AACTFest 2015 Workshops

AACT stands for American Association of Community Theatre.  This terrific national organization holds two biennial gatherings (AACTFest) on alternate years.  In even years, it’s an international festival (this past June, in Florida), wherein amateur companies from all over the world are invited to bring their productions.  In odd years, it’s national, with select companies performing (usually about a dozen plays are staged at each festival).

In addition, workshops are given each year, aimed at various types of artists.  I am pleased and excited to announce that the AACT has selected me to give two of them at the 2015 Festival, which will be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, from June 23 to June 28.  There are many reasons to attend the festival outside of my two workshops, but if you do come to the Festival, I hope you’ll stop by one of my workshops and say hi!

Playing the Verbs:  

The most-visited posts on my blog and the search terms used to get to them are about acting beats and how to play verbs.  Beats and Verbs are rehearsal concepts that many community theater actors don’t know how to use.  This workshop introduces the “how” in clear and simple terms, and gives actors a new way to think about their characters, one which lends greater dramatic impact and believability to their performances.

Great acting happens when you play the verbs, not the adjectives and adverbs.  How do you move from playing “I’m angry”, “My character is a silly person”, and “She is making me impatient in this scene” to something that is verb-based and much more compelling to watch?  We’ll examine how to choose the strongest verbs and then make the tricky leap to how to rehearse differently to take advantage of your great choices.  This is a hands-on, practical workshop — come prepared to play!

Blocking:  Creating a More Interesting Visual Presentation

Not every community theater director knows how to block a play to maximize dramatic impact and comedic effect and, even more importantly, to simply hold the audience’s attention.  Blocking the play is a creative opportunity too many directors miss, but it’s not that hard.  Blocking the play well is the single easiest and most impactful thing a director can do to improve the production.  There are some basic guidelines any director can use to create a more interesting visual presentation, and I share them all in this workshop.

The easiest way to improve the quality of a production is through good, creative blocking.  The stage directions in the script are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to blocking a play.   All comedy is physical, and most dramatic moments usually are physical as well.  We’ll discuss the difference between movement and activities; how to mine the script for hidden opportunities to add movement; how to heighten dramatic impact with your blocking; why blocking is not just for blocking rehearsals; and how to help your actors discover better performances through movement.

While the first workshop is primarily aimed at actors and the second at directors, the truth is that both artists can probably learn something from each of them.  Directors who understand acting verbs can help actors to a better performance, and actors who understand the principles of blocking will find that it helps to unlock their own creativity, not to mention speeds the blocking process.

I am so honored to be given this opportunity.  Stay tuned for more information about when my workshops will be held, as well as more information about AACTFest 2015!

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New Workshops for Actors and Directors

I’ve reconfigured the Workshops page (formerly “Seminars”) to include a number of shorter workshops.

The Spacious Acting™ Workshop remains the broad overview of the most important aspects of acting, an intense way of being immersed in what acting really is.  It’s intention is to give you the experience of what you’re driving toward so that you can identify it in the future and work toward it in a more intentional and productive fashion.  Without that experience, you think you’re doing great work when you really aren’t, simply because you have nothing to compare it to.  Once you have that experience, you can move to a whole different plane.

However, it’s not for everyone.  For one thing, it requires three days (or two long ones).  For another, there are topics that can’t be properly covered in it.  So there are some shorter workshops that can improve your work.  Here they are, in brief:

Beats and Verbs: They sound simple, in concept.  They’re tough, in practice.  This workshop gives you a good grounding in them that will help you take ownership of the concepts and apply them in your work.

Connecting the Dots:  Script analysis is apparently one of the trickiest things for untrained actors, and I’ve found they don’t even realize what they’re missing.  If you aren’t naturally gifted in this art, you need someone to show you the way.  Most texts on the subject are too mechanical and don’t help you to understand how to put into practice what you discover about your character.  I do.

For Directors Only:  All actors are different, but they fall into easily identifable groups.  Understanding what group an actor is in tells you what he needs from you to produce his best work.  His learning style, how he processes information, and what makes him most creative is key to getting the best performance you can from him.  The odds are that you’ll have someone from each group in every play you stage.  You need to deal with each of them differently.  In addition, we’ll cover the most useful approaches you can take with actors of varying capabilities, no matter what group they fall into — including the neophyte actor!

Plugging in on Stage:  This is all about receiving from your scene partner and reacting only to what you get.  I don’t see nearly enough of this happening in community theater, even among experienced actors.  This is a completely experiential workshop.  We do it until you get it.

Creative Blocking:  Good blocking that keeps the audience interested, maximizes the fun, and improves the storytelling can be so hard to find.  Yet it’s the simplest way to make dramatic improvements in both the quality of the acting and the audience’s enjoyment of the production as a whole.  I show you how it’s done.  This one’s for both actors and directors.

Pre-Production Essentials for Directors:  Because most community theater directors get promoted from the acting ranks, they don’t always realize that there’s a ton of work that should be done before auditions.  This workshop helps you to understand how to improve your shows by preparing well.

Not all of the workshops’ detailed descriptions are posted yet, but they will be soon.  Keep checking!