Learning from the Professionals at Stage One

Blog: Learning from the Professionals at Stage One

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In the world of musical theatre and art as a whole, training can never come too early or too late. The more performers practice their passions the more fully they will be able to devote themselves both fully and dynamically to their craft. At Signature Theatre, we strive to help those with theatrical passion in their hearts reach new heights of creativity and success. Signature’s Education Programs are fully committed to crafting smart, successful, and savvy performers and audiences. One of our favorite tools to reach those in high school is Stage One, a two week musical theatre intensive held here at Signature during the summer. Let’s touch base with a few of the professionals that have worked with our amazing students this year.

Viewpoints with Joe Calarco
Signature Theatre’s Resident Director and Director of New Works Joe Calarco recently highlighted the usage of the Viewpoints exercise as an opportunity for performers to discover new physical possibilities. Adapted for stage acting by Anne Bogart and Tina Landau, Viewpoints focuses on variations on time, space and voice. Distinct shifts in these three pillars of the practice as well as their relevant sub categories results in amazingly distinct, fun and imaginative characters and choices. As Joe Calarco stated in his class, “We all feel constrained to the limits that we put on ourselves and our own bodies on a daily basis.” Performers shouldn’t be afraid to lighten up and dare to be brave with their own bodies. After all, it’s called a “play.” We ought to play while performing in one.

The World of Clowning with Dody DiSanto
“Don’t be afraid to be distinct.” These words by clowning instructor Dody DiSanto rang incredibly true with our up-and-coming actors. There are honest and charming parts to each individual on the planet. You are only doing yourself a disservice by hiding those parts from the world and trying to fit a traditional actor model you think directors and producers want. Performers should be open and willing to put themselves on the stage. Actors are seeking a profession where they are placed under a spotlight and stared at. They might as well present an honest and interestingly truthful portrait for the audience to take in and enjoy. Through Dody’s exercises in clowning the students were able to explore their tendencies as human beings and as performers and what is so amazing about each and every one of them.

Song Interpretation with Susan Derry
If you are familiar with classes in song interpretation you no doubt know how hard they can be. You are getting a million different vocal, physical and emotional adjustments from a teacher at the same time and it can be a bit overwhelming. Thankfully, with Susan Derry at the helm such coaching instructions are broken down into easily digestible bites of knowledge. First things first, keep singing simple, why do people sing in musicals? They are overcome with emotion and have no other way to express themselves except for song. These moments of vocal performance rarely have to be musically perfect. We care about the honesty and truth of a performance not the meticulous perfection of scene from start to finish.As Susan highlights, performers need to avoid the “I’m going to sing now face” and telegraph their performance. We want to find organically emotional ways into these songs so the moment is genuine and true.

Taking a Punch with Casey Kaleba
When it comes to selling a punch, slap, choke and kick onstage, Casey Kaleba is the man to call. As a fight choreographer, it is his responsibility to ensure the actors are as safe as they can be while executing fights, flourishes, bangs and crashes all over the stage with one another. As Kaleba often says, “the margin for error in stage violence is small.” So, it is best to have a smart and responsible performer onstage to ensure all bodies leave the stage in one piece. As Kaleba worked with the Stage One students this week on their slaps, backhands, punches, kicks and chokes, he stressed the importance of selling these moments of action on stage and just how varied the stories they tell are. For instance, what distinction in status might be made between smacking someone else down with the back of their hand as opposed to coming at them from below with an uppercut from the ground? These unique opportunities for violence tell many stories and it is the responsible, safe and effective actors that are most trusted to carry them out.