“Treat every new play like a great classic and every great classic like a new play!”
Whilst I was training on the directors course at the National Theatre, London, a world renowned theatre director wisely said this to me.
The same year a brilliant actress told me “Great playwrights make my acting better!”
Want to be a magician with text?
Want to bring characters to life?
Want to strengthen your acting muscles?
You’ve got to get hold of the meaty work. You want to be able to trust that the writing will make you better!
Are you reading great playwrights?
I once sat on a panel at a drama school, a student came in, he had talent, a natural instinct, I could sense it.
However, the piece he chose was so thin that it got in the way of his performance. I could see him trying to make the writing better. It should’ve been the other way round.
When I asked him who wrote it, he didn’t know…
That’s Okay, he was a student, he was there to learn. I told him to go & read some August Wilson, Caryl Churchill or Philip Ridley. Writing that could match his potential as an actor!
You want a great scene partner to practice your acting with right? So go find the great playwrights to practice with too.
GREAT is subjective, I know.
By great I mean the ones who’ve been repeatedly performed or who’s storytelling & characters leap off the page and have so much depth you could dig with an oil drill and you’d still have more to discover.
You have good instincts, you’ll know when you spot one.
I’m also not saying dis-count new work. I LOVE new work!
Over the last 10 years I’ve worked on countless new plays as a dramaturg and director.
A new play I directed (Fabric) won the Scotsman Fringe First Award for best Production at the Edinburgh Festival and another transferred to Off-Broadway and impressed infamous tough New York critics, so new writing is my thing.
I wouldn’t have been able to shape and craft that new piece as a director and dramaturg with the writer if I hadn’t spent years reading plays that stood the test of time. The same goes for you as an actor!
I encourage you to go and get excited about reading great plays & great writers. It will vastly improve your acting skills & you’ll be ready to tackle any new script that comes your way.
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