Owning the Stage

Directing Without the Drama, Musings, Theatre

I have the same problem many high school directors have… A lack of leading men. I am very fortunate, however to have a bunch of very funny, talented character actors, hence, our fall production Guys and Dolls. I have been working with one of my actors, a sophomore with a phenomenal tenor voice and a lack of self confidence on his role in the show.

He had a major problem with pacing on stage. It was so bad that it looked like a cartoon where his feet were moving independently from his body (a pretty typical young actor problem). I brought the issue to his attention in a one on one rehearsal and then made him run his song while I recorded it and then made him watch it. He had been completely unaware of this until he watched for it and started laughing. “I look crazy” he said.

I asked him why he felt the need to move around, and he said he had seen an interview with someone on Broadway about having to “own the stage”. His interpretation of that, was if he moved around the stage a lot he would own it, almost like marking his territory.

I explained that frequently it was much more effective to just stand and deliver if you truly want to “own the stage” with lots of songs. It is much harder to stand still and command attention (especially for an insecure high school student hiding behind movement) but if you are focused on what you are singing, it is a stronger choice.

We did a bunch of exercises and really played around with his solo so he had specific places to look for different parts of the song and a strong focus throughout and made him try it again without moving. Massive progress made in an hour.

Fast forward to the next day when we do the number with all the back up singers. The first time we ran the number the kids were in shock by the transformation. At the end of the rehearsal, I asked the student how the song felt.

“So much better!” He replied. “That makes so much more sense and I feel like it forces everyone to listen to me, I felt really powerful.” He walked out with a grin on his face.

I love it when they actually listen and apply the direction I give them.

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