Posts Tagged ‘theater’

What Does it Take to be Best Actor?

January 3, 2017

We’ll learn February 26th, 2017, who gets this year’s Academy Award for Best Actor, and, of course, who gets one for lots of things. But, acting is what I’m discussing here.

What does it take to be a good actor?

I am no expert on the subject, but I have done some amateur acting. My first role was Santa Claus in a play I wrote in 1942 in the 7th grade at Eleventh Street School in downtown Columbus.  We performed it for the 6th and 7th grades. You can read about it and a lot more in my memoir The Newsman: a Memoir.    I also did a part in a play in 1943 at Columbus Junior High School, then one at Teen Tavern in Columbus when I was a teenager. I played Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew for Columbus Little Theater, which was morphed into the Springer Opera House after that, and I acted in a number of plays for the Springer and for Theater Atlanta in the late fifties and sixties.  Theater Atlanta exited the stage  before the Alliance Theater  came into being.

Considering all that, maybe I can say what it takes to a be good actor with a thimble of expertise. First of all, learn your lines.  The drama professor at Agnes Scott said she was so happy that I would act in some of the school plays because she knew I would learn my lines. Just that accounted for a lot she said. She said nothing about the quality of my acting that I can remember. Some of the male teachers at Agnes Scott, a women’s college, would help her from time to time, but she had to go outside the school had to ask male amateur actors to participate in school plays. I think I did minor parts in two plays for her.

Second suggestion: concentrate. The Springer’s first director Charles Jones emphasized that a lot. He said it’s really important in everything you do. I agree.

Third suggestion: learn how to ad- lib when other people forget their lines and you have to reply to the lines they made up. Often when the other actor forgets his lines, the audience thinks you are the one who forgot his lines because there is a pause while you are waiting for your cue which is never delivered. That happened to me more than once. Once when that happened, Charles complimented me on my improvising a line when the lead forgot his and ad-libbed something that  didn’t make much sense. He said, “Thanks for bringing him back into the play.”

O.K., now here’s what some experts reportedly said about acting.

“Talk low, talk slow, and don’t talk too much. ” — John Wayne

“Never get caught acting.” – Lillian Gish

“Without wonder and insight, acting is just a trade. With it, it becomes a creation.” – Bette Davis

“With any part you play, there is a certain amount of yourself in it. There has to be, otherwise it’s just hat you ust not acting. It’s lying.” – Johnny Depp

“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature.” – WIlliam Shakespeare, Hamlet

And Orson Welles said, “The essential is to excite the spectators. If that means playing Hamlet on a trapeze or in an aquarium, you do it.”

Now, if we really want to get serious about this we could discuss the different schools of acting, things like method acting, naturalism, non-naturalism., realism, and romanticism.  I don’t want to  get that serious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Springer Just Keeps Getting Better

June 14, 2011

As I watched Dot McClure cut the ribbon signifying the official opening of the Dorothy W. McClure Springer Theater Academy Education Center, I remembered that she and I were in a play together at the Springer a long time ago.  When I talked with her at the ribbon cutting and open house, I couldn’t remember which one, nor could she, but now that I’ve a had a little time to think about it, I think it was Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller’s world-class American classic.  I believe she played the salesman Willie Loman’s wife, and my mother, because I played Biff, one of the two sons in the family.  That took some real acting on both our parts because we are fairly close in age.  She was quite good in the part.

She is one of the great contributors to the Springer’s success,  and her latest contribution is $3 million for the Education Center and part of the $4 million that will be used to build a new theater.  It’s all a part, according to what Artistic Director Paul Pierce said, of the $11.5 million improvement campaign.  He said that $9.8 million of that  has been raised.  He said of the more than 240 people asked to contribute funds to the project, not one said no. That is truly impressive.

And the center is truly impressive with big-mirrored classrooms for the young aspiring actors.  This year’s summer camp for young people is already 600 kids strong and education program director Ron Anderson says there is room for more.

The Springer has come a long way since 1963 when the former Columbus Little Theater moved in and Columbus theater lovers chipped in enough money to save the theater from demolition. I played the male lead in, if my memory is correct,  the last Columbus Little Theater production, Shakespeare’s Taming  of the Shrew, directed by the modern Springer’s founding director the late Charles Jones.  We did it in the round in a vacant store building in Cross Country Plaza. Not too long after that, he directed the musical that  reopened the Springer, Lil’ Abner.  It was quite a production. Springer benefactor the late Emily Woodruff brought a friend of her’s, pro Abe Feder, down from Broadway in New York to light it.  I remember that  “white light” was in vogue at the time. Feder used no color lights, saying that white lighting brings out the  brilliant colors of the costumes and sets and is best for a musical.

Thanks to people like Emily and Dot, and others, the Springer has aged very well, growing more beautiful and having a larger reach with each year.  And what Paul And Ron have done and are doing with it,  not just as a theater, but also as a school, deserves all the thanks we can give them.

“Lakebottom Proper” Was Probably Funny, but Even Though I Saw it, I Wouldn’t Know

May 24, 2011

There have been some rave reviews by people I know who saw “Lake Bottom Proper,” the broad farce about a social-climbing Columbus family trying to get their daughter into upscale Brookstone School where most of the rich kids go, at the Springer Opera House.  And maybe it deserved them, but even though I saw it, I wouldn’t know how funny it was because I couldn’t understand seventy-five percent of what was said.  It wasn’t that I couldn’t hear the lines because I could,  but I couldn’t tell what the actors were saying.  I thought maybe it was just me because a lot of folks were laughing at the punch lines, but when I talked with some others who saw the play they said the same thing. They could hear what was being said but that couldn’t make out the words.  Also, another symptom that it wasn’t just my 80-year-old ears was that when Paul Peirce made his before-the-play announcement I could not only hear him, even though I was on row Q, but I understood every word he said.  I think the actors were relying too much on  their microphones and not making much of an effort to enunciate their words clearly. Yes, it is hard to sound natural when pronouncing words with clarity, but it can be done.  And it needs to be done.

Albany’s “Springer”

April 5, 2010

No, you don’t have to go to New York to see a great play.  You can see one in hundreds of regional theaters around the country.  I have seen many, and even performed in a few, at the Springer Opera House in Columbus, Georgia  and now I have seen an incredibly good one in Albany, Georgia.

My first cousin, once removed, Ray Johnson – actually, Dr. Ray Johnson because he is a retired psychiatrist and every family needs at least one –  invited me to come to Albany to see his wife Joy, a retired RN,  in the Theatre Albany production of “Grace and Glorie.”  

Francie Michas and Joy Johnson, "Gloria" and "Grace," "Grace and Glorie"

In my view, the production was Broadway quality.  It was a two-woman show. Joy played Grace, a dying 90-year-old illiterate West Virginia farm woman, and Francie Michas played Gloria, a young, educated, urbane  hospice worker.  Their generational, cultural, philosophical, and psychological clashes made for not only serious thought, but laugh-out-loud humor. 

"Grace and Glorie" set was designed by Theatre Albany Set Designer Stephen Felmet

Not only was the acting absorbing and, well, brilliant, but the set, the inside of a West Virgina farm cottage,  was as professional as any I have seen.   Stephen Felmet, a self-educated set designer and the only other paid staff member of Theatre Albany – the other one is Director Mark Costello – reminded me of movie and TV drama sets, because it had an incredible amount of detail. Since so many sets are symbolic, it was refreshing to see a good realistic one again.

Theatre Albany is in the 1853 antebellum Captain John A. Davis home

As I was talking with Director Costello, who has been Theatre Albany’s Artistic/Managing Director for 25 years,  during intermission, I pointed out to him that Theatre Albany is Albany’s “Springer” – he was gracious enough not to counter with the Springer is Columbus’  Theatre Albany – because both occupy historic buildings.  There are also a number of other parallels.

While the Springer Opera House dates back to 1871, the Captain John C. Davis House, home of Theatre Albany, is even older, dating back to  1853.  George Washington didn’t sleep there, but Confederate President Jefferson Davis did sit in a chair there, which is on display.  A theater auditorium was  added to the back of the house when Theatre Albany made the home its permanent residence in 1964. 

CSA President Jefferson Davis sat in this chair

I’ve been through Albany a number of times heading for Florida in recent years, but only stopped maybe for lunch, so this was the first time I really visited the city since the early 1960’s.  As program manager for the late Jim Woodruff’s three radio stations in Columbus, Albany, and Bainbridge, I would visit Albany and Bainbridge a couple of times a month. The Albany station, WGPC,  a CBS affiliate, was located in a small building in back of the New Albany Hotel, where I spent the night a few times.  

Back when I was a child, my family would drive down to visit my Aunt Jewell and her family in Albany a few times a year.  They lived just a few blocks away from the New Albany Hotel.  After spending the night at the Johnson’s following the play, as I headed back to Columbus, I decided to check out the downtown area to see how much it has changed.  As far as the buildings are concerned, not much. The New Albany looks as good as it did 50 years ago, but, like the Ralston in downtown Columbus, it is now a retirement hotel.  What has changed is that, unlike the old days when on Saturdays cars and throngs of shoppers occupied  downtown,  there are almost no cars or people.  It’s the same old story of retailers moving out to malls.  Columbus is more active downtown now,  with Columbus State University locating its music, art and drama schools downtown, and with the Springer Opera House and River Center’s three theaters attracting crowds.  For instance, Jerry Seinfeld played at the River Center Thursday night to an almost sold-out crowd. 

All in all, it was a great Albany visit.  We had a fine time conversing about our families, the old times, the new times, theater, music (Ray said all McMichaels are musical, and he’s pretty close to being right), and, yes, even politics.  What did we say about that?  Well, all I can say is we were all on the same page.

Passionate Blogging

December 4, 2008

  Maybe I’ve been doing this blogging thing the wrong way. Instead of trying to post a well-written think piece, I should simply give vent to my passions and not worry about details like literary excellence. That’s what I took from Arianna Huffington when she was interviewed by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. She was on the show to plug her book on how to blog. It’s titled The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging.

  She said the key to successful blogging is to write about your passions, and to not worry about a blog post being a finished product.  In other words, don’t spend a lot of time trying polish your posts.

  I don’t spend a lot of time doing that, but I do try to make the post readable and get the grammar as correct as possible. I take a few liberties and sometimes use sentence fragments because that’s the way I speak and just about everyone else speaks. I remember one of my English Literature professors saying that before you can get away with breaking the rules, you have know them. She said, “When you are writing for me, you have to convince me that you know the rules. Don’t break them.” I don’t claim to know the rules flawlessly, but I’m not being graded by her any more so I’ll break the ones I do know when I feel like it.

 Arianna said that when you blog you should write about your passions. Once I figure what they are now, maybe I’ll concentrate on them. They have changed over time. Once I was very passionate about being an actor.  I acted in a few plays for Theater Atlanta when I was working at WSB Radio, and I appeared in a number of Columbus Little Theater productions before CLT morphed into the Springer Opera House, and then a few more productions there. I decided that the pay for all that work wasn’t adequate.  All the local actors did it for “the love of it,” but the Springer started bringing in outsiders who did it for the money. Once a dollar value was put on playing a lead in a play, I decided, no pay, no play.

I definately had a passion for being a radio announcer, which I satisfied by doing it, and when television came to Georgia, I decided I had a passion for that and did it for more than forty years. I got paid for that so I knew I was valuable. But, that passion has been satisfied and I don’t have it any more. I could still do it because…well, I know how.  If I came up with a specific topic I wanted to do a documentary on, I could become passionate about it.

I am passionate about my family, my children and grandchildren, and I have occasionally written about them, but I don’t want to invade their privacy so I keep that to a minimum.

I still love music, good theater, music, literature, art, and my interest in football has been rekindled. I am enjoying the Falcons this year. Maybe it’s because they are winning a few games. Also, I have been watching Georgia, Georgia Tech, Alabama and Auburn games.  Alabama is awesome. “Awesome” is a much over-used word, but, in this case, it really is an accurate adjective. I was glad they beat Auburn because losing six in a row in that classic rivalry made me feel sorry for them. The same with Georgia Tech and Georgia. Tech had lost seven in a row. That’s too much so I was glad they pulled off that three-point win.   

And, yes, I am passionate about politics, and I do occasionally write about that.

Maybe I’ll make Arianna happy and buy her book, or maybe I’ll check it out at the library and save the money, or maybe I’ll ignore it. It will just depend on my passion about it.