Why is it that I have stories dancing around in my head, but the process is so difficult to put down on paper?
They dance and swirl and, in my head, are so vivid and meaningful…and then I put my computer in front of me and all creativity stops. I read a little, dream a little, watch things on TV, and try again. Sometimes I repeat that step over and over until I can crank out one scene or chapter.
Such was the process of writing, Tuesday Morning #Neverforget. To make matters worse I still haven’t fully recovered from my heartbreak of last summer. I’m better, but at times it haunts me and I’m just plain and simply….sad.
A sad person researching tragic events? Ugh! Sadness enveloped me…I would cry and have to put away the story and yet it kept calling me. I really didn’t know WHY it was an important story? Why this story would be any different from the facts everyone knew?
And then it clicked. Where was God? Is it possible to see God in the midst of disaster?How do you hold on to hope when everything around you seems hopeless?
That one thought became the focus of my story. Yes, the story is about the four flights that tragically crashed that day. Yes, the story is about the last words of many of the passengers on those flights. Yes, the story is about the people who stepped up and rescued thousands of people in the World Trade Centers….many losing their own lives in the process.
But then the hope started coming through. Lisa Beamer focusing on Bible verses that she had studied and memorized in the past. Lisa Jefferson committing to “speak out” for God and not be a silent witness. Countless tales of people who prayed, sang songs, quoted Scripture to comfort and heal. In short, people holding on to hope that God has a plan…a purpose and His ways are better than ours.
I do believe that.
I didn’t like reading about Joseph and his brother’s betrayal and yet God put Joseph into a place that he saved a whole nation. Maybe God gave Lisa Beamer that as well. Her book, Let’s Roll, gave us a picture of Todd and his faith and Lisa’s hope even in the face of great loss. He was just a regular man, but Lisa’s story made us see GOD. It is crazy to think that Todd went from ordinary man to a hero that has caused many to know God because Lisa wrote a book that told his story.
He’s in my story too…not just Tuesday Morning #Neverforget…but my story...my pain from last year that continues. I know God didn’t CAUSE the pain, but I know He holds my heart and that He understands and that one day He will wipe the tears from my eyes.
I would love it if you would follow my blog and better yet subscribe to us on YouTube. If we say something either place please share….I keep thinking God has me writing for a reason…maybe there is a message that someone needs to hear!
Watch below for thoughts from our cast!
Thank you, Rebecca Leland for your work on this!
Until next time this is just me, talking to you, from the wings.
Everyone of us has a reason that we do or do not go see a show or concert or recital.
That’s fair. Time is precious. Why waste it with something that you have no interest in seeing?
Is it possible, though, that we miss rare opportunities to better ourselves or to learn something that will make us better people by removing a prejudice and seeing something that we thought might not interest us?
I think the answer is yes.
Covid has left us battlescarred all around. Not only were we taught how to stay indoors and veg in front of the TV, but we learned to judge and hate and condemn those who don’t agree with us. We saw cities destroyed. We saw people lash out with hate towards any political figure that they didn’t agree with. We saw condemnation and judgement. Did we see love for our fellow man?
So now that we are out and about more…what is your criteria going to be?
Recently, Jeremiah Dew told one story that really stuck out to me during his question and answer time after his show at Overshadowed.
He told of a young boy who was taken into captivity as a slave. He was taken from an area of Africa that had never seen water. He spoke a different language than the other captives and had never seen a white man. He couldn’t communicate and actually thought that these white figures must have been demons. He saw many African people who escaped and jumped overboard in fear of what was happening to them. Imagine what they must have felt when they reached the shores of America to be treated as animals in many cases.
I tell that story not to cause you all to think–“that’s not my problem“…”stop the political message.” I tell the story because I think we need to learn that we each come from a different perspective. We need to stop and think about which perspective might be different from our own and how God wants us to react to others around us because of it.
For more of my thoughts please watch the video below:
This past week I settled in to watch the movie, “Being the Ricardos” that is now streaming on Amazon Prime. I had seen trailers and was pretty excited to see it. Why?
Two Reasons- I love stories/movies based on real people. I think they are fascinating as much for the historical truth as well as the creative perspective. Secondly, I Love Lucy. Seriously, I have long been a fan. When I was younger I didn’t care how many times I watched Lucy and Ethel stuff candy in every nook and pocket of their clothes. I watched with great joy as Tennessee Ernie Ford guest starred along with countless other stars. It was hilarious to watch Lucy, week after week, conniving to “act, dance, perform, sing.” Perhaps I was inspired by her.
Later, I watched “The Lucy Show” and again was mesmerized by her flawless attention to detail and her incredible comedic timing. Her facial expressions are entrancing and again, I was inspired by her. Years later I found out that Lucille Ball was actually kicked out of acting school!
In her autobiography, Lucy tells that all the teachers praised a big-eyed blonde in class, yet never cared for her (Lucille). Well, I guess that was understandable because that blonde was Bette Davis!
The acting school said that Lucy didn’t have talent! They kicked her out saying that it was a complete waste of money for her to continue her studies! What would you do if your school wrote you such a letter?
Yet…this would- be actress, that was told she didn’t have talent, changed the course of American TV along with her husband Desi. There is a huge void in the world without her lighting up the screen. This became clear to me as I watched Nicole Kidman portray this icon. (By the way, Kidman did an incredible job she just was the wrong person to play this role.) However, to me, what I really saw was the brillance of Lucille Ball. There was a scene in the movie that Kidman is recreating a scene in “I Love Lucy. “You might be familiar with the scene where Lucy smashes grapes. I can almost see it in my mind even now. Lucy’s facial expressions communicated every emotion and thought that she was thinking in that vat. Seeing Kidman, I was struck with how incapable anyone is when trying to recreate what Lucille Ball did. It wasn’t even close. Sadly, she didn’t seem to have the energy that Lucille Ball was known for and ugh, I’m not sure if the prosthetics made her unable to move her face or if she just didn’t, but how can you play Lucy if YOU DON’T MOVE YOUR FACE??
Don’t get me wrong. I still really enjoyed “Being the Ricardos“, but I also learned why I love her so much. So here is what I learned from loving Lucy then and now.
You cannot copy comedic genius. You can learn from it, but you cannot clone it. There was and will always be only one Lucille Ball.
Don’t let someone else crush your dreams. If I had received the letter Lucille Ball received from the acting school I am positive I would have given up on acting. The world is thankful that Lucille Ball didn’t give up. So, a little known story… I was rejected pretty early at the college I attended. So much so, that I was afraid to really put myself out there. I caved and pursued speech education instead. I didn’t want to be told that I wasn’t good enough and at that time my advisor was trying to talk me out of theatrical productions saying things like, “How would you ever support yourself if you had no husband or he died?” (That’s a whole different discussion for another day.) Basically he frightened me into not trying. I wish I had known Lucille Ball’s story at that time.
Work the details of a scene. I loved the scenes that showed Lucille Ball thinking and visualizing each scene to make sure “it worked.” Details matter, and if you, as the director take the time to work on the details of a scene, it will be more believable to the audience.
You don’t have to be the star of the show. Lucille Ball was once called the “queen of the B movies.” She didn’t say no to parts because she felt that she could always learn something from each experience and that it was a good way to make connections and get her name out. I think many times we miss the best roles of our lives because we want to be the star.
You aren’t too old. Lucille Ball got her own show when she was almost 40. Sure, I’m older than that…but I’m no Lucille Ball…I can wait a few more years!
I’m not sure I can say it enough. Don’t give up, and don’t be lazy. Work hard on the stage and off. Maybe there is one more Lucille Ball out there…if so, I can’t wait to see what she gives the world to enjoy.
Here are a few moments to learn about Lucille Ball in her own words.
Did you watch “Being the Ricardos”? What did you think? Who inspries you?
I’d love to hear what you think! As always, I’d be so honored if you would take the time to share, like, comment and subscribe!
Until next time, this is just me talking to you from the wings–
*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author and publisher as part of the author’s launch team. All thoughts below are my own and I was not required to post a positive review. Also, this blog post includes affiliate links which I do not receive compensation for.
All That Really Matters by Nicole Deese
They tell you not to judge a book by its cover, but in this case, you totally can! From the moment you hold this beautiful book in your hands you know it is going to give you so much more than the typical Christian fiction. It is beautiful inside and out!
From the cover:
Molly McKenzie’s bright personality and on-trend fashion and beauty advice have made her a major social media influencer. When her manager-turned-boyfriend tells her of an upcoming audition to host a makeover show for America’s underprivileged youth, all her dreams finally seem to be coming true. There’s just one catch: she has little experience interacting with people in need.
To gain an edge on her competitors, she plans to volunteer for the summer at a transitional program for aged-out foster kids, but the program’s director, Silas Whittaker, doesn’t find her as charming as her followers do. Despite his ridiculous rules and terms, Molly dives into mentoring, surprising herself with the genuine connections and concern she quickly develops for the girls–and Silas. But just as everything seems perfectly aligned for her professional future, it starts to crumble under the pressure. And as her once-narrow focus opens to the deep needs of those she’s come to know, she must face the ones she’s neglected inside herself for so long.
So many times when I begin a book review I say that the book was not what I expected. It is rare that I say it was MORE than I expected.
I knew I would like this book, in fact, I have only recently discovered Nicole Deese. I read her book, The Promise of Rayne (you can read my review of that book here: https://fromthewingsorg.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2431&action=edit) and instantly declared her as one of my new favorite authors! I just didn’t know how much I would love her book. But, I did. I laughed, cried, cheered, and more than that, cared for the characters– not just Silas and Molly, but ALL of them.
What I loved about this book:
Nicole Deese is a deep, thoughtful writer. The plot is never simple. Instead, she captivates you with the main plot of the story and then begins to build such deep dynamic characters that the backstory becomes a huge part of the plot. Her characters are memorable because Nicole crafts them masterfully to reveal charm, wit, humanity, weaknesses, goals, and inner conflicts.
I LOVED Molly and Silas. In fact, everyone needs friends in their lives like these two. Friends aren’t always perfect, but sometimes we judge instead of forgiving. They were both so real in their shortcomings and failures, but forgiving even when they had the right to judge. I loved watching their personal development both individually and in their relationships with others.
I especially loved Molly’s transparency as she wondered aloud how many people around the world were praying for her as she made a living “profiting from one of the world’s deadly sins: vanity.” I am reminded that it is easy to prejudge when we don’t know the whole story.
I laughed so much at the debate on the numbers of followers between Silas and Molly. Molly knew exactly how far away she was from a million…Silas was like the rest of us…if you have 600,000 it might as well be a million!
I also loved that Nicole took a topic (foster care and aging out of the system) and made us more aware of a deep need in our society. I love that she also mixed the story with the hot topic of social media. The story was current, relevant and fascinating. If I can read a book for entertainment and at the same time learn and feel, it is a definate win for me!
All That Really Matters. The inside cover quotes this verse: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Phippippians 2:3-4.
In today’s world I find that the struggle to be heard, to have a voice that matters, to be “someone” pulls at most of us. How many “friends” or “followers” do you have? Some of us fight with an inside voice that tells us that how many “likes” you get matters. This book strips what we see of an influencer and lets us see the struggle that someone with Molly’s conscience might feel. It was convicting to me and a challenge to start my day remembering, “what really matters.”
One last thing–I loved that Nicole reached into a world of non-profits and exposed a need. There are so many wonderful causes to give or volunteer at. Thank you, Nicole, for pointing out a need.
I cannot say enough good things about this book or this author! I hope you will purchase a copy today and let me know what you think of it!
Who should read this book? Lovers of Christian fiction, Christian romance, Influencers, Adoptive parents or parents of foster children.
“Molly, when you feel good in your own skin, it’s easy to help someone else feel good in theirs.”
“Share your spark with the world, Molly, Stop trying to hide what God created to be seen.“
“I want to be more than a pretty face with an addictive personality. I want to be seen as the real deal. Someone who uses their influence to pay it forward. For good.“
“…it has very little to do with that and everything to do with having the courage to speak up for herself. To speak her mind when she feels belittled and overshadowed. And don’t even think about telling me that’s not a critical life skill. Because that might just be the most critical life skill she could possess as a female living in our world today.”
“How you frame your words is often more important than the words themselves.”
“A million dollars may as well be a hundred million to a nonprofit that barely managed to scrape by as it was.”
“Because that’s where hope actually lives–in the hustle. And if they can hustle a little harder, a little longer, a littler faster…mayber all those pretty things can be theirs. Maybe life will finally make sense. Maybe something they do will actually matter. Reality isn’t enough. It’s never been enough.”
“God has uniquely shaped gifts for every one of His uniquely shaped people.”
“Because if you gave everything up, He might, what? Love you more? Forgive you more? Accept you more?” I didn’t miss the way Silas tried to catch my eye. But I didn’t want to be caught. All of that was true. “If that’s your goal, you’ll never meet it. There’s nothing you can sacrifice that’s worthy of what God gives us freely.“
“You don’t honor God with your life by changing your personality and tossing out everything that is unique about who you are. You honor Him by offering those very gifts back to Him.“
“When I’m focused inward, I miss out on divine opportunities to bless others–to serve, to help, to protect, to befriend. To love beyond my own capacity and capability. This heart makeover is still a work in progress.”
Nicole Deese’s (www.nicoledeese.com) eight humorous, heartfelt, and hope-filled novels include the 2017 Carol Award-winning A Season to Love. Her 2018 release, A New Shade of Summer,was a finalist in the RITA Awards, Carol Awards, and INSPY Awards. Both of these books are from her bestselling Love in Lenoxseries. When she’s not working on her next contemporary romance, she can usually be found reading one by a window overlooking the inspiring beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She lives in small-town Idaho with her happily-ever-after hubby, two rambunctious sons, and princess daughter with the heart of a warrior.
Thank you, Bethany House Publishers and Nicole Deese for allowing me to read such a beautifully written, touching story.
Who are the truly great actors of our generation? And what makes them great?
It is easy to imitate a character or even an emotion, but is there realism in that? Can you do it again?
Creating realistic characters comes from knowing the character inside and out. This comes from a process of devouring the text/script. Learn everything you can about the character: what they look like, what their history is, how they think, feel, respond. Study everything that the script says about them and everything they say about themselves.
Aim to play this person as truthfully as possible. Don’t merely create a caricature. Be real. So many times people just recite lines. That isn’t acting at all.
I’m sure you have heard these questions before: 1. Who am I? 2. Where am I? 3. When is it? 4. Where have I been? 5. Where was I just before entering? 6. Why am I in the scene? What do I want? 7. Why do I want it? 8. What is this scene without me? 9. How will I get what I want? 10. What stands in my way?
Acting takes work. Consider having a notebook and recording all the answers to the questions above.
Next research history. What does history say about this time period or topic? What were politics, art, literature, foods, fashion and even religion like? Cut out pictures and descriptions and fill your notebook with those images.
You will not be able to find every detail about the character you have been given the responsibility to portray. So after you have finished your research, use your imagination to fill in the details and bring your character to life.
Use research and imagination together. Never use one without the other.
Once in awhile an actor comes along who is truly great. You can’t always teach someone how to become a good actor. But using this technique will help start the process.
Sometimes getting to know a character takes more time than others. Recently, Overshadowed was two weeks into a performance run when COVID shut us down. Months later we reopened to finish our run. Our characters changed. Why? We had more time to really get to know them. We thought about them for months. Also, we changed. I saw the desperation of Carrie Watts through different eyes.
We talk about that experience in a new episode of our new You Tube channel.
We are still trying to grow our You Tube so that people at least can find it when they search. We have been told that we need more subscribers before that will happen. Would you take a moment to join us?
Do you have a chosen technique to assure that your character is real? I’d love to hear about it.
Here’s to moments on the stage that leave the audience breathless. Let’s create them together.
One of the most common phrases you will hear when you are acting is “Live in the moment.”
It is a command I’ve given as a director and one I’ve received as an actor. I have experienced moments that I was truly connected to my character and connected to everything that was happening on stage and other moments that I was thinking about everything that was happening around me instead of “living” the moment that the character was living.
My most embarrassing moment came during a production of “The Christmas Wish” an Overshadowed original play that we obtained permission to create from a book with the same title. (We got the idea from a Hallmark movie that carried the same name.) I played the Grandmother. I was trying hard not to direct in my head-which is quite difficult for me since that is the area of theater in which I have the most confidence. I walked onto the stage through the door that represented the living room of my character’s house. As I began to say my lines I noticed that the desk hadn’t made it’s way entirely onto the stage and was in fact now half way behind the wall attached to the door I had just entered. My director head noticed and immediately I panicked. I completely stopped listening to the lines that my “grandson” was delivering as I thought about how I was going to get the diary out of that desk. Important, because that was what the play was about. I knew I couldn’t get it out by myself and I didn’t want to do something as unprofessional as move the wall to make the drawer accessible. All of I sudden I noticed that Tim, the other actor, had stopped talking. I looked up at him. He looked at me quizzically. I waited a beat and shrugged my shoulders. Hopefully signifying what I was thinking. “Help! I got nothing!” It must have worked because Tim started talking and covered for me.
That moment has haunted me for years.
I was living in my moment. Not my character’s.
Living in the moment takes an extraordinary amount of concentration. You can totally be in the zone and all of a sudden you become aware of the audience and “Snap!” you are no longer in the moment. It is a very bizarre idea this goal of living in the moment, but the more you think about it the more it takes you out of the moment.
So how can you fix this problem?
Concentration and relaxing exercises. Many beginning actors scoff at these exercises, but I find that the routine you establish is one of the most valuable practices you can have as an actor. We all have different areas that are more difficult to relax so you need to discover those for yourself and focus on those areas. For me, it is my neck and jaw. I need 15-30 mins before I go on stage. I start with relaxation exercises and work my whole body. Next, I listen to music that suits my character and begin to think, meditate, concentrate (Any of those that work for you) about my character. I try to really get into my head. Where is my character? What is she doing? All the things that lead me up to the moment I walk on stage.
Listen. Many times I see actors that say their line, wait for the other characters to talk. They then breathe and then say their next line. Instead, listen to what the other characters are saying. Focus on what they are doing. React. Living in the moment means that you don’t “prepare” to speak. Instead, you hear the line and then respond in truth to it.
Absorb your character and lines. As a director, I know that I am not going to really be able to push my cast until they know their lines. We discuss characters and blocking and relationships beforehand, but the real work comes when they start to commit everything to memory. Only then is the mind free to interpret. Before that it is struggling to learn, discover and remember. Magic is created when you know your lines so well that you don’t have to think about what comes next.
Some actors create from the outside in and others from the inside out. It doesn’t really matter what the process is as long as it is thorough and complete.
4. Don’t be mechanical. Some people prepare so much that they know exactly when they are going to gesture and how they will move. Some people get into such a rhythm that they always say each line exactly the same way. The danger in this is that you become a “rote’ character. You no longer “live in the moment” but instead you are just going through the motions instead of creating the motion yourself! I think that is my biggest struggle as an actor. I analyze constantly…”oh, I didn’t say that correctly” or “I wonder why the audience didn’t laugh at that” or a thousand other critiques. Concentrate on your character not on you!
Recently, I came across an article from an interview with Leslie Odom, Jr., who plays Aaron Burr, in Hamilton! In it he talks about the moment every night when Lin-Manuel Miranda, as Alexander Hamilton, hurled the insult that caused Burr to challenge Hamilton to a duel and ultimately, to kill him, simultaneously ending his own political career.
He said, “Every night, I’m looking for it in his eyes — I want him to make different decisions. I want it to end differently.”
That’s what it is all about. That is when you know you are completely in the zone. When you are so caught up in what your character is feeling that you actually want what your character wants, hope for it to be so, even though you know it can’t happen any other way.….welcome to “living in the moment.”
Did you like this article? I’d love to hear what you think or hear your acting stories!
I’d also love it if you’d follow me or share this article!
This quarantine has provided me with some rare opportunities as I’m sure it has to you. (Positive thinking, people!) Maybe you found time to finally deep clean the garage or that closet? Or…just to sleep! I’ve found time for two of my favorite things: cooking and reading (make that 3 – eating – let’s be real). In addition to my favorite genres, history and fiction, I’ve been reading more plays (and eating more…and…riding my bike more – gotta combat the COVID 20!…Pounds that is).
I´ve been thinking about how I would stage and develop these plays (I have a few shelf fulls I´ve been working my way through). In thinking (and eating, of course) during all of this, I discovered the topic for this blog!
Cooking up Characters with Kady! (did you like that alliteration?) Seriously though, there are so many parallels between cooking and directing that once I started, I just couldn’t stop seeing the similarities. So, here are some ´tasty´ thoughts about how to ´cook´ up and serve characters and actually, the whole show, as a director.
First, and absolutely the most essential, is the visualization. I have always been fascinated with the process of taking raw ingredients and reshaping them into a new cohesive whole, which is why I love cooking. (plus I love eating, gotta be real folks). Taking ´raw´ ideas and reshaping them into living breathing characters in a ´real´ world is why I love directing. Both cooking and directing spring from visualizing the final product.
An important caveat: I make no claims to be a professional or even a remotely good cook! (and definitely not baking – I have not conquered the opera cake yet – plus I haven’t deboned a duck…let alone a chicken) And I am most definitely not a Broadway director. I direct summer camps for Overshadowed and direct my school´s drama program/plays. Broadway someday? I can dream. But in the meantime, I absolutely L-O-V-E what I do. So back to it.
I almost (not completely because I l-o-v-e to eat) enjoy imagining the combination of flavors, texture, and plating more than creating the actual dish. Why? It’s the wonder of possibilities! It’s the magic of ´before´ reality hits and all the obstacles jump up to bonk you in the nose. As I read a script, the same thing happens. Oh the possibilities! I imagine the world with the movie or I should say, the ´stage of the mind´. And while the show plays, I ask questions: What do I think the forest of Oberon and Titania actually looks like?Should the 39 Steps be staged as a radio drama or can it be ´live action´?And Jane Eyre..modern or historical?How should Don John hide his perfidy from the characters but not the audience in Much Ado About Nothing? How would an audience react to a production of Raisin in the Sun?How actually should I create the creatures of The Hobbit? (that one was answered brilliantly by my creative team!)
Sometimes the visualization doesn’t start with a script. It sometimes happens like my grocery shopping (especially when I´m hungry). Sometimes, I will see a unique ingredient (like a kumquat) and think, ´I´ve never cooked with that before. I wonder how it can be used and what other ingredients will go with it?´ Then, I pull out my phone right there and look up ideas, nutritional facts, and common or unique ways to cook it. And then into the cart it goes and the adventure begins! Sometimes I´m introduced to a new idea I´ve never used before, or a story I´ve never heard of, or a design element or tool I’d absolutely love to use. The research begins and ´Oh the possibilities´!
And once the mind, and sometimes the heart, are full of all the possibilities, I have found I need a lot of help to make that dream a reality.
Which of course leads to the next step: the collaboration.
With the ´recipe´ of the visualization in hand, I turn to my team. As a director or the visionary of any creative endeavor, this is the most essential task – getting your vision, ideas, tastes, textures, mood, hopes, fears, wish lists, and the world across to your creative team.
Not just so they understand what is being created, but so that they catch your hunger; so that they take ownership of the vision as well. Any chef knows the explanation of a recipe must be absolutely clear or what will be presented to the diner will be a muddied catastrophe. The director must be absolutely clear in establishing the framework and details the world his/her team is to work within. They become your sous chefs in their respective areas of expertise. Lighting, costuming, makeup/hair, sound, house, set, props, stage crew, marketing – you name it. This utterly essential team must hunger for exactly what you´re hungering for. If you pick well, as I have thankfully often experienced, they will love your vision as much as you do. And as such, will willingly share in the burden of creation.
The creative team is not just there to share in the burden, they´re there to add to the dish. Having other’s input adds flavor, shape, and foresight or resolution to problems you couldn’t see (I tend to dream big, my team helps keep my feet on the ground). Plus, someone else’s creativity and skill can make all the difference. That doesn’t mean the recipe loses its intrinsic value, its central identity, or that the director loses ownership. It simply means a new perspective of costuming, some expertise on how to actually make those puppets work, a composition of the mood you wanted to convey through music, or a unique way of enhancing audience interaction will all help create an authentic performance. That is simply invaluable. This team will become your fellow visionaries, and in some cases, dear friends with whom you can share and bolster the creative process through all the possibilities.
The third step (which I adore) is the preparation, or the creation of the characters. This is the step of pulling the characters from the page into the world that has been envisioned and is being created. This step requires reliance on the sous chefs/line cooks.
I think actors generally fall in the range of both. (I speak as an actor as well). What I mean is this: My niece is 14, precocious, opinionated, very chatty, beautiful, creative, and did I mention opinionated? My nephew is 16, tall, handsome, a sweetheart, intelligent (single) and follows instructions well. (I love them…clearly) When my sister and I cook or bake (Which we love to do! She could open her own restaurant), we do enjoy making it a family affair, which means pulling my niece or nephew into the adventure. Both enjoy cooking in my sisters kitchen, but one is a sous chef and one is more of a line cook. My nephew takes the instructions and performs with minimal questions. Need something diced? Grilled? He’s on it. If he doesn’t know how, a demonstration or explanation is given and he’s good. My niece, on the other hand, needs to know why. Always. ´Why not julienned instead of diced? It will look prettier, Aunt Kady!´ Oy vey! I have learned that after explanation, and after she has defended her point of view (vociferously), I have a choice. I can modify per her suggestion, or if that modification takes us outside the parameters of the recipe, I can choose not to. But I had better clearly explain why not to her before she is willing to move on. And she does, and dices with absolute precision. She does so because she owns her understanding of why. It’s now her mission, her task, her recipe too. Now I know sous chefs are second in command in the kitchen. I´m not saying actors are assistant directors. But, when it comes to character creation, the directorial vision has to be handed over to the ´assistant´ creators of those characters – which is the actors.
I have found that despite training (Meisner, Method, College degree, or complete amateur), actors generally land somewhere between my neice or my nephew. I enjoy both the line cooks and the sous chefs. Those like my nephew take the instruction and go with it. If they need direction they ask or accept it, then take it and go. They have already signed up to your vision because they trust it’s gonna ´taste´ good (especially if it’s pasta). They really thrive when the director is ´hands on´ in the early stages of laying out the elements of the character that he/she want to see brought to life and then stepping back and allowing the actor to take on the responsibility progressively throughout the entire process until of course they present the character on stage before an audience. Others…well…are my niece. They may question your vision from the very start. It doesn’t matter if they are highly trained or complete newbies. These are more sous chefs than line chefs and need to own the ´recipe´ of their characters as their own. This means you have to explain the vision and it needs to make sense to them. They need to understand the world their character lives in. And if it doesn’t make sense and they just can’t claim ownership of it, well… there have been times I’ve kicked my niece out of the kitchen. But when they do own the vision, when they are allowed to add their flavor to it… the performance that results from such an intensive shaping can be so enriched and authentic. In the world that’s been created by a team fully committed to the vision, adding a performance that has been relentlessly picked apart, lovelingly shaped together, and executed with absolute belief is utterly glorious! I guarantee that your audience won’t soon forget it. It is a beautiful preparation.
From visualization to collaboration to preparation, we’ve arrived at the final flourish, the lifting of the silver dome – the presentation! What a wonder it is when that curtain finally rises! A chef can indeed cook alone and create an adventure on a plate that the diner won’t soon forget.
But theater is not a solo endeavor.
Besides creativity and teamwork, its most important ingredient is trust. The playwright must trust that their story will be told with integrity, even with creative license. The director must trust that the world he/she envisioned will truly be brought to life by the design team, the crew, and the actors. And when the audience sits down to dine on the feast that is truly the ´theater experience´, they trust that the performance they are about to partake in has been cooked up with the greatest love, professionalism, care, detail, and creativity, with a dash of magic. Bon appetit!