Timmins Theatre at its Best
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CURTAIN CALL “Another Side of Theatre”
What is the definition of the word Theatre? What are the different types of Theatre? What is a theatre Practice? What is the role of the Director? What is Casting? How is Stage Action planned? How are Rehearsing schedules planned? What's in a Actor? Role of the Scene Designer and Stage Carpenter? What is a Property Master? What about the Make-Up Artist? What does the Lighting Artist do? What is Arena Staging? What is the definition of the word Theatre? Theatre is a word with a magic ring. It calls up a bright and exciting pictures. It may be of people in holiday spirit streaming down the aisles of the playhouse. It may be on the wonders hidden behind the folds of the front curtains. Or it may portray the hushed and eager audience, waiting for the house lights to dim. Theatre magic also works its spell on the other side of the curtain, behind the footlights. Anyone who has ever been part of this world knows the thrill of life backstage. No one can forget the excitement that mounts steadily until the moment when the stage manager finally signals "Curtain going up!" Some people go to the theatre to laugh, to relax, to escape from their everyday worries and cares. Others go to be emotionally stirred, to live (in a second-hand way) through the troubles and crises of the characters on the stage. Still others seek adventure and excitement. Some are curious to find out how other people live. Some go to learn, to be taught a moral lesson. As the French actor Louis Jouvet said, "Faced with the mystery of life, men invented the theatre." Back to Top What are the different types of Theatre? One way to classify the legitimate theatre is by type of staging. Three general systems are in use: The proscenium stage is still the most common. The scene of action is framed by a proscenium arch, and the front curtain represents the fourth wall of the stage room. When the curtain opens, the audience looks through this fourth wall into the room. The thrust stage also known as the open, or platform, stage extends into the audience. Spectators sit on three sides. Often this type is combined with proscenium staging. Part of the action takes place in front of the curtain line and part behind. Theatre in the round is also called arena, or central, stage. The action takes place on a platform space or on the floor in the centre of the room. The audience completely encircles the playing space. Usually the spectators are banked in bleacher like tiers of seats around the stage space. Back to Top What is a theatre Practice? Professional or non-professional, a play begins with a producer or producing organization. The choice of a play depends on the abilities of the cast and director and the taste of the audience. Budgets must allow for paying royalties, of fees to publishers and playwrights for permission to perform individual plays, or plays must be selected from the vast number in the public domain. These plays on which the copyright has expired - in the United States, 50 years after the death of the playwright. Back to Top What is the role of a Director? The director is at once a teacher, a creative artist, and a capable organizer. Before a production is begun, the director and backstage staff determine both the artistic ideas and the practical needs of the play. They form their artistic ideas from a careful study of the play and an analysis of the characters, idea, plot, and settings. Practical needs include figuring the cost of production and the time needed to build and rehearse the play. Back to Top What is Casting? Usually the director selects certain scenes with typical speeches of each character and holds try-outs. Each candidate for a part reads for the director. In casting, the character descriptions given in the text need not necessarily be followed to closely, but obvious physical characteristics must be considered. A small man, for example, can not be cast the part of a football giant. The reading is not the only basis for selection. The director may see possibilities in the candidate that can be developed during rehearsals. Back to Top How is Stage Action planned? Before rehearsals begin, the director must plan the stage action. With the designer, the type and size of setting is determined, the main acting areas chosen, and entrance and exit doors placed to best advantage. If much action is to take place at a fireplace, for example, it is put as far downstage, or nearest the audience, as possible. The setting is recorded on a ground, or floor, plan, which is used in blocking out the action. The pattern is recorded in the script, or prompt-book. Movements must be motivated - that is, reasons for movement must be found in the play. The arrangement of performers - the stage picture - must be clear, well balanced, and varied. The performers in lead roles must get attention. Back to Top How are Rehearsing schedules planned? The director works out a careful rehearsal schedule, allowing time for all parts of the play and extra time for difficult scenes. The last week of rehearsal is taken up with solving technical problems and with dress rehearsals, so the play itself must be in shape before the final week. At the first rehearsal, the actors read the play aloud. The director interrupts only to give his / her feelings about the characters. Then the director tells the actors what general artistic ideas are to be carried out in the production. At the second rehearsal the director begins to work out their planned action with the actors. Once the actor fixes his action pattern, rehearsals become a continual process of refinement. The director's eyes and ears are tuned to everything the actor does. The director corrects awkward movements and readings of lines that do not carry the right meaning or emotion. As much a possible, the director suggests rather than demonstrates. The director must not neglect essentials. The actor should be heard and seen throughout the house. The plot and theme create the dramatic impact and must reach the audience as the playwright intended. During the week before dress rehearsal the director emphasizes pace and general movement. A common critical comment of the audience is that the play dragged. The director watches the climactic points - the "big scene" - to see that they are developed properly and register with sufficient force. Dress rehearsals need the directors concentrated attention. All the production elements - costumes, make-up, lighting, scenery - must be pulled together. The director watches for small technical mistakes that may destroy the result of careful rehearsing. After performances are started , the stage manager becomes responsible for the smooth operation of the production. Back to Top What's in an Actor? The actor must be able to stand and move with ease and grace. His/her voice must have range beauty, and strength. He/she must know his/her own psychological and emotional make-up, for he must draw on his/her own understanding of life to recreate the lives of others. One school of acting is based wholly on technique. The actor learns to express characterization through body and voice alone. Unfortunately, human behaviour cannot always be shown by physical demonstration. As a result, this kind of acting often seems cold, mechanical, and stagy. However, it is consistent, and it can be heard and seen by the audience. Another school is based on the Stanislavsky approach. Often called simply "the method" it is taught at Actors Studio in New York and other schools. In it the actor identifies himself/herself with the emotional life of the character and "makes-believe with conviction." This emphasis on creative imagination arouses great sincerity and gives the stage character a sense of real life. But sometimes it is undisciplined, loses awareness of the play, or cannot be seen or heard. If each actor is allowed to move and talk just as he/she "feels" the unity of the production may be lost. The best approach to acting has the good points of each school. The best performance is given by the actor who comes to the role both from outside and inside and has a trained body and voice combined with a real response to the inner life of the character. In working up a part the actor must understand the play his character, and the artistic ideas behind the production. He/she must know how to read lines clearly - with meaning and emotion. He/she must be devoted to his/her task, responsive to his/her director, and conscientious about rehearsals. He/she knows he/she must memorize lines before he can build a character. The theatre still belongs essentially to the actor. All other theatre artists think in terms of him/her. The actor is a keen observer of life. He draws on what he/she has experienced and what he/she has seen. He/she knows that a characterization based on another actor's performance is a shallow and inadequate copy. Back to Top Role of the Scene Designer and Stage Carpenter? The designer's setting is based upon the needs of the play. He sketches in the locale and helps to create mood and atmosphere. He/she works with line, form, and color to compose a unified and visually dramatic impression of the play. He/she is not concerned with petty or attention-getting background. The best settings are so well moulded to the action they often go unnoticed. One of the designer's first concerns is to give the actor the best possible playing space and to focus audience attention where it belongs. The designer must consider the opportunities and limitations of his/her theatre-size of the proscenium openings, off-stage space, depth and height of the stage house, sight lines of the audience. In working out his/her design, he/she decides how the scenery is to be set up and handled. Scenery may be run (moved by hand), flown (pulled up into the stage house with ropes and counterweighted on the side of the stage), or moved on wagons (platforms set on casters). He/she must consider off-stage storage space and time needed for making a shift. The builder, or stage carpenter, carries out the designer's plans by using his working drawings. His/her stage scenery must look substantial and real, but it must be light enough to handle easily. The basic unit for scene construction is the flat. This is an oblong wooden frame, usually 1" x 3" pine, covered with canvas or muslin. Flats are fastened together with lash lines (ropes laces) or joined permanently with a long batten (1" x 3" board). When they are joined and the cracks between them covered with a Dutchman (a canvas or muslin strip), they look like a solid wall. A theater builds up its stock of flats in assorted widths and two or three standard heights-12,14, or 16 feet - depending on the height of the proscenium opening. Platforms and step units need somewhat sturdier construction. Platforms of 1" x 3" lumber, with enough triangular bracing and with lids of flooring lumber or plywood, are rigid yet light enough for easy moving. Steps can be built of 1" lumber. Threads should be wide enough and risers low enough to permit actors to go up and down easily. Rocks, tree trunks, cornices, and the like are made by moulding papier-mâché or Celastic on frames of chicken wire stretched over a basic wood structure. The designer also supervise the painting, Water paints are used. These are commercial casein-base paints or dry pigments mixed with glue and water. The base color is put on. Then the surface may be textured by dry brushing (making cross strokes with a nearly dry brush), stippling (rubbing over with a nearly dry sponge), spattering (shaking small dots of other colors over the surface), or stenciling (applying a pattern with a stencil cut to the desired design). Good scene painting is judged by how it looks to the audience, not how it looks at close range. Back to Top What is a Property Master? Props (properties) follow the specifications of the designer and the needs of the script. There are three types: hand (carried by the actor), set (furniture), and trim (flowers or curtains). They may be made especially for the play, taken from the theatre storeroom, or borrowed from stores or homes. A prop must be in scale with the setting. Every theatre gathers a store of props from second-hand stores or from home cast-offs. Borrowed props must be handled carefully and returned to the lender as soon as the show closes. Traditionally the property master also sweeps the stage and handles the sound effects. Today, with so many sound effects on audio media, this job is often done by the lighting crew. Back to Top What about the Make-Up Artist? In general it is better to use to little make-up than too much. The audience audience should not be aware that the actor's face is painted. For the actor who is playing his own age, the artist uses make-up to strengthen the features, particularity eyes and mouth, and to add lifelike colour to the face. Character make-up does these things in addition to transforming the face to another age, another type, or another race. This transformation, particularly for young actors playing old characters, can be helped greatly by hats and hairdos. Make-up consists of applying a base colour, then modeling the face by highlighting and shadowing (sinking the cheeks, for example, with a darker colour). Sometimes the modeling is done by applying false (putty or plastic) noses, enlarged eyebrows, or scars. Lines to suggest wrinkles are drawn on with a dark make-up pencil (brown or maroon, not black) or brush. Each line is highlighted with another line, either white or a light tint of the base colour. Lips are outlined and coloured, and a similar colour is applied to the cheeks. After make- up is complete, powder is applied. Crepe hair is used for men's moustaches and beards. Wigs may be from synthetic hair. Back to Top What does the Lighting Artist Do? Stage lights supply dramatic visibility that adds meaning to the play, the setting, and the actor's performance. No other tool of the theatre art can establish mood and atmosphere so effectively. The well-equipped theatre may use 50 or more lighting instruments and s switchboard of almost limitless flexibility to light a single production. Instruments are of two general types-floodlights and spotlights. Border lights and footlights are types of floodlights. They are used for general lighting, to give tone to the setting and the playing area. Spotlights are used to light the actor. For limited budgets, reflector lamps (like those used in a store window) are a good substitute for regular spots. Ordinarily the downstage acting areas are lighted from in front of the curtain-lights on a ceiling beam, on a balcony front, or in a trough suspended from the ceiling. The upstage areas are lighted from a bridge or pipe mounted directly behind the curtain. Ideal lighting reaches the actor along the diagonal of a cube, 45 degrees each way. One spot has a warm-coloured tint striking one side of his/her face; another spot has a cool colour striking the other side. The usual layout calls for six spots covering the downstage section and six spots covering upstage. Footlights should not be used to light the actor. They create unnatural shadows. Colour is usually achieved with sheets of coloured gelatin placed in a frame in front of the instrument. Intensity is controlled by dimmers. With dimmers the stage can be given any light from blackness up to bright intensity. A popular dimmer is of the resistance coil type, similar to the volume control on the first televisions. More flexible are the autotransformer, the reactants, and the electronic dimmer board. So, to answer the question. Yes ... we definitely need a Lighting Artist. Back to Top What is Arena Staging?  Arena, or theatre-in-the-round, staging needs only an open place with room for actors and audience. The playing space, surrounded by the audience, may be a circle 15 or 20 feet in diameter or a square rectangle of comparable size. The actors use the isles, usually four, for entrances and exits. Little or no scenery is used. Furniture must not obstruct the audience's view. Lighting the most important part of the arena production, must be carefully focused to hit the actor and not the audience. Blackouts instead of curtains are used to begin and end scenes. The actor must move to give all members of the audience a look at him/her. Generally the actor's playing is not as broad as in the proscenium theatre, for the audience is almost within arm's length. He/she must act with his/her entire body., because only one portion of the spectators can see his/her face at any one moment. The good actor registers a compelling impact in this intimate theatre. The audience has a sense of actually being in the play rather than looking at it. Back to Top