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Monday, April 13, 2015

RESPECT for the STAGE

The Center Theatre, Dover-Foxcroft, ME
Greetings, and welcome to Theater is a Sport, my own little place on the internet to talk about theater. My name is Bobby Keniston, and I'm an actor, writer, director, and all-around theater geek (and proud of it).

Today, I want to talk a little bit about "the stage".  Some are fancier than others, some are bigger than others, some higher off the auditorium level, and, of course, some theatrical performances are not even held on a stage.  Yet, however grand or humble your space may be, there is something important to respect about it:

IT'S WHERE THE STORY IS TOLD.

Up or down there, on your stage, or in your performing space, is a separate place from the auditorium or "house", whether your play breaks the fourth wall or not.  It is where the lights hit the actors and the actors tell the story.  In the wing, actors wait to come out as characters.

I guess what I'm trying to say, at the risk of sounding a bit silly or cliche, this space, this stage, is where the magic happens.  It is the focal point for the spectators to become one with the performers, and to be sucked into your story.

Actors must respect their magic space.

And here are some thoughts on how to do that:

1.  GREET YOUR SPACE.  I know this may sound way out there, but an exercise one of my professors in college had a cast do was to walk around the space and say "HI!" to everything we saw. This was also a bit of a vocal warm-up, as we were projecting the word "HI!"  Silly as this may sound, I found that it gave me an appreciation for the stage we were using that I never really had felt before.  It is good to know every little nook and cranny of the area you're performing in.

2.  IMAGINE THE FEET THAT HAVE "TREAD THE BOARDS" BEFORE YOU.  I have mentioned before in this blog that I was fortunate enough to have Lakewood Theater as my summer home growing up.  It is a historic theater in Madison, Maine, and the stage has been acted upon by many a famous person, including Humphrey Bogart, Betty White, John Travolta, Jessica Tandy, Geraldine Page, and Hume Cronyn, just to name a few.  It's a very old theater, and, when I'm performing there, I sometimes like to imagine these people who were there before me, waiting in the wings or in their dressing room, nervous and excited about going out on stage.  Even if the stage you are performing on is younger, and, perhaps without an "illustrious history", it doesn't really matter--- people who have come together to CREATE something have been waiting in the same wings you are now waiting in, or standing in the same spot delivering lines as you are now.

3.  ALWAYS BE IN CHARACTER WHEN YOU'RE ONSTAGE.  This is hard, of course, and all actors do their best, but, whatever you do, don't break the reality of your magic space by waving or winking to an audience member that happens to be your friend in real life.  You'll have plenty of time to talk to them later on, at a pub or a restaurant.  When you're onstage, you're onstage.  You're in a different world.

4.  APPRECIATE THE SPACE EVEN AFTER THE FINAL CURTAIN.  You have just spent a few hours helping to tell a story. You have worked hard to bring the audience into the world you and your fellow cast have created.  You have created an aesthetic to draw people in to a story.  Now that the show is over, don't just break that completely.  Change out of your costume before going into the house to meet your friends and family, and don't greet them by crossing the stage as if it were just another surface to walk across.  Come down into the house out of the stage doors, not from the stage itself.

I know this may all seem odd, to make such a big deal out of an area where one performs.  But I have found that being on stage, in character, in front of a captivated audience, to give some of the greatest joys and excitements of my life.  The stage has given me this.

The least we can give it in return is respect.

Thanks for reading Theater is a Sport.  If you want to learn more about me, click HERE, or HERE, or HERE .

And, while you're at it, you can check out my other blog, where I am attempting an experiment to write a short short story every day for a year, between 100 and 250 words.  It's an experiment I'm nervous about, but excited for, and really hope I can make it.  You can check out that blog by clicking HERE.

Thanks again, and feel free to comment below with your thoughts on theater in general, or respecting the stage specifically!

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