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Neb

Acting question: How to play a romantic scene...

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Hey all;

I'm in a bit of a pickle. I'm playing Gillian Holroyd in a small-town production of "Bell, Book & Candle", and I've been saddled with a "romantic" lead who is anything but romantic. He's a bit older than me, I'm 44 and he looks like late 50s-early 60s, but that wouldn't make any difference if he had any kind of charisma at all, which he does not.

I know it's all about ACTING, and I don't need to "feel" any romantic inclinations for my fellow thespian, but this guy actively repels me. He's nervous, wooden, hesitant, and clumsy. I wasn't expecting Cary Grant, Rex Harrison, or even Jimmy Stewart (who had the role of Shep in the film version), but I never imagined this guy in my worst nightmares. His hands are cold and clammy (when he touches my face I want to wipe it off the minute he lets go). When he puts his hands on my shoulders, his fingers dig in and twitch nervously. When he tries a sly smile he looks lecherous!

He's a nice guy, he's just a disaster as an actor. It's torture to be on stage with him, and we go into dress rehearsals next week. I have to carry all of the energy of our scenes together, because he gives me nothing to work with. It's exhausting. I and others have tried to help him relax and inhabit the part, but he is SUCH a cold fish. Why oh why was he given this role?! 8O

Help!!!! Any advice?

Desperate in Kingston, WA (a.k.a. Neb)


Fortus fortuna uvat!

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Poison his coffee and I'll come over and do the role. I'm just a ferry ride away.

Think of it as an acting exercise. How would you react IF you found him attractive? How would you react IF he was giving you anything to work with?

I've seen this situation before. Somehow it's always the guy who's the dud, and my hat is off to the women who manage to carry a romantic scene all by themselves ... by responding as though they were in a scene with Valentino and not Buttafuoco.

William Frawley and Vivian Vance hated each other, but they somehow managed to bring believable chemistry to their TV roles as Fred and Ethel Mertz. It sounds as though your guy has Frawley's sex appeal but lacks his professionalism. So I guess your own professionalism will have to be turned up a notch.

A-roving, a-roving, since roving's been my ruin

I'll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid.

Edited by mrmando

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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Hey, when and where does the show play? A lot of us are within a ferry ride of Kingston!

As to your dilemma... Is it too late to approach the director about changing the dynamics of the relationship? BB&C could use a little spicing up, and if you could make the romance a little more cattish and aggressive rather than sweet and demure (you know, develop character bios for these two that puts a little domestic violence in their background, like On the Waterfront or Virginia Woolf) you might be able to harness lack of chemistry and physical revulsion into another, spicier brand of physicality. I know that version of BB&C would make me sit up and take notice a bit. (And you never know -- the director may be sensing the brokenness of the thing but be at a loss about what to do about -- just waiting for a creative suggestion!)

Who is the director, btw, and who's in the cast?


Greg Wright

Managing Editor, Past the Popcorn

Consulting Editor, Hollywood Jesus

Leader of the Uruk-Howdy, Orcs of the West

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OK. Here is advice from the spousal unit, garnered during her MFA studies, during which she had several acting partners like yours.

Her acting instructor passed on a tip he got in a class from Uta Hagen. She said to find one physical characteristic about your partner that you actually do like. It could be his left earlobe, or the way the light hits his hair. Every person, no matter how repulsive, said Ms. Hagen, will have one attractive feature you can isolate. Then you have to perform the trick of magnifying its attractiveness. It's not just a nice earlobe, but the most exquisite earlobe in the world. It's not just a reflection off the hair, but the brightest, purest light you've ever seen. And it's drawing you in. You're transfixed by it. You've gotta get close to it, no matter the cost.

Let us know how that works out. We may hop the boat and come see it.


Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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Yous guys are great! Thanks! Sorry I've been slow to respond to your replies. First dress was last night. It was an adventure if nothing else. My "Shep" was his usual unappealing self, PLUS he couldn't go a page without completely losing his mind and forgetting whole chunks of lines. I spent so much time feeding him his lines that, if I got paid by the word (ha: if I got paid at ALL...but that's another subject) my take home for last night would have fattened by about 15%.

MrMando: Poison in the coffee is starting to look really good. After tech rehearsal Sunday I came home and grumbled to my husband that I deserved a Purple Heart or at least a Combat Infantry Medal for doing this show. Gah. I've actually been trying to find the "why" of why Gil likes this guy, and all I've been able to come up with so far is that she's spent her life with glamorous, bohemian, artsy, colorful, supernatural types, and this grey, lifeless, nerdy, clammy nebbish is SO different that he's exotic and attractive to her. *sigh*

I like your wife's Uta Hagen advice. It will be a herculean task, but I think I can make it work. It may default to "light on the hair", since this guy's physical presence and personality are a comprehensive train wreck.

GW: The director is Sue Michaelis, and I'm sure you've never heard of her. The Roving Players have been doing shows in Indianola for about 30 years, and in 30 years it seems they've been content to "do it the way we've always done" and not learn real theater craft AT ALL. I was warned going in, by a friend who has Stage Managed for them in the past and refuses to do it any more. I auditioned anyway, because I like this play. Initially I was offered "Aunt Queenie", which was great! Then the Gillian backed out at the last minute and I got bumped to the lead. The initial Shep backed out, too, much to my dismay, and instead of holding auditions to find a new one, the director just called this guy and he volunteered. She KNEW he had a history of nervousness and blank-outs, so WHY?! did she cast him. I'm at a total loss, frankly. Anyway:

Gillian-Me (Nancy Frye)

Shep-Will Stewart

Aunt Queenie-LeOnna Small (she's fabulous, so I forgive her for stealing my part)

Nicky-Craig Hurt

Sidney Redlitch- Ken Stephens

http://www.rovingplayers.org/index.htm

We're at the "clubhouse" in little Indianola, and probably for the last time. They just did a remodel and are being very touchy about us destructive theater types setting up a show in their pristine space...despite the fact that the RP have been doing it there for three decades. They even forbade the sound baffles, so it's an echo chamber now. I see a move to Kingston in their future.

If you guys really want to come over, why not carpool to save dough? The ferry is so expensive. There's a dinner theater on Oct. 13 (love the date: ha!), which might make it more of an "occasion". If you want to just walk over on the Kingston boat, I could pick you up if you don't mind going in a bit early.

Thanks again!

Neb

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Fortus fortuna uvat!

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Hey, Neb. You have my sympathies, truly. I spent about 15 years heavily invested in community theatre (Redwood in Redmond, Driftwood Players in Edmonds), so I pretty much know the drill you're talking about in Indianola.

The upside is that those sorts of "communities" give people a shot who otherwise would probably never get one. And, in a lot of cases, that's a bad thing. I was a beneficiary of that "what was the director thinking" idiocy, however...

I may be able to work in a visit, and will see other in the Seattle crew are interested...


Greg Wright

Managing Editor, Past the Popcorn

Consulting Editor, Hollywood Jesus

Leader of the Uruk-Howdy, Orcs of the West

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The upside is that those sorts of "communities" give people a shot who otherwise would probably never get one. And, in a lot of cases, that's a bad thing. ...

Yes, and yes.

As Bruce Campbell says, you can be an actor anywhere (paraphrase) and community theater is an option. It really does give Joe Average a chance to literally get in the limelight. He also says that you shouldn't do it if you don't enjoy it. Right now I'm dealing with a leading man who is so nervous that he's nauseous before he goes on, and is a mass of nervous ticks on stage. He's NOT having a good time. I asked somebody on production why the director didn't hold second auditions when the original leads backed out, she said "She does hold auditions! We just can't get people to show up!" Now, I don't know if that means she actually DID an audition, or that she usually does. I certainly never received a notice about the second one, and I never saw a notice on the e-list for the Roving Players. You can't tell me there are so few interested parties in the greater North Kitsap area! Frankly, I just think it was a "the devil you know" situation, and she called a known quantity, even though this "quantity" has a reputation for nervousness, blanking out, and zero confidence.

My thing, though, is this: the show is not about me as an actor. It's a product that I am creating that innocent people are paying money to experience. I am extremely averse to offering up a less than professional product. I'm currently working my butt off wearing hats I hadn't planned on wearing in such quantity, such as providing props and wardrobe and doing graphics work for a volunteer job. I'm not in this for the "limelight". I've worked on multi-million dollar films, TV shows and commercials. I've done live performances ranging from robbing trains on horseback to belly dancing. I can get "limelight" any time I want it, and I don't do it for free anymore. I'm beyond that, and I just want to do a good job! I auditioned for this show as an experiment; to see the inside workings of the Roving Players, and as an acting exercise. It's exercise, all right!

With that in mind, last night I think I arrived at a solution to my problem. The director wants the show to be light: big emphasis on the comedy elements, rather than the frankly dark subject matter (if you take witchcraft and the supernatural seriously, which I do). This is helping me a lot with dealing with my Shep. If I really focus on the comedy and the sheer wackiness of the situation, I buy her falling for him. He's hopeless, but that's ok, because she's hopeless, too! Yes, it starts to turn it into a screwball comedy (without Cary Grant, unfortunately), but it helps me a lot. I'm making my makeup a bit stronger and have ramped up the goofy reactions to the other characters. This seems to be helping the energy, at least for me.

If this were a serious little drama or anything, I'd be sunk. Luckily, it's not, and I think we'll be ok.

Thanks again, and let me know if you decide to come to the show!

Neb

Edited by Neb

Fortus fortuna uvat!

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