Spontaneity and Preparation at Audition Doctor

unnamedThis week, Lyn Gardner wrote of an experience she had at the Forest Fringe: “I had one of those moments in the theatre when it feels as if you have seen something that was made just for you. They don’t happen often, but when they do, it is as if the artist has glimpsed inside your heart and mind, and made a gift just for you. One that you will carry with you…But it isn’t the case that such a performance will speak to other people in the same way it speaks to you…art isn’t fixed, it’s malleable, plastic and shape-shifting.”

The flexibility and spontaneity that theatre offers an actor is also the reason why actors who are preparing for television or film roles come to Audition Doctor. The live response to their work and artistic choices are an important part of the development of their craft.

In an interview about Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke mentioned: “Some actors have a plan: “This is what I’m going to achieve in this scene” and you can usually smell it which means you’re not watching creativity but a kind of re-creativity. Like “I cry on this line” and sometimes it’s quite good. But with Robin, he had no idea what was going to happen….All the best performers I’ve ever worked with create their own vibration of spontaneity.”

However, Hawke was also quick to say that spontaneity only emerged out of a wealth of preparation and attention to detail.

“Peter Weir used to say that the difference between being good and great is like one twist of the screw but it’s the hardest one to do…so much rehearsal, so much thought needs to go into the tiniest gesture that ultimately needs to be spontaneous and can’t even be planned out.”

Audition Doctor offers this level of both research and rehearsal, which consequently often gives rise to the twist in the screw that Weir speaks of. Furthermore, the engagement of heart as well as head that the sessions encourage mean that the character you create is true to the text.

Hawke said in the same interview: [Every kind of art, not just acting] is like a sailboat, Every true moment, every beautiful thing, every honest thought puts wind in the sail. Every fake moment every cheat, every lie is a little tear. If you have a few tears, the ship will still move. But to make The Godfather…there’s got to be no tears. How many can we get rid of? How much truth can we put in the sail? If we can do that we can make something really beautiful.”

Actors come to Audition Doctor because they find that the more sessions they attend, the fewer tears there are in their performance. Getting rid of them takes regular practice and commitment, however, students find that it pays off because they put themselves in the position where they are closer to giving an audience the experience that Gardner speaks of.

Shakespeare’s Birthday

The fanfare surrounding Shakespeare’s 450th birthday has proven Johnathan Bates’ assertion that “Shakespeare has never fallen out of fashion but in the past 25 years or so his reputation has become truly stratospheric.”

There are articles delineating how phrases Shakespeare coined centuries ago are still in common usage and the fact that his birthday celebrations are being put ahead of festivities for St George’s day. There is no doubt that there is still an appetite for his plays to be performed.

However, Dominic Cavendish – the Telegraph’s theatre critic – conceded: Is this week not as good as any to admit just how intellectually challenging much that lies in the complete works can be and how borderline incomprehensible his language can get, both in terms of the now archaic and obscure nature of his references and the complexity of his poetic expression?”

Amongst all the interactive Bard games and video uploads of people reciting their favourite Shakespeare quotations, there have also been admissions from leading figures in theatre over the inaccessibility of the language. Cavendish’s article was entitled “Admit it – most of us don’t understand Shakespeare”.

Nick Hytner’s confession last autumn has also been reprinted:  “I cannot be alone in finding that almost invariably in performance there are passages that fly straight over my head. In fact, I’ll admit that I hardly ever go to a performance of one of Shakespeare’s plays without experiencing blind panic during the first five minutes. I sit there thinking: I’m the director of the National Theatre, and I have no idea what these people are talking about.”

Even actor Ethan Hawke, who was in The Winter’s Tale at the Old Vic, said: “I can’t even read the plays, I know some people can but I literally have a tape of the production of the play and read it while I [watch] it.”

There has been a renewed determination to make Shakespeare productions even more accessible. There is a push to ensure productions communicate energy, emotion, the vital essence of the work, and do its utmost to be as lucid as possible for the modern ear.” This, of course, is down to the actor.

As Audition Doctor stresses, if you don’t understand the language, the audience won’t either. Hawke’s admission is reassuring as that it doesn’t make you less of an actor not fully understanding the language and having to discover the language. It’s in sessions such as at Audition Doctor that the text can be unpicked and pored over.

As Hawke said: “I love breaking down the text and figuring out what the words mean.There’s a great joy that comes from at one point not knowing what a series of sentences mean and then later being able to get a laugh on it. Not only do you know what it means but you can actually translate it to a thousand people…That comes from building the character and inhabiting the circumstances with such commitment and force.”

Audition Doctor is about the exploring as well as the resultant performance. The satisfaction that comes at the end of every lesson is why students return time and time again.

Ethan Hawke went onto admit that while writing was the most peaceful part of making theatre,  “there is a tremendous amount of anxiety and stress that comes along with performing…I feel like I’ve spent a great bulk of my life at war with my nervous system.”

Audition Doctor sessions are all about preparation which greatly reduces the stress that comes hand in hand with an audition. As Hawke said: “Shakespeare becomes so alive in the doing.” The “doing” at Audition Doctor ensures that you “live” the character honestly, thereby giving a truthful performance.