by Nitra Gutierrez, Middle School and High School Program Associate
Part of theaters magic is that, when done well, it can look like real people walking and talking. This appearance of ease can lure an audience into forgetting that every action is a carefully thought out choice. Ideally, these choices should offer us more information about a character, relationship or other aspect of the story. If a stage direction reads, “She crosses to laundry basket and begins to fold clothes,” the script is telling us that the character is doing laundry. It is the actor’s job to discover the “HOW” of folding laundry. We ask, “How can I fold laundry in a way that reveals my character’s inner life?” This is the fun part! An audience takes away something different when I choose to fold clothing meticulously at a fast pace OR I choose to slowly linger over a single garment, folding it over and over OR I choose to start and stop the task repeatedly without accomplishing any actual folding. Information about my character lives in the “HOW” of my folding – not necessarily in the folding itself.
When working with young actors, it takes coaching and rigorous work to discover the HOW of our actions. In an effort to heighten the artistic rigor of our youth theatre ensemble, we approached professional choreographer and movement coach, Krissie Marty to join us for a handful of rehearsals to help us discover the HOW of our movements.
Krissie’s energy in rehearsal was fun, relaxed and inquisitive. She’s been a professional movement coach with impressive credits for years, yet remained approachable throughout the whole process. She led the group through a movement series that helped us create a vocabulary of gestures for each of the characters in our play. How does the “Popular” character greet a friend? How does the “Goody Goody” express frustration? How does the “Loudmouth” breathe when she’s afraid? How is the “Outsiders” posture affected when he retreats inside himself? How does that posture change when he’s alone with his best friend, the “Drama Geek”? What does this tell us about their relationship?
After a couple of rehearsals with Krissie, I notice the nuance and subtlety of the choices my students are making. I notice their increased confidence
as they make larger physical choices. I notice them creating characters that look more like real people walking and talking and less like teen actors reading lines. As a teaching artist, I feel my own toolkit strengthened by working with her on these sessions. Thank you, Krissie Marty for enriching our process with your creativity, presence and talent.
Come see Outside the Box, the latest original play from the Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble! We’ll be featured at Teen Night at Travis High School on March 22nd at 7pm. Check our public calendar for other shows in our 14-stop spring tour. All performances are FREE.