It had been awhile since I’d seen good theatre, not that what I’ve seen lately wasn’t good per say, but this was just a whole different level. This past weekend I spent most of my time in a Broadway theatre house of some sort, watching actors sing, dance and perform classics. Yes, they were amazing, yes the lighting and costumes were exceptional and yes most of the acting was engaging. But what struck me the most was the contact and connection.
I thought I was spoiled with an exceptional program and amazing kids (I am), but I realized this weekend that we are lacking in contact and connection. Connection is the basic thing that most of my actors get, eventually. Playing off the other actors on stage and allowing others to play off them is the most basic way to act, and yet it is so hard. Luckily, this is something we get most of the time at HHS.
Our problem here is contact. I’ve realized, which will be an odd phrase to type out, we are afraid to touch each other. Contact and touch is a basic human need, we need to feel the touch and friendship of each other. Think about it, how many times a day do you hug someone, high-five, slap, touch a person a day? Probably many. But why does this not translate to our stage? How is it that two best friends can fall all over each other off stage, but be scared to sit near each other when they act on stage?
Take Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, two best friends in real life, playing best friends on the stage. Their rendition of Waiting for Godot is brilliant, not just because they are formidable actors, but because they have that connection and contact.
Walking away from each show I saw this weekend, I realized I had this overall sense of need to teach my students not to be afraid of each other, of the connection. So, my new year goal is to teach this, to allow my students to become better humans and actors.
So, to all my students and actors out there, here is my challenge for you. Look your fellow scene mate in the eyes, understand and use your text, and don’t be afraid to reach out and grab your fellow actor.
Become human again on stage.