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ex-POSITION, EXPO-sition

Dramatic Exposition and its applications for actors, directors, writers

Don't be afraid to be outrageous; the critics will shoot you down anyway. -- Laurence Olivier (to Anthony Hopkins)
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BackStory by Ken Farmer **

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I see the playwright as a lay preacher peddling the ideas of his time in popular form. ~ August Strindberg

Summary

Don't waste things together, one thing at a time.
* Everything you do must be significant.
* Don't tell the story. The character doesn't know he is in a story.
* Reveal one veil at a time.
2003 Playscript Analysis (textbook) Modern Drama

Questions

A good actor makes clear the meaning of the words. A better actor gives also the emotion of the part. The best actor adds emotion of which the character is unconscious. Clare Eames
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* one act fest
"In order to create a complete character, you must research and look for or create new habit patterns for the character; even if it is only seeking out and talking to the type of character you have to create." KF

Notes

Basic Drama @ vtheatre.net/200 *

... Impulses will stage the scene.

You must earn pauses otherwise you bore audience.

There is no reason for logic. There is prototype.

Get into scene immediately, you came from somewhere, the past.

Staging comes from actor's initiative.

Acting is like being in a dream, don't put yourself in it.

... Drama is difficulty.

Feeling is the whole motive, if you don't have it, you can't play the scene.

You can't play comedy unless you know drama.

Director is chief.

Director has a matter of judgment from the heart, not the head.

Audience is moved by the emotion of actor.

Stop acting dialogue.

Keep audience off balance don't let them know what is coming next. Always find the unexpected.

Dialogue is chatter. People don't say what they mean.

Beginning, middle and end must have form.

Serve the authors intention.

Don't play the result.

Come out of character to listen to director.

[ abwag.com ]

Script Analysis Actor:

Theatre Books Master Page *

OBJECTIVES Life, people, circumstances . . . constantly put up barriers. . . . Each of these barriers presents us with the objective of getting through it. The division of a play into units, to study its structure, has one purpose. . . . There is another, far more important, inner reason. At the heart of every unit lies a creative objective. . . . Every object must carry in itself the germs of action. . . . You should not try to express the meaning of your objective in terms of a noun . . . but . . . always employ a verb. . . . [e.g. "I wish" or "I wish to do--"] This objective engenders outbursts of desires for the purposes of creative aspiration. . . . It is important that an actor's objectives be in accordance with his capacities. . . . At first it is better to choose simple physical but attractive objectives. . . . Every physical objective will contain something of a psychological objective, they are indissolubly bound together. . . . Do not try too hard to define the dividing line, . . . go by your feelings always tipping the scales slightly in favour of the physical. . . . The right execution of a physical objective will help to create a right psychological state.

An actor should know how to distinguish among the qualities of objectives, avoiding the irrelevant ones and establishing those appropriate to his part. Appropriate objectives must be on our side of the footlights: personal yet analogous to those of the character portrayed; truthful so that you yourself, the actors playing with you and your audience, can believe in their clear-cut [purpose]. They must be distinctly woven into the fabric of your part; active . . . [to] push your role ahead and not let it stagnate. Let me warn you against . . . purely motor [objectives] which are prevalent in the theatre and lead to mechanical performance. --An Actor Prepares
--Creating a Role

PERSPECTIVE IN CHARACTER BUILDING Perspective means: the calculated, harmonious inter-relationship and distribution of the parts in a whole play or role. . . . There can be no acting . . . without its appropriate perspective. Only after an actor has thought through, analyzed and felt himself to be a living person inside his whole part there opens up to him the long, beautiful beckoning perspective. . . .

Against this depth of background he can play out whole actions, speak whole thoughts. . . . When we come to the laying on of colour along the lines of artistic perspective, we again are obliged to adhere to qualities of consecutiveness, tone and harmony. As in painting, artistic colouring does a very great deal to make it possible to distinguish planes. . . . The important parts . . . are most highly coloured, whereas those relegated to the background are less vivid.

As a part moves along we have . . . two perspectives in mind. The one is related to the character portrayed, the other to the actor. Actually Hamlet, as a figure in play . . . knows nothing of what the future has in store for him, whereas the actor who plays the part must bear this constantly in mind; he is obliged to keep in perspective.

We must not forget one extremely important quality inherent in perspective. It lends a breadth, a sweep, a momentum to our inner experiences and external actions.

Perspective and the through line of action are not identical but . . . the one is the other's closest aid. --Building a Character

Stanislavsky about Stanislav sky: terminology *


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THE BEGINNING

EXPOSITION is perhaps 50% of your success. Very often in class we have to go back to the very beginning, because it's impossible to fix the ending or the climax without re-working the exposition.

What do we need to ESTABLISH in order to have spectators engaged in action?
In Acting One class I call it 5 W's: WHO, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, WHAT.

WHO is your character? (His/her personal history)

WHEN does it take place? (Time of the day, season, historical period)

WHERE? (Place, location)

WHAT does take place? (Conflict)

WHY? (Motivation)

All five are interconnected: by developing your character's personal background you are preparing me for undersdtanding his motivations; defining the time-frame, you give me hints about his/her social psychology; shaping the the conflict, you discover the inner conflict.

The same applies to a director. "To establish" means to make it visible, to show it. Not only you have to know it, but I have to see it.

All of the above is so obvious, it's hard to notice - did we really do the job? "Is the exposition over?" "Not yet?" "When is it over?" "Now?" We go through the beginning of a scene or a monologue many times, we have to know that we are done with the exposition.... Otherwise, we can't go further! We have to stop, because we do not have a major player on board -- the public.

Action

do not assume anything!

Question everything! Did I EXPRESS it? Was it the most economical, most effective way? How would they "read" it? What other meanings can be derived from this gesture, movement, action? Hamlet Read the play!
HAMLET. Artist B. Bezugly
from "St. Petersburg Theatre 1992-94"

See RAT Files


Be specific: select the monologue (scene) and start before-it-starts -- where does your hero come from? What was his day? Reconstruct everything that is missing (check, if does fit into the written text)...

The Opening

HAMLETcase: You understand why Hamlet is not the first on stage for us to see -- we are not ready.

Not ready for what?
Story?
Hero?
What about our "5 Ws"? Was it enough?...

What does this first page (see text on Directing Page) try to establish?

There are two more categories we must introduced --

GENRE

and

STYLE

They belong to two different sets of laws. Where are they in Aristotle's classification?

The Greeks knew only two genres: TRAGEDY and COMEDY. Here comes the difficult round -- we know as "DRAMA." Could Chekhov or Beckett be both tragedy and comedy? This issue of theory causes a lot of problems in class. Unless actor or director knows how to separate and define one and another, he will end up with none. Select one ONLY! Is it a comedy? No? When is it comical?

You see, in order for us to start the storytelling we have to follow a simple formula Aristotle offered for tragedy (ends with the death of hero) and comedy (happy end). We can't skip it in exposition. The first page offers the suspense of danger and fear. Is there a chance that "Hamlet" could be a comedy?

It's a matter of STYLE (see definitions in GLOSSARY). We can and must have our own "reading" (interpretation) of the texts in order to perform, but style is a category of texture (In fact, I advise you to consider "Music" in Aristotle's classification as "melody" or "style").

What is important for us in structural terms is the SITUATION. We have to have it in order for characters to react. The return of the dead Hamlet-father is this situation. It brings in the big story.

If you didn't get them in your first couple minutes on stage, you will spend ten times more energy later. If you lost them, you have to start it all over! Do you believe in love at the first sight? Do you know the power of first impression? Do you realize the importance of the first right and wrong?

Do you have your own style in acting? What is "my" style? The moment you have it, you're a star. No, not the way you move or speak (it's habitual), but the way you EXPRESS emotions, the way you PRESENT the inner life of our soul.
* Always start with emotion first... feel... think... do.
Seagull
Above: Stanislavsky as Trigorin (Moscow Art Theatre, Seagull by Anton Chekhov). Chekhov loved him as an actor, not as a director.

Stanislavsky
Method2002
: From Inside Out

PUBLIC SOLITUDE In a circle of light on the stage in the midst of darkness, you have the sensation of being entirely alone. . . . This is called solitude in public. . . . During a performance, before an audience of thousands, you can always enclose yourself in this circle, like a snail in its shell. . . . You can carry it with you wherever you go. --An Actor Prepares

PS

Actor, remember your 5Ws (above): who, where, when, why, what! Must be established (expressed): character is your responsibility!

Is an exposition for a character different from the play's exposition?

What about the characters that appear late in the plot?

What about the introductions of new themes? Subplots?

Homework

Find the exposition in your monologue. How would I know that the exposition is over? Write down the tasks of your exposition. Use the online monologues.

NB

Must be done in the Actor's Text Format!

Could the first line of the Inpector General be considered as the play's exposition?

Your favorite expositions (list). Use movies, too.

Next: scenes
... Every moment is story telling. * Chose emotion and objective, your body will behave in the character.
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REPEATED FEELINGS
Do we, as a matter of fact, ever feel things [on the stage] for the first time? Feelings we have never experienced in real life? . . . These direct, powerful and vivid emotions do not make their appearance on the stage in the way you think. . . . They flash out in short episodes. . . . In that form they are highly welcome. . . . The unfortunate part about them is that we cannot control them. They control us. Therefore we have no choice but to leave it to nature. . . . We will only hope that they will work with the part and not at cross purposes to it.

An infusion of unexpected, unconscious feelings is very tempting. It is what we dream about, and it is a favourite aspect of our art. But you must not . . . minimize the significance of repeated feelings drawn emotion memory--on the contrary, you should be completely devoted to them, because they are the only means by which you can, to any degree, influence inspiration.
--An Actor Prepares

* Actors have to know what to do to help themselves.

REHEARSAL
An actor must constantly practice to achieve a true creative mood at all times, whether he is performing, rehearsing or working at home.

Some actors . . . have the insufferable habit of rehearsing . . . in barely perceptible, low tones when speaking their lines. . . . That can do nothing but form bad habits. . . . What is your partner to derive from such cues? . . . An actor is obligated to produce his part in full, to give the right responses to his partner, follow correctly the laid-out line of the play and respond to what is said to him by his partner. . . . Otherwise a rehearsal loses all meaning. If . . . everyone takes the right attitude towards collective obligations, comes to rehearsal properly prepared, then a splendid atmosphere is established.

There are many actors who . . . do not take creative initiative. . . . They come to the rehearsal and wait until they are led along a path of action. After great effort the régisseur can sometimes succeed in striking sparks in such passive natures. . . . Only we directors know how much work, inventiveness, patience, nervous strength and time it takes to push such actors of weak creative impulse ahead, away from their dead centre.

Need I explain that such drones who profit by the work and creativeness of others are an infinite drag on the accomplishment of the whole group. . . . One cannot rehearse at the expense of others. . . . Each actor must bring to rehearsal his own living emotions. . . . Actors are not puppets.

When you reach the stage of virtuosity in your psycho-technique . . . rehearsals go easily, quickly, and according to plan. --An Actor Prepares
--Building a Character

ROLE INSIDE THE ACTOR
Among the large number of parts played [by an actor] there are some that seem to have been creating themselves in his inner consciousness for a long time. He has only to touch it and it comes to life without any searching or mechanical preparation. . . . The role and its image have been created within him by nature itself. . . . The actor ceases to act, he begins to live the life of the play. . . . The author's words become his words. . . . This is a . . . miracle. . . for the sake of which we are willing to make any sacrifices, to be patient, suffer and work.

In . . . separate moments, or even throughout whole scenes, you feel yourself inside your role, in the atmosphere of the play, and some of the sensations of the character you portray come very close to your own. . . . This merging with your part we call the achievement of a sense of being inside your part, and its being inside of you.

It is a great piece of good fortune when an actor can instantly grasp the play with his whole being, his mind and his feelings. In such happy but rare circumstances it is better to forget all about laws and methods, and give himself up to the power of creative nature. But these circumstances are so rare that one cannot count on them. They are as rare as the moments when an actor immediately grasps an important line of direction, a basic section of a play. . . . Why is it that some parts of a play come to life . . . while others [leave us] without feeling? . . . That happens because the places which are infused with immediate life are congenial to us, familiar to our emotions. . . . Later on, when we become better acquainted with and feel closer to the play, . . . we shall find that [these] . . . points of light grow . . . until they finally fill out our entire role. --Creating a Role


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PRE-PERFORMANCE PREPARATION
Most actors before each performance put on costumes and make-up so that their external appearance will approximate that of the character they are to play. But they forget the most important part, which is the inner preparation. Why do they devote such particular attention to their external appearance? Why do they not put make-up and costume on their souls?

The inner preparation for a part is as follows: instead of rushing into his dressing-room at the last moment, an actor should (especially if he has a big part) arrive there two hours ahead of his entrance and begin to get himself in form. You know that a sculptor kneads his clay before he begins to use it, and a singer warms up his voice before a concert. We need to do something similar to tune our inner strings, to test the keys, the pedals, and the stops.

We must exercise great care, each time we have a creative piece of work to do, to prepare . . . a true inner creative mood. To prepare yourself, go over the fundamental parts of your role. You do not need to develop them fully. What you must do is ask: Am I sure of my attitude toward this or that particular place? Do I really feel this or that action? . . . Think up various suppositions and suggest possible circumstances into which you put yourself. . . . All these preparatory exercises test your expressive apparatus . . . and will tune up your inner creative instrument. --An Actor Prepares

ACT and DIRECT photo-archives:

PLOT There are plays (inferior comedies, melodramas, vaudeville, revues, farces) where the external plot is the mainspring of the action. The high points are the facts of a murder, a death, a wedding, the dumping of flour or water on one of the characters. . . . In other plays the plot as such has little significance. . . . In such plays it is not the facts but the relationship of the characters to them that constitutes the centre of interest. In such plays facts are needed only to the extent that they provide motivation and opportunity for the actors to express their inner content. Chekhov's plays are in this category. The best thing is when form and content are in complete harmony. There the life of a human spirit in a part is inseparable from the facts of the plot. . . . Let the actor learn by heart and write down the existing facts, their sequence and their external physical connection with one another. . . . With growing experience of the play and its contents this method helps not only to pick out the facts and orient oneself in relation to them but also to get at that inner substance, their interrelationships and interdependence. -- Collected Works, Vol. IV


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