I have this pet peeve when it comes to certain parts of staging. It’s called a cross. A cross is when an actor or dancer is told to move from one point of the stage to another. I didn’t want to say crosses in the title of the post out of fear of having the religious people freaking out. Well, that and it’s about more than just crosses. Anyway, I hope this helps all of the actors that this applies to.
When an actor is told by the director or choreographer to cross the stage, I can’t tell you how many times it looks like they are just moving because of that exact reason. They were told to. When asking the actors what they are doing during the cross, they say, “I don’t know. You didn’t tell me what to do.” I want to pull my hair out! I want to grab it by the fistful.
The director or choreographer is only there to give you just what the title implies, direction. It’s up to the actor to create the reason why s/he moves. Putting intent behind movement creates interest and energy which adds to the show. If it looks weird, or out of place, then the actor will be told ways to adjust the cross. That first step has to come from the actor, I feel. Otherwise, it would take 4 months of rehearsal to get the show up and running, and even then it would look bad. It would look bad because it would be over worked and lose that spontaneous feeling that reality has. No one plans out every single movement that they will do, do they?
I find that I am thrown, yes thrown, as in flung from the momentum of the show when I see this happen.
When an actor is speaking to another, it’s incredibly important that you maintain eye contact during those intense or intimate moments. The difference between an actor that maintains the connection and one that doesn’t is HUGE! When the connection is lost, it shows that the actor is uncertain or unfocused which to the audience translates as unprepared or not as talented as the actor truly is. When an actor can keep that connection, the moment gets taken to another level because the audience is engaged in the tension that is being built up between the characters.
Staying in the moment
Along the same lines of eye contact, if a movement is not something that the character would do, don’t do it. I know, that’s easier said than done. Here’s what I mean: Just for an example, if an actor was playing Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, there is no appropriate time for him to adjust his dance belt. Or if an actor is playing a corpse and adjusts their shirt because they are self conscious about their stomach. It’s not character appropriate, and again takes the audience out of the moment as well as the actor. When an actor is fully immersed in the character, they will forget their personal issues.
Yikes, I feel like I am being super negative about these things. I don’t mean for it to sound that way. These are easy basics that will help an actor. And I truly do want to help and sometimes speaking truthfully is difficult to hear.
Now, go get’em!!!