by Frank Hauser and Russell Reich
Okay, this is not a play. It is, however, a very good read and a useful tool as an actor.
I received this book as a gift from a very thoughtful friend and devoured the whole thing in a few hours. It is a quick read, full of funny and smart lessons. Below, some of my favorites.
79. Reverse the material.
Stanislavski says somewhere, "If you are playing a good man, look for the bad in him; if you are playing a bad man, look for the good in him." Obvious, but easy to forget.
An actor floating along on the surface of a character is cozy and boring.
88. Humor falls mostly into one of two categories.
British actor Edward Petherbridge aptly described the first category of humor when he said, "No one ever got a laugh out of something that wasn't someone else's tragedy."
But audiences also laugh at statements or actions they recognize as implicitly true. "When a thing is funny," wrote George Bernard Shaw, "search it for a hidden truth."
Part of your job as a director is to help the audience make connections that delight the mind. When an audience thinks, Ah! That suggests this, the accompanying reaction will often be simple laughter, a sure sign that their synapses are firing and that you, the playwright, and the actors have done something right.
97. Love triangles.
Two actors on stage establish a single visual relationship. Add just one more actor and you have up to seven relationships: one relationship between any two of the individuals (that's three relationships), one for each of the possible pairings of two individuals in opposition to the third (that's three more), plus the unique relationship that exists between all three.
Look for threes. When you have a triangular situation - and therefore rich dramatic possibilities - make clear choices as to who is in opposition to whom and how alliances and allegiances shift moment by moment.
104. An audience's interest in the action is only as high as the actors' interest in it.
Keep an eye out for disinterested responses such as yawning or an actor's gazing upon anything other than what the audience should be looking at.
Watch extras in large groups, especially. They frequently steal vital focus by being negative listeners, hating everything they hear.
Here's the rule: Listener reactions that are positive and interested focus audience attention on the speaker. Listener reactions that are negative and disinterested steal attention away from the speaker and toward the listener.
114. Beware the naked truth.
Yes, nudity might bring in a crowd, but at what cost? Earnest nudity imposed by sincere directors is rarely the reliable conveyer of inner emotional nakedness and vulnerability they suppose it is.
More typically, when the skin makes its appearance, the audience is ripped from the world of the play along with the clothing. The audience is deposited in a prurient inner world far from the plot. Their eyes no longer watch the eyes, mouths, and hands of the performers, but are diverted, no, riveted to other body parts. The audience and the story often become lost to each other.
These are just some of the wise words from these two accomplished men. I laughed, I recognized truths, I learned. If you have any interest in directing, or in getting inside a director's head - check this book out. You won't regret it.
Tomorrow's play: The Rainmaker by N. Richard Nash