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January 11, 2008

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Adam

Interesting. I'm fascinated that there are so many different accents still in this country of people all watching the same TV.

When people come to NYC their accents soften or flatten or become more new york. I wonder if the same happens to acting styles.

Scott Walters

This is a good thing, but something that will disappear more and more the longer centralization continues. It's a big country, and not as homogeneous as we sometimes think. And we should celebrate it, and reinforce it.

Now, imagine if the theatre wasn't only regional, but also had diversity as far as population was concerned. In other words, what would happen if theatres weren't mostly centered in cities, but we also had theatres in smaller towns and rural areas - how might the diversity increase?

Karl Miller

DC is also awash in the classics, which I didn't appreciate until my 3rd (or so) year there. Michael Kahn brought the Juiliard standard to town and employs scores of locals each season ... even more, now that he's opened his 800-odd seat Harman Hall. His Academy of Classical Acting is a one-year intensive MFA with G.W. that also enriches the talent pool.

Lots of Checkhov, Shaw, Ibsen, Shakespeare, plus more and more Restoration and Moliere -- this can give the community a "conservative" veneer that matches the commemorative, monument-making spirit of the town, but it also provides some solid training.

I hate to put it in such dickish terms ... but in DC, classical training has the same standard-unit measurement of worth that, say, an episode of "Law & Order" has in NYC. It is the credential that marks you as a viable candidate for work -- or qualifies you for the kind of work that happens to be available.

I wonder if the hip anemia your friend noticed and the tv-standard-dialect Adam mentions are related. I think theatre in DC benefits from a certain distance from the film/tv industry. Subject for another post, probably ...

Adam

There are theaters in small towns, they are just, er, small and there aren't as many of them as there are in the cities. I always get excited when I have a play in a far out place. I came from a small town and that's where I learned a love of theater and I'm kind of thrilled by the idea of kids in church basements rehearsing my plays.

MG

It's interesting you bring up the distaste some people have for technique in other cities. It happens here in Chicago also. I used to think it was just one of the hazards of performing to a large house. You go to a play and if you're sitting anything less than a mile away, you see a lot of technique but little soul or heart in the performance. It's rampant in regional theater, but I was disappointed to see it at theaters once known for their rawness. There are so many smaller venues to play out here, you get used to the intimacy, and sometimes crave it. I was trained to be technically proficient, and I learned when to adjust it for a house.

The first Steppenwolf production I saw upon arriving in town was a crushing disappointment. Couldn't put my finger on it. I suppose the legend of repeat viewings of "True West" when I was an impressionable Southwestern teenager had built the company up in my mind to nearly impossible expectations. As soon as I could afford it, I went to see a Steppenwolf show the papers were breathlessly touting as brilliant, performed by actors who consistently win local awards. But after watching the ensemble perform this well-written play, I left feeling completely unmoved.

I wracked my brain. I couldn't come up with what the actors had done wrong. The pace was fine, the direction was good. Was it the storyline that bothered me? No, I could have pictured the same plot in others' hands spinning gold out of it. Finally, I figured it out. The acting was technically proficient but I never once believed these characters were really hurting, that they could spin out of control, even when the script called for them to almost do just that. Their emotions did not rise from deep inside the characters, the actors put them on like an overcoat.

I used to think it is simply a matter of the size of the space. You have to amp up your technique to fill the Goodman vs a theater space that was once a dry-cleaners. But I have also seen masterful performers who have the technique to play to a large house without sacrificing the soul or rawness of the piece. Saw "I Am My Own Wife" at the Goodman, and Jefferson Mays still exuded intimacy and rawness to match his house-filling technique. I was even sitting fairly close to the stage, and yet he didn't ring false a bit. By contrast, I sat just as close at an opening the other night at a highly-respected theater. It was a medium-sized space, about 150 seats. This production which will no doubt be lauded with good reviews and awards. The actors, all professional Equity card-holders, were all technique and zero heart or chance. My bullshit detector went off all over the place, and my mind began to wander. I wanted to like them, I really did. Their eyes would fill with tears and I would think, "where the hell did that come from?" When I spend my time wondering what I would have done with the part, (even the parts of the opposite gender), it's a bad sign.

Lucas Krech

This is interesting in regards to a company I have worked with, the Barter Theater in Abingdon, VA.

First off, it is not in a major city, but rather serves a local area of many small cities, towns and more rural areas. I blogged about this in a post titled something like "in the best possible way" or somesuch.

Secondly, they have a resident company that does the majority of the work. They only "job in" when they either have casts that are larger than the resident company or specific characters for whom they do not have an adequate fit in the resident company.

The company maintains a very high quality of production and has a strong and unique "local flavor." I would be curious to see how the company would be received in New York(or other "major" theatre center) as the style is very different than the prevailing style here. At the same time it is perfect for the region it serves.

isaac

and their artistic director is a mensch, Lucas!

Lucas Krech

Yes! Richard is wonderful. I had a fantastic time working with him.

stefzad

Don't tell me this. They might be doing my play in DC and I am not a fan of the OSCAR MOMENTS acting that gets kudos in other cities. I am banking on the richness of the scene down there to provide me with a great cast.

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