Monday, September 23, 2013

Anticipation, Captivation, and Impact

Last year, Theatre Bay Area sponsored a study on the impact of theatre on audiences, and how that related to satisfaction and customer loyalty.  In many respects, the study didn’t reveal much that practitioners didn’t already know from experience; nonetheless, it is a largely unstudied relationship, which makes their work both interesting and commendable.  They published their results, albeit without some of the most compelling figures (statistics, people, we want raw numbers!).  For instance, they report that women were more likely to be the “deciders” on going to the theatre—picking the plays and purchasing the tickets—but don’t reveal the stats behind that statement, the percentage of women deciders versus men, (let alone its statistical significance).

They did produce a nifty chart summarizing their findings. The diagram “illustrates key relationships between readiness, impact and loyalty, based on the totality of the data set.”  To fully understand it, pay close attention to the "R Squared" value that shows the ability of one factor to influence or predict another.


One of the interesting take-aways is the suggestion that knowing the story before  going to the theatre adds to both the anticipation and overall emotional impact.  Anticipation by itself (R squared = .16) didn’t lead to greater impact; finding the production “captivating,” naturally, lead to both deeper impact and greater likelihood that they would recommend the play to others.
One way to interpret these findings is to tell more of the play's story in your marketing material-- don't be coy.  That, apparently, helps get people to the theatre. You'll still need a great show to make them come back, though.

Now the study would really have been complete if they looked at how these elements correlated to alcohol consumption. 

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Disappearance of Mary Rosemary Photo Shoot in 60 Seconds

Last week I met with three of our actors for our pre-press photo session.  We'll do a second round of press and archival photos after the show is up.  For a change of pace, I decided to do time-lapse video of the set up and shoot....

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, September 16, 2013

Actors Have a Tell

What is it?  How do you spot it?  And what do you do once you do?
For this production I have the distinct challenge and pleasure of working with an all new cast; I’ve never directed any of my actors before.  This means, of course, that I have “learn” them, a process that is more important than communicating my vision of the play. 
A director’s vision can be communicated quickly when there are no obstacles.  It can also die on the vine if I don’t understand how to express myself so I'm understood, and identify  and address habits that may blur the clarity of each moment on stage.  “Habits” can blur that vision by mixing an actor’s mannerisms into a character’s.
Every actor develops habits.  They're like a “tell” in poker because they communicate something other than what we want.  Sometimes they are based on strengths— things that work well on stage; at other times they are attempts to cover up weaknesses.  Habits are not inherently good or bad: sometimes the ‘strengths’ are wrong for the character; sometimes the ‘cover’ works well.  The question is always whether they’re right for the character and provide clarity to the moment.
Some familiar actor-habits: 
  • ·         Slapping your hand against your thigh as you speak for emphasis
  • ·         Standing with your weight on one foot
  • ·         Soft vocality (swallowed words) at the beginning of lines… or the end
  • ·         Disconnecting or moving away for no reason after a confrontation
  • ·         Acting before the line rather than through it
  • ·         Speaking too quickly… or to s l o w l y….
  • ·         Trapping your breath in the upper chest
Sometimes these “tells” are the actor’s personal habits, but more often I find that they appear only when the actor is on stage.
Identifying actor-habits gets easier the longer you work in theatre, especially as a director (when you’re responsible for judging and crafting a performance and you observe them through all the stages of rehearsal).  But the main way to spot tells is by simply watching and listening.  Unfortunately, we don’t have the phrase "active watching" in our idiom.  Listening embodies the idea of pro-action, which I like.  Tells are often the most pronounced at the beginning of the rehearsal process, when the actor is getting  accustomed to the role, but they can come back later if they fall into old habits.  This is most painful when the habits re-surface after the rehearsal period, while the show is in production.  Which is why it's important to identify and address them early in rehearsal so the actor is a making conscious choice to do something else.  Spend the first few days of rehearsal watching actively, rather than being focused on shaping their work.
What do you do when you spot a tell?  Every habit  and every actor is different, so there’s no blanket solution.  Tactfully pointing out the habit to your actor is often sufficient.  Some habits are harder to change, though, and require supplanting the behavior with another.  If it’s  a physical habit, explore the way the character moves through the world, their gestures, and where emotions “live” in their body.  If it’s a vocal habit, play with other ones—musicality, elegance, sharpness.  Focus on the vocal creation of character.

Monday, September 9, 2013

And... we're back

As many of you know 2nd Wind's blog sleeps in between productions.  It's a way to protect and nurture our creative juices.  Those are, in point of fact, a little less ripe than in year's previous, and I find myself unsure of what I want to blog about for this production.  Luckily, we've got a tradition of posting images from our first read-thru as the initial blog of a new show, so I've gotten a "Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free" card for this round.  But I will say this-- The Disappearance of Mary Rosemary is the story of a little girl who disappears for several days on a small island, only to return with no memory of the event.  Years later, her fiancé can't resist the urge to bring her back to the isle... in doing so summing forces beyond his understanding. At its heart The Disappearance is an old-fashioned ghost story.  It was originally written by JM Barrie of PETER PAN fame, but after a smashing success, running for 340 straight performances, the play disappeared from the stage. This adaptation resurrects his story in the Louisiana bayou against the backdrop of soldiers returning from Iraq.

And now for those images....


Labels: , , , , ,