Another good meeting today. This one was a singing and talking meeting. This time I used the song and the monologue, just as I did the introduction and the conversation that followed, as an opportunity to show a bit of who I was rather than how well I could act or sing. Phew, what a load off.
It’s much easier to be myself then to try to show how good I am at being myself. When I do that, I’m acting an audition. The result is much more like what I’ll actually do on stage if I get cast.
Consequently, and I owe much of this to a wonderful voice lesson I recently had, my vocal audition never felt better. I’ve never felt more relaxed, more on voice or more connected with the material. I wasn’t singing at all, really. Nor did I feel I was giving a vocal performance. I had a conversation in an imaginary world which happened to be accompanied by a pianist. Being a good sport, I decided to sing the words on pitch along with the pianist, which consequently made the imaginary conversation more vital and engaging.
The next time you watch a musical or re-run of Smash, watch for the difference between someone singing and someone acting, or talking, on pitch. (It’s what often makes Ivy better than Karen, which of course destroys the entire show.) Someone singing at you might sound very pretty, but it doesn’t grab you and it doesn’t feel real and vital. When someone communicates on pitch, with the same level of engagement and need they attach to non-musical dialogue, the music heightens the vitality of the words and deepens the emotional life of the character. Simply put, the singing becomes the result of the character’s necessity to communicate in a different way. That necessity is just as freeing for the performer as it is engaging for the audience.
My successful vocal audition today was a result of trusting my voice, demanding of myself and the material exactly what I would demand from non-musical dialogue and relieving myself of the obligation to “sing.” I acted on pitch. I’m sure I’ve been told that’s the way to sing musical theatre a hundred times. I never did it until today. Why are the simple things so damn hard?
Another talkback. Topic:
How is acting in a Musical different from acting in a straight play, if it is different at all?
This conclusion was reached unanimously by a panel of five actors whom, while working at the same theatre, come from very different theatrical backgrounds. The reasons are numerous and I won’t misquote my fellow actors. For me it all boils down to style.
Style: The ways in which the world of the play differs from the ‘real world.’ The physical, vocal, emotional, visual, linguistic, spiritual and practical realities of a particular play and they way these realities dictate an artists approach to performing that play.
Every play has its own style. Two productions of the same play are going to have two different styles. Musicals are a type of play and their styles necessitate certain skills from the performers and certain conceits from the audience. Straight plays are the same. No two are alike. In my mind, the discussion of the difference between musicals and straight plays ends there. One could just as easily have to sing and dance in a straight play, and one might do a musical without singing a note or ever moving in a fashion labeled “dance.” Actors have to be ready to live in the particular style of every play they do. Period.
(If you are feeling like this was kind of trick question to begin with, I have to agree. Though, it is never asked as a trick question. What we come to then is a trick answer. Tricky it may be; it’s true all the same.)