The tools for living the roll of your character on stage/screen/internet is our body, our voice, and our imagination. These should be explored and stretched like your muscles. These are the tools of the trade. Think of yourself, as if you were going to a gym and were riding an exercise bike or lifting weights. Your person… your body is your greatest strength and the most neglected tool you use. Your body, voice and imagination can be improved with practice. Yet having these great set of tools doesn’t make you a great character or actor… anymore then buying a set of high priced color pencils makes you a brilliant artist. Learning to bring life to your character is a huge part of developing those tools, and using them within a creative framework.
So I’ve been thinking about this framework and how to use it to bring out a living 3D character on stage.
It has been said and rightly so… “After you put on the costume, the makeup and wait in the area backstage or the green room you should stay in character!”
That statement should includes when you are driving to the event, getting out of your car, walking up to the theatre or event… you are always on stage once you are at the event. That even means “being on stage” when you’re not the immediate center of attention.
When on stage you never get to shut down as your character and take a breather. Your body language still needs to be in the framework of a living 3D person and you need to understand that there are still people watching you. You are still on stage until you get back home off that stage and out of costume.
Body language is an important part of communication, which can constitute 50% or more of what you are saying. If you wish to communicate well, then it makes sense to understand how you can (and cannot) use your body to say what you mean. We like to keep our distance from others and there are very specific social rules about how close we can go to others in particular situations.
This social distance is also known as body space or our comfort zone. We all have this space. Most of us hate having someone right in our face close, just mere inches from us.
The rules about social distance vary with different groups of people. You can detect this by watching people’s reactions. If you feel safe and they seem not to feel safe, back off. If they invade your space, decide whether to invade closer or to act otherwise. Turning sideways is an easy alternative for this, as a person to the side is less threatening than a person at the same distance in front of you.
Regulating the distances between us and other people provides us with several benefits, including:
* Safety: When people are distant, they can’t surprise us.
* Communication: When people are closer, it is easier to communicate with them.
* Affection: When they are closer still, we can be intimate.
* Threat: The reverse can be used – you may deliberately threaten a person by invading their body space.
Think about how you can use your body language to better open up towards your cast mates, family, friends. Even practice with friends by getting to close and sensing the energy change that happens between you both.
Put your arms way out from your body and then have a friend start moving in towards your out stretched arms, then have them move pass your arms getting close toward your body.
How did that feel? Were you feeling unsafe? Did you want to run away? Did you feel that you needed to protect your space?
There is also how you move your body within a space. We’ll talk about that next time.
Fitting your actions to the text, the words of the play, the story, the arcs, the through line, and staying true to the characters.
If you would like to learn more…(I’m a Certified Life Coach) I teach LIFE COACHING SKILLS FOR ACTORS – LIVING THE ROLE! I work with you one on one to build your creative center and help you create a 3D character on stage… lets start with a little improv.
Next Free Class ===> Owning the Space
*Here I am in “West Side Story,” as Action, one of the Jets. That’s me second from the left. Yeah I could sing, dance and fight on stage to a beat. I loved doing musicals.