Improve acting & dancing in less than 24 hours?
May 2, 2015 6:12 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to callbacks for a production of Carousel tomorrow. Yay! I'm in the running for the role of Nettie, as well as the ensemble. I'm primarily a singer and will be asked to read sides and perform some quickly taught choreography. What can I do between now and tomorrow to improve my acting and my dancing? Tips, tricks, and anecdotes welcome, assume I'm starting from zero in both skill sets. Thanks!
posted by firei to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know if this will help, but something that drives me nuts when I see it is when people react to another character's bit of dialogue way too soon, before the idea or emotion they're supposed to react to is even half-expressed, so that you can see that the actor (not the character) is mostly just anticipating saying their line. Giving just a bit of space for the other actor to get the idea across and for you to absorb and react to it makes a difference there, I think. (That doesn't mean waiting until the whole line is spoken, just until the idea is out there.) Pretend you're hearing the line within the time-frame it's actually spoken, for the first time (vs. as fast as you're reading). (Also though, don't wait too long, e.g. for the whole line to be finished. Listen for the timing of the expression of the key idea.)

The other thing I notice is when people hang back physically while another character is talking, again as if just waiting to speak, not moving at all, and then just mostly use their heads and arms to support their own line. Use your whole body, all the time. Don't pace around too much, either, just move and hold yourself naturally, like you do when you're talking to a friend (or enemy or whatever). (You might be doing other things while someone is talking, for example, if it's indicated.) Think about how you're going to use your physicality.

(IANAA, just have taken a few classes here and there, and have seen a lot of good but more bad acting, and those two things make a huge difference for me as a member of the audience.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:40 AM on May 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'm not an actor but the single most useful thing I ever read about what's behind a lot of social interactions is Keith Johnstone's stuff on status. Here's a very short primer. You can probably find more on how to raise and lower your status in a scene by fairly simple techniques of posture, eye contact etc.
posted by crocomancer at 8:43 AM on May 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yay, congratulations!! I have done a considerable amount of community theater and honestly, I would recommend just going in relaxed (do some stretching or yoga before), hydrated and high-energy. Wear clothes you can move in and project a positive attitude. If you've been selected for a callback, the director(s) see some potential in you that they're going to explore. Try to listen carefully to any direction they give and modify your behavior at their request, even if you're nervous. Don't put down your abilities or apologize for your lack of experience. Let us know how it goes!
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 10:06 AM on May 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Dancing - listen to the music, dance around the house. It will help you get the rhythm of the songs. Watch youtube videos and try to follow some of the dance moves. Listen to and sing show tunes before the audition to get revved.
posted by theora55 at 10:28 AM on May 2, 2015

Giving just a bit of space for the other actor to get the idea across and for you to absorb and react to it makes a difference there, I think.

Don't forget to breathe.
posted by carsonb at 10:32 AM on May 2, 2015

Dancing - relax your body. Not relax in the "calm down, you're going to be fine" sense, although that too! I mean relax your hips, knees, shoulders, and arms. Do this very intentionally. Practise it while moving to music. I spent years feeling like I couldn't dance at all, and some of that was because I was too tense to do the movements or move naturally.
posted by delezzo at 11:22 AM on May 2, 2015

Congratulations! Callbacks are SO FUN!!

Dancing: actively listen to the choreographer, get in their/the director's sight lines during the run throughs and smile no matter how terribly you're doing. I am not a strong dancer but I survive in dance auditions by projecting a positive attitude, focusing on the arm motions and hamming up my face. Unless you're going out for Broadway, they're likely looking for a positive attitude and willingness to learn rather than all out dancing skill. Have fun or at least fake it!

Acting: Listen to your scene partner, look up from your page and at your partner as often as possible (move around and cheat out when you can) and make one bold choice for the scene. Bold choice examples- this character's bra doesn't fit and she's resisting the urge to rearrange it, she's in love with her scene partner but hasn't told them yet, she's very shy and has to clear her throat and push up her glasses before speaking, she's drunk. It is not important that the casting team know what this choice is- it'll help you get out of your head and will give an extra dimension to your character. It will also ensure you're reading the lines differently from the dozen others they're seeing. Make the choice within a few minutes of getting the sides and don't give into the urge to drop it at the top or half way through.

Other tips from an old musical theatre lady: Double check your callback info and make sure to wear/bring the right clothes- nothing more embarrassing than everyone changing into movement clothes and you're still in a dress and heels for the dance call. If they ask you to bring dance shoes, and you don't have any, a low heel with a strap is good or simple Keds work in a pinch. Just make sure you can move easily and they don't go flying when you kick. Get there early and talk to the others when you arrive- 1) you'll feel like you're playing with friends rather than strangers 2) you never know who's a company member/friend of the company! There's no non-creepy way to say this: the stage manager is watching you (they're the ones that have their eye out for divas/jerks) so project "low maintenance team player" the second you walk in the door. Bring water and a granola bar- 9 times out of 10 they let people go as they're passing on, so hopefully you'll be there a while!

posted by Aunt Maude at 3:32 PM on May 2, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice!! Callbacks went...okay. I was disappointed in the choice of reading - I was only asked to read two sentences, with no one to play off of. And the dance call was very hard - fast and complicated!

That said, I have a great time! I was expecting to hear back last night (because that's what they told us!) but no email has come in yet. I'm not sure if that means that I didn't get cast, or if they just haven't sent the email yet! I will share when I have more info!
posted by firei at 3:55 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ok, finally, an update! I was offered one of the 5 female ensemble roles (but at least I'll have a name! I'm playing Virginia.)

Thanks again for all your help! :)
posted by firei at 6:37 PM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

Yay! Thanks for coming back to tell us.
posted by BoscosMom at 11:49 PM on May 7, 2015

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