I've got to be honest: it's been a pretty cool year for me, gig wise. The two plays that I've chosen to be a part of are in two vastly different venues. One was the Badlands Passion Play in Alberta, which is in the largest amphitheatre in all of Canada! It seats 2,700 people, and the stage is as big as a football field. The other, Almost Maine at Pacific Theatre, will begin in November and is in a 190-seat alley theatre in Vancouver.
I knew before beginning the Badlands Passion Play that clarity would be of the utmost importance. So I engaged the use of articulation and projection, and quickly realized that wasn't enough. The audience is often more than 50 feet away and they can't really see my face. It's like watching a Lego man at arm's length. So, I wondered, how do I communicate a thought from that distance when the audience can't see it in my eyes? It's all about amplification! The breath informs the thought, to inspire leads to inspiration, and then turn it up to eleven. Every moment comes from breath, but expands past the lungs, through the body, and moves me. For example, when an idea strikes me, my idea is in my breath and it pulls me forward three steps. The audience can see the thought in my body and it reads truthfully without turning the performance into some grotesque pantomime. This new "physical language" was great to discover.
Every time I work with a different director I learn something new. I was fortunate enough to work with Barrett Hileman and Jessica Hickman this summer. The insightful and valuable lesson I learnt on this production was "phrasing". I always do my work. I know what I'm saying, to whom, and why. I understand the thoughts, beats, moments, arc, and the journey the character takes. However, this summer I finally understood "phrasing". For example, when you tell a story, there are many details, moments, subplots, and asides that can often distract from the overall point of the story. It's easy to get marred down by the details and the weight of those moments, but it's important to push through and past them; to carry the thought to the end of the sentence, to the point of the story. In other words, finish the "phrase". This is a valuable tool that I can apply to achieve clarity on any stage and in any subsequent project.
I'll be back in Vancouver this coming November for Almost Maine by John Cariani at Pacific Theatre. I'm curious to see how my new discoveries will inform my work in such a different venue. Of course, since the technical requirements of the space are different, I will adjust my performance for the medium and the space. But the same breath inspires the moment and clarity of thought. Communicating to the end of the phrase will always apply. And so, I will return to Vancouver a stronger actor. Always learning, always working, always better.