Vocal Styles: Stick to One or Expand?

Vocal Styles: Stick to One or Expand?

About a year ago, pop sensation Ariana Grande sang Carpool Karaoke with Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane where she explained her heavy musical theatre background, after which she and her duet partner had sung “The Song That Goes Like This” from Spamalot. If you know pop culture, you know Ariana Grande and that she’s a belter; she has the range and she proves it. That was why it came as a shock to me when I heard her sing in this beautiful operatic voice, because this whole time, I had boxed her in as this pop singer who always belted because she was a diva. As someone who is not a fan of her music, I will admit that, in another world where she chose a path to sing opera instead, I would be an Arianator. Unfortunately for me, she chose the pop angle—which is perfectly fine, since that was the vocal sound she wanted to build for herself— but because of this decision, she has a huge fanbase now and makes millions. 

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Some Helpful Tips for Learning Your Lines!

Some Helpful Tips for Learning Your Lines!

I can’t be the only one who has opened their script, stared at the first page for what only felt like ten minutes, and then looked up at the clock to find a full hour has passed me by.

When your script has become your comfort blanket, despairing at the thought of letting it go before show week will do nothing to reduce all the other stresses that come with being part of a production.

So, I would like to share a few tricks that, in my experience, have been incredibly helpful when starting to learn my lines.

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Acting Under the Influence: Comedy or Tragedy?

Acting Under the Influence:  Comedy or Tragedy?

Actors have a long association with alcohol.  There are many famous actors with a history of alcohol abuse, including Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton, Errol Flynn, and Humphrey Bogart, to name just a few.  Gerard Depardieu once famously claimed that he could drink up to 14 bottles of wine a day!  But famous actors often live by a different set of rules.  I wondered how community theater or regional actors would answer the question: Have you ever rehearsed or performed on stage while "under the influence"?

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A Guide to a Career in the Performing Arts

A Guide to a Career in the Performing Arts

Do you dream of starring in the West End or on Broadway? Or directing the next record-breaking musical performance? Or even working in theatre design? Well, it sounds like you’ve working within the performing arts.

The performing arts industry is a truly rewarding career. You can express yourself and show the world your creativity, all with the benefit of getting paid! However, to succeed in this industry, you’ll need to work hard. But, once you’ve made it, it’ll be the best feeling in the world.

Here’s everything you need to think about when considering a career in the performing arts.

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Auditioning: Why Wasn’t I Cast?

Auditioning:  Why Wasn’t I Cast?

Auditions.  We’ve all been there.   Trying to channel your nervous energy into a productive adrenaline.   Hoping to put your best foot forward.   Wanting to make a great first impression.    Anxiously waiting until your number is called.   Finally, taking the stage for a minute or two, and giving it your best shot.   Maybe you get another chance to read.  Maybe even a callback.  And then waiting … and waiting … and hoping and praying.   Hopefully, you got the part, but more often than not, you didn’t.   So, what went wrong?  What, if anything, can you learn from this experience?

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The Impenetrable Wall of Theatre

  • Mia Stubbings

It's sometimes really easy for me to view the theatre industry as an impenetrable fortress. A really intimidating, steel-walled, towering fortress. I've heard it's great on the inside; people make things and create productions and explore their passion for live performances and stagecraft. But on the outside, it can be a pretty cold and lonely place. It's like all your resources are on the inside, but you're stuck on the outside, trying to peer in.

Unfortunately, that is how I sometimes feel. No matter that I love theatre with every ounce of my being, or that it's the one thing that makes me truly happy- it's still an industry that is notoriously tricky to get into. I know this because I've been trying to climb that steel-walled fortress for three years now, but my ladder just isn't quite tall enough. It can be a depressing thought, and the reason many people give up and try something else, but I don't feel like giving up is an option. I will get inside, and I will make theatre, but not knowing when is what makes it difficult.

I have had some fantastic experiences since leaving school and having the freedom to explore my interest in theatre. I've worked as Front of House at a rural theatre, marketing the new shows and creating events to help spread the word about productions touring to our little venue. I've worked with a theatre company who I have adored since I was a little girl, and lived the dream by working on their productions including 'Wind in the Willows', 'Macbeth', 'Much Ado About Nothing' and 'The Legend of King Arthur'. I've shadowed a brilliant mixture of directors, on productions ranging from the Jacobean tragedy 'The Duchess of Malfi', to a devised piece with classical music for children called 'Hubbub'. I've loved all of it. But so far, the experiences I have had are just glimpses and snatches of what I want to do all day, everyday. I'm plunged into a world I love for the briefest of moments, and then pulled right back out. 

Pursuing a career in theatre is tiring and difficult and frustrating, but those brief moments are what keep me going. When I'm in a rehearsal room, that is when I am truly happy. When I am surrounded by a team of people who share your passion and your vision, that is when I know that my efforts haven't been in vain. I'm getting there. Just very slowly.

I think it's difficult for a number of reasons, but I'm trying to change my mindset and view these difficulties as strengths rather than weaknesses. Living in a rural village has meant that I have had to actively look, and find, and sometimes even create, my own opportunities. But although I find my geography my biggest barrier, it can also be my biggest strength. I have a passion to make theatre accessible to everyone, no matter where they come from, and I think this comes from living in an area that sees very little in the way of live theatre. I love touring companies, because they travel to many different places in the country, and bring productions to people who may never have had the chance to see them. I visit London a lot, but I find it hard to connect with the theatre there, because all I can think is that people living in villages like mine, probably won't get to see these shows. And so this thing, living in a village, the thing that I have always viewed as a weakness and a disadvantage, has become my strength. It's something that I can use to my advantage as I carry on trying to climb the Impenetrable Wall of Theatre. 

For me, I only realised that I wanted to pursue a career in theatre when I started on the wrong path. I took a path somewhere else, and realised that I needed to go back and start again. So I did, but it's taken a long time for me to figure out where my place is in the theatre industry. I still don't fully know, but I've got an idea. This has meant that I've been able to explore a vast array of different roles and have a lot of different experiences, from directing to prop making, to film making and marketing. I see all of these experiences as equally valuable, and I've started to view life as one big experience. I want to collect as many experiences as possible, whatever they are, because they will end up giving me plenty of stories to tell. And that is important to me. 

I have recently realised that it is children's theatre that I really want to create. I like to see 'Grown-Up Theatre', but it doesn't often get me excited or passionate. Stick me in a rehearsal room for a children's production, however, and my brain goes wild and my imagination starts to whizz about in a frenzy. I know this can only mean good things. I know what I am passionate about, and that's a good thing to be able to recognise. I am passionate about inclusive, accessible theatre. I am passionate about children's theatre, and I want to learn more about how story-telling is possible through the use of puppets. If that's not a good place to start, then I don't know where is.

But that's the thing. You get excited when you finally figure out what it is that you want to spend the rest of your life doing, but you don't have a clue how to get there. And that is infinitely infuriating for me. There is no definitive path or method or way to get into that fortress. You have to make a way in for yourself, and you have to keep at it. Opportunities can be sparse, and it's up to me to facilitate them for myself when there aren't any around. It's all up to me, and that is both reassuring and terrifying. But I'll get into that fortress, one way or another, whether that be with a ladder or a disguise or a month digging a tunnel under the foundations; there's a way in. I've just got to find it. 

That’s Why They Call It “Casting”

That’s Why They Call It “Casting”

As Casting Chair of my local community theater, I think a lot about the process of casting our shows.  While the goal is always to find the ideal fit between auditioners and available roles, the reality is that we often have to compromise.   Unlike Broadway, we usually don’t have the luxury of picking people who perfectly look the part, fit the age range, and have the exact vocal range suggested by the script or score.  So, we make do with what we have.   In a sense, casting is like fishing.   We cast our line into the water by posting a carefully crafted audition notice.   First, we get some “nibbles”; expressions of interest on Facebook.   Then we see who we catch on audition day.  Many are not “keepers,” and often we have to throw them back (gently) into the pond.  But if we keep an open mind, we’ll often be pleasantly surprised by the talent we land.

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My Five Tips for Community Theatre Auditions

My Five Tips for Community Theatre Auditions

A number of years ago, I decided to try my hand at directing.  I had been involved in community theater for several years as an actor and felt I wanted to experience the dramatic arts from another angle.  I expected there to be learning curve (which there was).  What I didn’t expect was how directing changed my perspective as an actor, especially when it came to auditioning.

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Three Easy Theatre Games that Aren’t Zip, Zap, Zop

Three Easy Theatre Games that Aren’t Zip, Zap, Zop

Any theatre teacher can tell you the importance of theatre games. Games and ritual help create a safe and supportive environment and promote teamwork.  A great circle can mean the difference between a class that is fun and successful or one that falls flat. 

It can be easy to get caught in a rut of games and warm up activities.  We sometimes rely too heavily on the same games or activities. Perhaps we use activities that have worked well in the past without regard for how your newer students might respond to it. Sometimes it is just fun to mix it up or add to your class lineup of games and warm ups. 

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