Conduct Yourself On Stage

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Some suggestions about the stage. Faire is an excellent place to learn to be on the stage. The audience has already paid and they're probably drinking. They're out to have a good time and your half-hour slot is a tiny part of their day. If your show is a trainwreck, heck you're doing it again at 2:30 (and 4:30) and its not like this audience was coming back for seconds anyhow. Its instant feedback: if the back of the house is disengaged, they'll likely get up and leave.

That's the good news. The bad news is that it is hot and your audience is tipsy. The screaming from the sky chairs drowns out the back of the house. There is a parade at 1:18pm every single day. There are belly dancers at the nearby booth. But you will persevere! You will make the audience your friend and for thirty minutes seduce them away from all the other pleasures of the day!

The audience: Your Friend
You're here to put on a show. The audience is here to see a show. You are natural partners so long as neither of you breaks the trust. Your part is to be engaging, audible, comprehendible and focussed. In turn, the audience will mostly pay attention, laugh in nearly the right spots, and occasionally get up to take their children to the privy.
Speak to the audience
When addressing someone on the stage, it is natural to want to face them. This puts the audience to your side where they can neither see your face nor hear your words. Directe lines towards the audience. Start from upstage so you face the audience and stage as you take center. Speak out and then turn your focus to your fellow actor. Think of it as giving testimony in court -- its the jury that needs to hear you. Speak to them.
Make eye contact
Whatever you're talking about is important! If you don't believe this, why would the audience? Don't look at the ground, tree, ale stand. Make eye contact with members of the audience and speak directly to them.
Project your voice
Speak from your gut! Throw that line out! Look at the back row of seats and speak to them. Do your vocal warmups.
Reduce your BFA
If the audience can't understand you, they're not likely to be interested. (Exception: physical comedy.) Subdue the Faire Accent and enunciate -- be certain you can be heard and understood in the back of the house.
Bigger is better
Especially on stages near noisy exciting streets, you need to be large and animated to keep the audience's attention.
If its funny once...
It'll be funnier a third time. Pace your animation and build up for the punchline. An advantage of repetition is that the distracted audience will eventually catch on to the build up.
Support your fellow Actors
Your job doesn't end when you stop speaking! Keep your attention on the speaker and react as the show unfolds. You're not supposed to know what comes next -- so be surprised, shocked, angry, sad -- when it comes. Wait for it: don't jump the line.
Do post-show Notes
How did the show go? Have a cast member in the audience watch the show (from the back of the house) and give notes. Could they hear? Could they see? Did the audience laugh? Did they stay with the show or did they get distracted and leave?
Nervous? Its totally normal.
While only about 1 out of 10 people suffer from debilitating anxiety, about 7 or 8 suffer mild bouts of nervousness or panic (according to NPR). That its normal or natural doesn't make it better, but knowing that everyone deals with it should make it slightly less scary.

References

Check out the mindbending Impro from Keith Johnstone. 'Sound & Fury' swear by Gary Izzo's The Art of Play.

Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre
Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre
Keith Johnstone
Buy New: $31.59 / Used: $21.67 (27 avail)
The Art of Play: The New Genre of Interactive Theatre
The Art of Play: The New Genre of Interactive Theatre
Gary Izzo
Buy New: $174.00 / Used: $19.96 (11 avail)



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