Written By: Daniel Zvi (Senior)
Letting people figure it out. It’s a pretty hard concept to master. Over the past couple months, as my group has been working on our live performance of The Office, I have had to learn what it means to let group members figure it out. By the nature of my background (ie. public speaking in BBYO, doing plays in both middle school and camp, etc.) I have learned how to project myself and portray to an audience something that I might not necessarily one-hundred-percent relate to. When we began the play, it was fairly obvious which members had been in front of a crowd before and which had not. We had people like myself, Jake Westreich, and even Garrett Mittman who clearly understood how to project, face a crowd, and well, to some extent, act. I am not saying that I am the most talented person in our group, I am simply saying that there was a clear divide. On the other hand, we had people like Jack Quinlevan, Abbi Passey, and Eric Mullins who had yet to understand the importance of remembering lines and actually acting when in front of an audience.
At first, I was fairly controlling. I would tell people exactly how they need to stand, act, speak, even look. I could tell that with some members of the cast, this was what they needed. Eric Mullins for instance, took very well to instruction and genuinely understood the importance of acting in character, moving like the character, even smiling like the character. With others, like Abbi Passey, came the concept of letting her figure it out. Every time she would say a word wrong, or look in the wrong place, originally, I would snap at her. I would tell her that she was doing everything wrong in hopes that the next time she would just turn it around. Eventually, I realized that Abbi wouldn’t progress as an actor if all of us kept ripping her apart just because she said one word wrong. So my decision came down to just letting her figure it out. Every day, honestly, she would get a little better. She started to understand where to look and why, how to say certain words, and all in all, how to act.
Some of our actors needed a little bit of both. Jack Quinlevan, who plays Dwight, has struggled throughout rehearsal and production with learning exactly how to project. Jack has an extremely low voice, so something he has had to work on is projection. Jack has had to learn when to raise his voice and show enthusiasm and expression in his delivery. Something hard about Jack’s performance, is the actual role he is playing. He plays Dwight who throughout the show is known for being a bit less emotional and expressive. The issue, is that when Jack channels that side of Dwight, he just comes off kind of uninteresting.
At the end of the day, the leaders of the group have had to find ways to dabble in both methods. Those two being that of letting actors figure out what they needed to improve, and telling actors directly to their face what they needed to fix and why.