Acting is the dumbest profession on earth. It’s completely regressive. Suddenly, you’re 4 years old again, doing your best impression of an adult, except this time, people are paying good money to see you move around, talk and yell and gesticulate. Meanwhile, for you this is playtime, this is paradise. In fact, only one thing can make you happier... some toys.
By Matt G of Matt and Kyle and Matt
The telephone is often the most exciting thing in a play. Whenever a character answers a phone call on stage, even in a boring play, the audience can’t help but be intrigued. Indeed, they might ask, “Who’s he or she talking to?” or “What is he or she talking about?”, or “I wonder what the person on the other end is saying”. A seasoned actor can actually feel the audience members inching toward the edge of their seats in anticipation. These and other questions may continue to plague the audience for much of the play, which is why I’ve developed certain techniques for exploiting their intrigue. I might pretend to hang up the phone suddenly, but then quickly change my mind, and continue the conversation. Or sometimes, I’ll smash the receiver on the table repeatedly as if I were terribly angry with the caller, and then say: “sorry, I was trying to kill a bug”.
The telephone is also the actor’s lifeline onstage. Imagine you’ve frozen onstage, you don’t know what to do or say next. Just head for the phone and call someone who might know what your next line is. Or call a friend and chat until it comes back to you. The audience will not be disappointed.
2. Stage Weapons.
I wasn’t allowed to play with fake guns or fake swords or fake maces or fake battle axes when I was a kid. So today, most of the characters I play carry weapons. Sometimes the director doesn’t even know about it. Last year I played the milkman, Howie Newsome, in a Production of “Our Town”. In my opinion, milkmen in the 19th century probably carried a pistol around, so I stuffed one into my overalls and strutted around like I owned the town of Grover’s Corners. Most people agreed it was the most electrifying delivery of milk anyone had ever seen.
This one is a given. Although not as much fun as drinking in real life, it does allow the actor to explore the various stages of inebriation. If the character you’re playing is clever and sophisticated, punctuate your witty remarks with a sip of your cocktail, or with a sarcastic “cheers”. Try stirring the ice in your cocktail loudly while the other characters are talking to undermine what they’re saying.
Conversely, if you’re playing a lousy drunk, be sure to ask your crew members for sugar glass bottles. This way, you can allow yourself to truly become your character without any inhibition. Your character may want to smash bottles onto tables, lob them at the other character’s heads and shoulders, hurl them into the audience, or chew on them to intimidate his peers. These avenues should always be explored.
4. Human Skull.
If you’re holding a human skull onstage, it can only mean one of two things, either you’re playing Hamlet, which is always cool, or you’re in a play about grave-robbers, which is also pretty cool.
I hate to admit it, but the duo behind Puppetry of the Penis have demonstrated, rather nimbly, that the penis is the most versatile stage prop. From what I know of the show, the penis is repeatedly scrunched, stretched and restructured to create a number of different things: from a medieval trebuchet, to a slotted spoon, to Henry Winkler’s face. It’s disturbingly impressive.