

Obviously, this second note stung a little.  As a writer, you want to please people who read your scripts (particularly a young person).  It's not easy to read about two young actors being "disappointed to perform" something you've written. 

Now, I responded to David, thanking him very much for his kind words.

And I responded to Taylor as well... THANKING her as well.  I thanked her for reading my script and taking the time to write to me, and then, to the best of my ability, answered the questions she asked me.  I have no idea if I'll hear back from Taylor, or if my answers are going to help her see the play in a different way and like it better, but, I feel I owe it to a reader to write back if at all possible.  I'm fairly certain that Taylor, being in seventh grade, perhaps didn't realize that she was a little direct with her criticism.  To be truthful, I was sort of delighted by her message, considering she how young she is, and how her criticism of my play was well thought out, and obviously she had read the piece in its entirety and thought about it.  Good for her!  It's cool to think about a 7th grade actress taking it as seriously as she obviously does, and I do hope my response was met in that same serious spirit. 

I so rarely receive correspondence about my work, that getting two messages on the same day was very exciting, the good and the not-so-good. 

So... what's the lesson?

Well, to start with, always be appreciative of the feedback of your work, so long as it is clear that the person has truly read or watched your work and thought about it.  Had I received a letter just saying that End of the Movie is stupid and that I'm obviously a bad writer, I wouldn't have even considered a moment in writing back.  But this letter I received was thought out.  My response to her was in no way defensive, but, rather, appreciative of her thoughts, and, attempting to give my thought process in why I made the choices I made in writing the piece.  And, of course, I have had SO much positive feedback for End of the Movie, that I feel very good about the piece.  It was almost somewhat refreshing to read a differing opinion. 

So, appreciate the feedback you receive, good or thoughtfully critical.  After all, it's still a person who is taking the time to read (or view) something you have created. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all we can really ask for.

Until next time, please remember--- Theater is a sport. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

BREAK A LEG!: A look at this Theater Superstition

Note:  I am in no way affiliated with HBO or "Game of Thrones".... a wonderful student named Claire Hamlin sent this along to me!

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen!  Let's talk superstition, shall we?

There are MANY superstitions involved with the theater, but today I'm going to talk about what I believe to be the most common--- saying "break a leg" as opposed to "good luck".  As most people who have been in  a play know, it is supposedly bad luck to say "good luck" to a performer.  Instead, the term you use is "Break a leg."  (Mel Brooks has an entire song dedicated to this superstition in his musical, The Producers).

Indeed, in my experience with theater, I know people who are truly HORRIFIED if someone tells them good luck.  I have never been the type to be overly superstitious (not really--- I have my own superstitions and rituals I like to perform for myself, but I don't freak out over too many of the traditional superstitions).  Nonetheless, I do not ever tell my fellow cast members "good luck"--- I obey the terms as set down by history.

The questions then becomes this:  where did "break a leg" come from?

Interestingly enough, I have found several explanations for this expression, and the actual answer is not truly known.  Like all things that have a certain mythology around them, the true origin will most likely remain obscure. 

But here are some thoughts:

1.  In Ancient Greece, it is said that, instead of applauding, audience members would stomp their feet.  The more they enjoyed a performance, the harder they stomped.  Thus, if they stomped hard enough, they would break a leg.  So, really, perhaps what we're telling actors is to do a good enough job to hurt someone who paid money to see the show.

1A.  This one is close to the Ancient Greece explanation:  in Elizabethan times, they say audiences, instead of applauding, they would stomp their chair legs... if they liked the show a lot , they might break the chair leg. 

2.  In Ancient Rome, during the gladiator days, they supposedly had a term that the audience would shout out to a gladiator they liked, wishing them to merely be crippled as opposed to being killed.

3.  Some say it has to do with bowing.  Bowing, traditionally, consisted of putting one leg behind the other and giving a little kneel, thereby, "breaking the line in the leg".  Hence, breaking a leg. 

4. The answer I always heard growing up was something completely different, but, for the life of me, I can't find any written documentation of it.  It was told to me by an elder actor, and, I have since told it to many people.  But, in doing my research for this post, I could not find it written anywhere.  Nonetheless, I will tell you, because I am quite fond of this explanation:
I was told that the expression came from raked stages, where upstage really went up, like a little hill.  Thus, if you were standing right on the steepest area of the stage as it moved up, you would have to "brake" your leg to keep from losing your balance ("brake" in this case being like a car "brake" as opposed to a "break").  Over the years, I was told, the expression, which started as "brake a leg", became "break a leg". 

In any case, the expression did not become popular until the 1920s, and was never mentioned in print until the 1940s.  In this regard, it is still rather a young superstition. 

However young it may be, it is highly respected, and I would say to all you laypeople who have loved ones about to perform in a show:  never say good luck.  Break a leg, break a leg, break a leg.  It might seem silly, but theater is a world of pretend, and in this world of pretend, superstition can become very, very real. 

Until next time, thanks for reading this post.  To all my performer friends out there:  break a leg, and remember--- theater is a sport.  So try to avoid any real injury. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

FREE EXCERPT FROM "THE DARK TOWER" (For 1 male, 1 female)

Scene from "The Dark Tower", as produced by Pope Theatre Boosters, GA
Today, I'm offering a free excerpt of my play, "The Dark Tower", inspired by Robert Browning's poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, which also inspired Thornton Wilder's playlet. 

This play of mine, available from Eldridge, is my interpretation of the story of Roland, as an immortal warrior, trained by Merlin, who has eschewed death, but now seeks it out at the Dark Tower, where he meets three sisters, and must live through some of his memories before he gains admission.

If you want to read more about this play or order it for performance, CLICK HERE.  Feel free to use this scene for acting class work or audition work, just make sure to give the play and the author (me) credit. 

In this scene, Roland, the warrior, remembers the death of his son and his wife, Susannah.  Susannah awakens to find she has lost her child, and that she herself is giving up and succumbing to her mortality. 

Here goes:

 Excerpt from "The Dark Tower", by Bobby Keniston,  available from ELDRIDGE PUBLISHING.  Note:  this work is protected by copyright.

(HE closes his eyes, and the marsh changes its LIGHTING.

A bed appears from stage left, with SUSANNAH upon it. She

is beautiful, but very pale. Her eyes are closed and she

moans quietly in pain. NOTE: If the role of Susannah is

doubled with the DARK SISTER, then the Dark Sister simply

leaves her window, comes out the door of the tower and

takes her place in the bed to play her part. After a moment,

Roland opens his eyes, and rushes to Susannah's side to

offer comfort. She stirs at his touch and opens her eyes.)

SUSANNAH: Roland. Are you by my side in Heaven? The
pain has been so great, but I find solace in your eyes.
ROLAND: Rest now, my love. We both live still. Sleep.

SUSANNAH: (Gently moves her hands down to her middle,
and touches her belly. She gasps, afraid.) Our child?
Where is our child?

ROLAND: Sleep now, until you are strong again.

SUSANNAH: Where is our child, Roland? Tell me I bore you
a son who sleeps peacefully this very moment in the next
room. Tell me our son is sleeping.

ROLAND: (Cannot look at her.) My love, there can be other
sons, but there will never be another you. I pray you let
your mind forget these concerns and rest. You have been
through so much.

SUSANNAH: Dear, sweet God, he was to save us. He was
meant to save us, husband!

ROLAND: Sssh. It is the pain, sweet wife, it is only the pain.

SUSANNAH: How long must we live sequestered from the
world? Secluded from the very act of living?

ROLAND: My love...

SUSANNAH: Let me speak, husband. This pain from my
body I can endure. It is the other which saps my spirit and
will. Let me speak.

ROLAND: We have one another. And we might yet try

SUSANNAH: No. This was our time. This was our hope.
And that hope eludes me now. A strong-limbed young boy,
a son made from you might have cured your fear, might
have delivered us from your desperate need and into the
arms of sweet mortality. You might have seen your own life
continuing as he grew, and given up this quest that leaves
nothing behind. Nothing so tangible as an heir might leave.
ROLAND: I beg you to stop.

SUSANNAH: And so we are alone again. I am an empty
room with no life stirring. (Beat.) Was he beautiful? Was he
as beautiful as we dreamed?

ROLAND: (Softly, turning his head.) Yes.

SUSANNAH: I wish to see him, but not on this Earth.

ROLAND: Susannah, it is only the...

SUSANNAH: It is not the pain that speaks. I do love you and
always will. But I can no longer walk through a land that is
barren of hope.

SUSANNAH: (Cont’d.) My love cannot conquer the
loneliness of immortality.

ROLAND: There is our love. Our love which makes us our
own universe. It is enough. I should never forgive myself if
you were to...

SUSANNAH: No, my dear one. There is another you have
lost that robs you of forgiveness. I ask you to let me go, so
that I might see our son. Do not think I wish to leave you. I
only know deep in the secret chambers of my heart that
you would choose your endless travels to making the final
journey with me by your side. And I feel no bitterness for
this knowledge. I love you completely and without
reservation or remorse. I ask you now to release me. Our
travels have been fair, and there has been much joy. It is
not the way of nature or of God to have walked through as
many ages as we have. I clung to our mortal coil with you,
in the one great hope that I would one day change your
heart and put your terror to rest by creating the greatest
gift a wife can possibly create: our child. And when I finally
managed to bear you down with my insistent
determination, I have failed you.

ROLAND: No, my one love, no. You have failed me nothing.

SUSANNAH: Forgive me, my sweet Roland. I see them in
my mind's eye, and they offer me the chalice.
ROLAND: No, Susannah.

SUSANNAH: Forgive me. I do not drink to leave you.
Perhaps only to inspire you to make this journey yourself.
And let it be soon, my love. Come and join me with our
ROLAND: Don't leave me, Susannah. I beg you.

SUSANNAH: The Sisters hold the chalice, and I drink.
Goodbye, dear husband. I pray you find me soon.
(SUSANNAH is still. ROLAND collapses in sobs over her.)

 All right.  I hope you've enjoyed this excerpt.  Again, to order it or learn more, here's the link:
Until next time, have fun challenging yourselves, and remember--- theater is a sport.



Monday, September 9, 2013

An Example of Playwriting Format

Greetings everyone, and welcome to Theater is a Sport.  My name is Bobby Keniston, and I am your theater-obsessed host for this blog. 
I am sometimes asked about playwriting format, so I'm going to give an example of the format I use.  I have used this format for every single one of my plays that have been published and picked up, as well as for plays I've entered into contests and had produced.  So, while some might say that my format isn't exactly correct, it is at least working for me so far!  To be honest, I have seen so many different examples of what is supposed to be "correct playwriting format", and all I can say is, each one is at least a tiny bit different from the others.  All I can speak for is what has worked for me, and I hope you find it helpful.

First you, begin with the title page.  The rest of this example will speak for itself.  I recommend using a standard font like Courier or Times New Roman (which is now my preferred font).  Note:  This example starts with the title page, so keep scrolling down to see everything!


A short scene


Bobby Keniston

Draft: September, 2012


SETTING: A high school classroom. Desks, a whiteboard, etc. The teacher’s desk is center stage. Students are D.S.R.

AT RISE: Two students are sitting at desks in the otherwise empty classroom. They are RAY, 17 and somewhat gawky, and STEPHANIE, 17 and very popular. 

Excuse me…

Are you talking to me?


Yeah. I know we’re supposed to have a quiz on playwriting
format today, and I’ve totally spaced on some of it.

Really?! But it’s so easy!

Yeah. I think I know some of it…


Okay, look: first off, if it’s only necessary to label
the scenes if it is more than one scene. 


Make sure there are 1-inch margins all around the page.


For each individual scene, you need have the setting,
and what’s going on when “At rise” of the scene. 
Characters names in these directions should be ALL CAPS.
And, you don’t start numbering until the 2nd page. Center
the character’s name, and tab in once for the dialogue



under it. And if someone’s dialogue isn’t finished before
the page break, you write their name and CONT’D in
parentheses on the next page.

(RAY is silent a moment, probably wondering about how stage directions work. STEPHANIE looks at him, and telepathically sends the information that stage directions are written in parentheses in italics, and are separated by a space between dialogue.)

Thanks for the information. Any specific fonts?

Either Courier New or Times New Roman are the preferred


Any other questions?

(a little shy)
Well… yeah, actually. Do you want to go out this weekend?

Well, gosh… No, I sure wouldn’t.


(There is an awkward pause, and then…)



5 Tips For Improving Your Improvisation!

Yours Truly, Bobby Keniston

So today at Theater is a Sport, I'm talking about improvisation and how it relates to theatre, particularly in school and community theatre. 

To answer the first question you must all be thinking.... WHAT IS IMPROVISATION?

In simplest terms (or, at least in the terms I think of it), improvisation is the act of creation with no (or very limited) preparation.  It is diving in and just creating.  It's being spontaneous. 

Because of this almost freestyle nature, improvisation can make many newcomers to theatre nervous.  Scared, even.  Heck, even I get nervous when playing improvisation theater games from time to time. 

It's acting without a safety net (the safety net being lines written for you).

But, then, here's another question:  WHY IMPROVISATION?  WHAT'S THE POINT?

However, I'm a firm believer in improvisation and its uses in character development and really digging into questions of motivation and "as ifs".  Not to mention, it can be SO MUCH FUN.  It's a great way to learn to trust yourself, and trust your cast mates.  And, if you can become proficient at improvisation, it truly comes in handy when you get on stage and something goes awry. 

In a sense, I believe Improvisation to be the purest form of acting, really.  The goal of any play should be to appear like it's happening right there in the moment, and the performers should appear to be creating their own lines and actions.  It's trying to create the notion of improvisation, only you've had rehearsal and lines written for you. 

And, my favorite thing about improvisation is that it makes the two biggest rules of acting come to startling life:  LOOKING and LISTENING.  And then, REACTING.

So here are a few tips for spontaneously creating a scene when playing theatre games or learning to improvise.  Hopefully these tips will help you to keep a scene going:

TIP #1:  I did not invent this, and anyone who has ever had any experience with improvisation has probably heard it:  YES, AND...  What this means is that you should take what your partner gives you, and treat it as fact.  And then build on it. 
For example:    
PARTNER A:  Boy you sure are getting fat!
PARTNER B:  It's the Ho-Hos, man.  They call to me in the middle of the night.  It's like I'm cheating on my wife with snack treats!
That's accepting what your partner is giving you, and building on it.  This scene could now go in different directions, with the subplot of the wife o what-have-you.
Now, Partner B might be as skinny as a rail, but not in the truth of this improvisation. 

TIP #2:  ESTABLISH YOUR CHARACTER ASAP!  When improvising a scene, it's a good idea to cut the malarkey and get right into it.  Audiences will want to know who you are from the get-go. 
For example:
PARTNER A:  Doctor, help me!  My arm was just cut off!
PARTNER B:  Careful!  Your dripping blood all over my examining room!  Don't you have any manners?
Right away, Partner A has established him or herself as a person in dire need of medical attention, and Partner B has built on that, making his or her doctor a bit fussy and unfeeling.  This scene could build in many interesting ways. 

TIP #3:  Some call this setting up a BLOCK and some call it DENYING, and both those terms are true, but I'll put a more positive spin on it:  GO ON THE JOURNEY WITH YOUR PARTNER.  Remember that in an improvised scene, it is not about YOU.  It's about you and your partner(s) working together as a team.  Blocking or denying your partner is a way to kill a scene very quickly, which, obviously, is the exact opposite of what you want to do. 
Here is an example:
PARTNER A:  Doctor, help me!  My arm was just cut off!
PARTNER B:  Your arm is right there.  And I'm not a doctor.
And another:
PARTNER A:  Is this your first frat party?
PARTNER B:  What are you talking about?  I'm in the supermarket!
And another:
PARTNER A: (miming holding a puppy)  Do you like my new puppy?
PARTNER B:  There's nothing there!
See what I'm talking about?  Go with your partner.  This is all part of Yes, and... to an extent, but it's more than that, too.  It's about moving in synch with the person you're performing with, and not shooting down their creations. 

TIP #4:  KEEP RAISING THE STAKES!  Just like a scripted scene, a performance is more interesting if the stakes keep going up, and the action keeps rising and rising.  Scenes are interesting if they build.  No one wants to see something stay on the same level for too long.  It's boring.  Part of the point of improvisation is for you and your partner to keep building, just like a written scene should keep building.  Now, fun improvisations often go off and build in a somewhat exaggerated or surreal fashion, but that's okay, too.  As long as it builds.

TIP #5:  RELAX AND DON'T BE IN YOUR HEAD TOO MUCH!  You're going to be a very nervous improviser if you stay in your head too much.  If you keep worrying, "I don't know what to say, I don't know what to say, I don't know what to say...", then guess what?  You're not going to know what to say.  But if you really look, listen, and put trust in yourself and your partner, then you can do this.  Don't worry about being as funny as the Upright Citizen's Brigade, or Drew Carey's Improv shows.  In fact, right now, don't worry about being funny at all.  In fact, don't worry.

Just make a scene.  Relax.  Create.  You'll be fine.  No one's life is hanging in the balance.

Remember, improvisation can be a really great time, if you can let yourself go. 

And also remember--- theater is a sport.

Any questions or comments?  Let me have 'em!  Share them with me below, or send me an e-mail at!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Free Excerpt from "AEROPLANE OVER THE SEA" For Two Males and One Female, for Auditions or Class Work!

Script Cover For my play, Aeroplane Over the Sea
Today at Theater is a Sport, I would like to offer a free excerpt from my play Aeroplane Over the Sea, a one act drama available from Brooklyn Publishers, for the use of auditions or drama class scene work.  Or, if you just like reading excerpts of plays, of course!

I am very fond of this play.  The title comes from a great song by Neutral Milk Hotel called In An Aeroplane Over the Sea.  I tried to write a play that would make people feel the way that song makes me feel. 

The play takes place in an Unnamed Country.  A Good Doctor from America has arrived to help people.  Unfortunately, the political climate is not very friendly toward Americans.  In particular, the Peacemaker hates all Americans.  In this scene, the Doctor has been arrested after a bombing in the streets.  He did not commit this act, but has been arrested for it.  Now, he must face the Interrogator.  The Interrogator is a pretty blond woman, who has VERY unorthodox methods of interrogation. 

If you want to read more of the play, or order it for a production, you can do so by CLICKING HERE.  If using this scene for classwork or audition purposes, please give the play and the writer (me, Bobby Keniston) credit, okay? 

So, without further ado, here's the scene:

Aeroplane Over the Sea – Page 15

SETTING: The Interrogation room. It is simply a room without

much light. There is a table with a chair behind it. About five feet

away from this table, there is another chair.
AT RISE: The DOCTOR is in the chair away from the desk. There is

a burlap bag over his head and his hands are bound. The

PEACEMAKER stands behind him with his club out. HE takes the

bag off the DOCTOR’s head. The DOCTOR gasps.
PEACEMAKER: Be ready, Doctor. The Chief Interrogator will be here in
a moment, and you will stand out of respect. Is that understood?

PEACEMAKER: Good. (HE calls out) The American is ready!

(PEACEMAKER roughly pulls the DOCTOR to his feet. The

INTERROGATOR enters. SHE is blonde, pretty, wearing an American-style

businesswoman suit with a skirt. SHE carries a clipboard/folder

that SHE sets on the table. SHE has a big smile as SHE faces the

DOCTOR. SHE crosses to him. When SHE speaks, SHE sounds

American, no different than the DOCTOR in syntax or accent.)
INTERROGATOR: The Good Doctor! Such a pleasure to meet you.
Out of respect, I will give you the highest greeting we possess in this
country. (SHE leans in kisses the DOCTOR’s left cheek and then his
right.) Are you comfortable, Doctor? Peacemaker, you may free his
hands. I don’t think the Doctor is going to give us any danger, are
(PEACEMAKER frees the DOCTOR’s hands.)
You may sit, doctor, take a load off, as they say. You’ll pardon me if
I walk around a bit. I’ve been sitting all day.
(The PEACEMAKER pushes the DOCTOR roughly into the chair.)
Now, Peacemaker no need to be so rough. I’m sorry, Doctor, but the
poor Peacemaker has such a stressful job. I’m afraid it has made
him a bit of a sourpuss. (Playful) You are much younger than I
expected, Doctor! I’m happy to have you hear. It gives me an
opportunity to speak in a manner I became accustomed to when I
was living in America.
(The DOCTOR reacts.)
Aeroplane Over the Sea – Page 16
Are you surprised? It’s true, I lived all over America… Los Angeles,
Texas, Detroit, and even some time in New York City. I’m quite fond
of America, really.
DOCTOR: (With a hint of rancor) But not Americans, I take it?

INTERROGATOR: Nothing could be further from the truth! I have
nothing but the highest respect for Americans, particularly those in
the medical field. No, Doctor, I have nothing against Americans.
After all, I once imagined I might become one. My problem is with

DOCTOR: Then you should have no problem with me.

INTERROGATOR: That is what we’re here to figure out. Isn’t this some
situation we find ourselves in together? Perhaps had we met when I
was in your country under different circumstances, we might have
been friends. So why don’t we try being friends now.

DOCTOR: You want to be my friend?

INTERROGATOR: At the very least, friendly acquaintances. After all, I
have job to do, and you can’t fault someone for doing their job, now
can you? Especially when the job is trying to put an end to violence
in the streets.

DOCTOR: I came here to help people.

INTERROGATOR: I have no doubt. And what more noble purpose is
there than that? (SHE leans over and points to a place on her leg)
This here, Doctor. Do you see this spot on my leg? I’ve been
wondering if I should have it looked at or not? Can you see it?
Should I be concerned? (Slight pause) Don’t be shy, Doctor.
Please, do me this personal favor.
(The DOCTOR leans over and takes a quick look at her leg, and then
sits back up.)
DOCTOR: It looks like a freckle.

INTERROGATOR: A freckle? A simple freckle? Are you sure?

DOCTOR: I believe so. It’s impossible to say for certain in this light, but
I am fairly sure it is a simple freckle.

INTERROGATOR: What a relief! How about that, Doctor? You came
here to help people, and you’ve already helped me. You’ve
accomplished your goal. Congratulations.

DOCTOR: Don’t mention it.
INTERROGATOR: How much do I owe you? An arm and a leg? (SHE
laughs) Don’t you enjoy expressions that employ body parts for
imagery? An arm and a leg, give you ahand, have a heart, off with
his head… although, that last one is moreof a French expression
than American, isn’t it? Off with his head. (SHE smiles) Would you

Aeroplane Over the Sea – Page 17
like a drink of water, Doctor? Perhaps some Coca-Cola? Americans
love Coca-Cola, don’t you?

DOCTOR: I’m fine, thank you.

INTERROGATOR: Such nice manners. Tell me, do I remind you of your
dead wife? She had blonde hair, didn’t she? I’ve seen her picture.
It’s right here in the file. So pretty, your dead wife. Tell me about


INTERROGATOR: I beg your pardon?

DOCTOR: I will not discuss my wife with you.
INTERROGATOR: (playfully pouty) Oh, but why? I would love to hear
about her… what her secret was for capturing your heart!

DOCTOR: Some things belong to me, and only to me.
(The PEACEMAKER hits him open-handed across the back of the head.)
INTERROGATOR: Now, Peacemaker, let’s be civil.

PEACEMAKER: I’m sorry, Chief Interrogator.

INTERROGATOR: If the Good Doctor does not wish to tell me about his
wife, I won’t be crude enough to pry. (to the DOCTOR) I see you
can be very strong-willed. While I find that an admirable quality in a
person, it makes my job a bit more difficult.

DOCTOR: Sorry.
INTERROGATOR: (dismissive wave of the hand) No need to apologize,
Good Doctor. (slight beat) Everyone can be broken. Are you sure
you wouldn’t like a glass of water?

DOCTOR: No. Thank you.
INTERROGATOR: As you wish. (SHE looks into the folder for a
moment) You’ve worked hard all of your life, haven’t you Doctor?
Jumping from home to home growing up. It says here that you even
paid your own way through college. That is quite an achievement.

DOCTOR: I suppose.

INTERROGATOR: You worked for a construction company during your
college breaks, didn’t you? That’s not easy labor. You know how to
really work.

DOCTOR: Being a Doctor is real work.

INTERROGATOR: Of course it is, but let’s not pick nitties, Doctor. I
believe you know what I mean. I’m talking about the difference
between an educated man and unskilled labor.

DOCTOR: I would not describe my construction work as unskilled.

INTERROGATOR: No? What area of construction did you work in,
Doctor? (SHE smiles a very big smile) What skills did you develop
while working construction?
Aeroplane Over the Sea – Page 18
(The DOCTOR says nothing. The INTERROGATOR looks at the

PEACEMAKER and gives him a slight nod. The PEACEMAKER grabs

the DOCTOR by his hair and pulls his head back. HE takes his club and

places it across the DOCTOR’s neck, choking him. After a moment, the

INTERROGATOR holds up her hand and the PEACEMAKER stops.)
Peacemaker, what am I going to do with you? Tch, tch, tch. So
rough. How is the Doctor going to answer my questions if he can’t
breathe? (back to the DOCTOR) Let’s see here. (looking at file)
Apparently you worked with the demolition department in your
construction job. Would it be safe to say you learned a great deal
about explosives in that line of work?

DOCTOR: I was never in charge of…
INTERROGATOR: (cutting him off) The question was not about being in
charge. The question, good sir, was whether you learned about

DOCTOR: Working in the demolition department taught me a small
amount about explosives in regards to their purpose with
construction sites, but…

INTERROGATOR: Thank you, Doctor. It is so much easier this way
when you cooperate, isn’t it? (beat) Did you cry when your wife
(No response)
You must have. I would guess you cried buckets and buckets. Her
dying like that, leaving you all alone. Your unborn daughter dying
with her. It must have been quite a waterfall of tears, never being
able to hold your child. Did you resent the doctors who let them die?
DOCTOR: (fierce) Shut up.

INTERROGATOR: Or did you rage against the Universe itself? Are you
an angry man, Doctor?

DOCTOR: No. I am not.

INTERROGATOR: Not even when those you called friends
disappeared? Those same friends who always secretly wondered to
themselves after a dinner party, ‘what does she see in him? Nice
enough guy, sure, but why him? What’s his secret? How did he get

DOCTOR: My wife loved me.

INTERROGATOR: Of course. But it’s true your friends all disappeared,
isn’t it? Perhaps they couldn’t understand why it had to be her who
died and not you. Have you ever wondered that? Have you ever
wished it was you who died, Doctor?
DOCTOR: (quietly) Yes.

Aeroplane Over the Sea – Page 19
INTERROGATOR: (with faux sympathy) Perfectly natural. To blame
yourself. (beat) After such an emotional trauma, many might wish to
have revenge. Retribution. Is that why you came here? To find
your revenge?
(No response.)
I’m trying to help you.

DOCTOR: Help me how?

INTERROGATOR: Why, to help you clear your conscience of course.
To help you save your soul.

DOCTOR: From what I understand, there have been bombings here
long before I ever arrived. Some group that calls themselves the
INTERROGATOR: (snapping a little) That’s enough! (composing
herself) The idea of any “resistance” is a nothing but a fairy tale. And
it suggests, Doctor, that our people are not happy here. Suchsuggestions are not very polite. (beat) Violence in our country
comes from outsiders. And you, sir, are an outsider.

DOCTOR: I’ve done nothing wrong.
INTERROGATOR: If you say so. (SHE sighs) I suppose that is enough
for now. You will be our guest here, Doctor, until we decide your
case. I thank you for diagnosing my freckle. We’ll talk again
tomorrow. Perhaps you shall find me prettier then.
(SHE leans over and kisses the DOCTOR on his left cheek and then his

right cheek. SHE stands, looks at the PEACEMAKER and nods. The

PEACEMAKER puts the burlap bag back on the DOCTOR’s head.

Again, you can order the play by CLICKING HERE.  I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from what I consider to be a fairy tale for older audiences.

Until next time, always be braking your legs, and remember--- theater is a sport.