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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Joy of Acting

Greetings and welcome to theater is a sport, my own little place on the internet.  My name is Bobby Keniston, and, if you've ever wondered what I look like, see the picture above and add a beard.

Since January, I've been very busy directing.  I directed a play I wrote called Waiting to be Probed:  A Love Story, and I am currently in upweek for a production of The Jungle Book, starring 24 children between the ages of 3 and 17.

I love to direct.  It's a great feeling, corralling a group of people together with the similar aim of creating something.  I love to have a vision realized, and changed and added to by the input of other creators.  I love the responsibility of making stage pictures and moments that will hopefully be found compelling and interesting to watch.

Having said this, I'm getting pretty tired, and I'm looking forward to doing some acting this summer. I have been cast in three productions at my summer home, the historic Lakewood Theater in Madison, ME, and I can't wait to just focus on building my characters, and being responsible in my own little way to help tell the story we are telling.  I have the distinct pleasure of playing E.K. Hornbeck in one of my favorite plays of the last 100 years, Inherit the Wind (easily in my top 20), Mr. Applegate, the devil, in Damn Yankees, and Cookie in the new musical comprised of Gershwin tunes, Nice Work if You Can Get It.  

After spending a good deal of time directing and writing, acting feels almost like a vacation.  Please don't get me wrong--- acting is hard work, and a craft I have the utmost respect for.  What I mean to say is that acting, in comparison to directing, is pure playground.  It's giddy exploration.  You are responsible to yourself and to your scene partners.

You needn't worry about the bigger picture, the grander vision.  Your responsibility as an actor is to bring your character to life, and, in doing so, telling your piece of the story.

I'm often surprised when I see actors worrying about the bigger picture, criticizing a director's choices, things like that.  I get it, of course--- every person on stage and off, has opinions about how things should be.  I suppose I have even been that way in the past.  But, now, for me, at the community theater level, I am simply grateful to act and to not have all the aesthetic choices left up to me.  Certainly, as an actor, I have strong opinions of how my character should look, move, talk, react and behave.  But I have no interest in figuring out the greater problems of how to stage everyone, unless that's the job I've been hired to do.

As a director, particularly as you get closer to performance, you have to be ready for questions constantly, from actors, designers, volunteers, the producer, pretty much everyone.  And when you're working with children, you have to be ready for a great number of those questions to feel like a non sequitur, but still try to answer it as seriously as possible, because, while you may not understand their concern or where it is coming from, it is a genuine concern for them.

It's nice not to have to have the answer to all of those questions for a while, and just focus on yourself, When I got my new scripts, the first thing I did was highlight my lines and read through all of them for the first of what will wind up being many, many times.  Since Inherit the Wind is the first one up, I have already starting learning lines, searching for a character arc, doing research on the real Scopes trial and H.L. Mencken, who my character is loosely based on (or inspired by).  It's the fun kind of homework that comes with breathing life into a character--- analyzing a script, looking for actions, creating a physicality and a rhythm of speaking.  It all feels like play to me, which is a beautiful thing.  I don't need to worry about how the lights are going to create the transition from the courtroom to the town square... not my job, and I'm glad it's not.

I give my all to directing when I'm directing.  I keep so much in my head, that sometimes it feels like it might leak out between my ears.  It's a joy, but a joy that comes with a great deal of pressure.

Acting is a joy with its own pressures, of course, but the pressures are not as far reaching, and the rewards are far more immediate and sometimes quantifiable.  You see, a director's work, when done well, should almost be invisible, where, an actors' work is right there in plain sight for all the audience to see and hear and applaud.

Acting is creation without worry of the budget or how much dough the show rakes in for the theater. Acting is being there, and giving your all for rehearsals and performances, but not for production meetings

Yes, acting is my vacation.  I mean, after all, who wants to sit still and relax during a vacation when you can be creating something?

Thanks for reading my blog.  Feel free to leave comments about your feelings and experiences with acting and directing below.  And if you like my blog, please feel free to follow it!

Until next time...

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