We have no time to drill on techniques during rehearsals. Each member of the company should reserve a few minutes a day to work on the 5-finger exercises of acting. Work alone or in groups but master these techniques. Our goal is the art that conceals art. It will not conceal until it is perfect. The following are reminders:
Direct tones to the front. They should hit a point on the hard palate just behind all the upper front teeth.
Lift the head and toss words up and out. From any point of the state, words should hit the backboard of the auditorium and bounce back. Keep your chin up always. Clear bright tones, no fuzzy edges -- that’s what we want.
To get this “up and out” tone, play the game of tossing a ball over a roof to someone on the other side, speaking lines as you do so, and tossing the ball on the last word.
Remember that in comedy lines must be tossed up with a bounce and a snap. To get the idea, bounce a ball and catch on the last word. The catch gives the little snap and hold that a comedy line must have. Never permit yourself to get the least bit careless in this technique. The release of laughter in your audience depends upon your success in this toss and catch technique.
Remember that lines must accumulate as they build to the end, in speed or in brightness or in intensity or even in volume. Each line must have its climax: but remember, too, that lines must overlap until you come to the end of the thought. Guard against over-phrasing. Instead of breaking lines up into phrases, learn to lift up the important line in a line or group of sentences. In finding the word, suppose a noise occurred during the speaking of a line: what word would you try to project above the noiseis order to convey the meaning of the line?
Don’t stop for commas after introductory words in a line such as: well, now, so or even the name of the person spoken to. Link them to the rest of the line immediately.
Work on articulation so that words have clear, distinct edges and yet see that speech is easy and not pedantic: tip of the tongue exercises should be practiced regularly. “Tip of the tongue, the lips, the teeth,” lightly, crisply, swiftly spoken should hep you with this articulation.
Hold your vowels! Consonants are uttered lightly and quickly. Vowels give body to speech, quality, richness. Hold them until they are clear and pure! Don’t let the tone slide as you speak a vowel, hold it steady. (Unless you are working for a special trait of character.) Remember to open the mouth the width of two fingers for open vowel sounds. Or you will have a speech that is all consonants.
Stick to the rule: business and movement should end with the last word in a speech. Avoid the tendency to wave your hands at the beginning of the line. Let business and lines start easily and build to a clean, crisp finish.
Be sure to vocalize the first word of a line. There is a tendency among you to just breathe the first words, Even though a line begins with the, see that you phonate it completely. There is a general tendency among you to breathiness in speech. Avoid it! Vocalize, phonate. Do a few me-me-me, mo-mo-mo’s before each performance and rehearsal.
Learn to walk with complete “follow-through.” It is important that your toes carry out your step to their very tips.
Walk with a free, wide swing form the hips; long full strides’ continuity of movement.
Keep your hips under you; pull up, With arms stretched sideways, shoulder-high, do deep knee bends until you have acquired the feeling of “the pelvic girdle” and the stretched torso. If you are to be dynamic on the stage, you must achieve this; it must be habitual.
Master of these outer techniques is the fundamental basis of acting with style. It is the basis of artistry. Once you have mastered these physical problems you can concentrate on a charcter and on response to situations. Such mastery is the basis of relaxation and ease.
Hold words back until they are inevitable. Check on this often --has the emotion built high enough, been repressed enough, to warrant vocal expression? Have ideas grown until they are ready to be put into words? Can your feeling be expressed in ways other than words? If so, express them so and throw words away.
Total organic response is imperative at all times, complete response of your entire mechanism. Be sure that words are not your sole response. Remember that drama is conflict; it is emotion in conflict; emotion is physical. Attraction toward, revulsion from, express this physically. You go away from one thing, one idea, on person, towards something else; part of your body is pulled back while part is impelled forward; express it physically. You are caught between warring emotions, within or without -- anger at, love for, shame -- express it without words. Suppose sound was drowned out for a time in the theatre: culd you play the existing conflict in pantomime.
To memorize correctly is imperative. To memorize by rote is not only a waste of time but can produce the worst of vocal and thought habits. Memorize by thought sequences and thought motivations and by inner improvisation of character. Even though you are memorizing silently be the character thinking and responding to listeners, speakers and environment. That is: create motivation in characters and situation for the lines you are learning. Memorize in sequences not in single lines.
Concentrate hard on focus: Actors: project clearly the essential of the moment; allow time for the specific message to travel to the back of the auditorium. Directors: seek the right means of highlighting this impression. of throwing focus and of holding it. Learn from the movies -- don’t be afraid to hold the camera on a movement until it is crystallized . . . Give words time at climactic moment so reverberate in the auditorium. In our mania for pace we too often miss this important element. Master this are of achieving focus.