At the March 2017 Meeting of SoCal Media Pros, Brian Page and Sharyn Case, two Director-Actors gave a condensed and powerful presentation on how actors can contribute to the development of a successful script (Stage or Screen) as well as actors' importance to fleshing out characters and giving them depth. The two talented experts had very practical advice in both finding and working with actors for both theatrical and film/video production.
Among the many important points made by Case and Page was that Orange County has a wealth of talented actors who are dying to work in digital media as well as live theater. They are not hard to find for casting but you may have to get in the theatrical loop by contacting people like Brian or Sharyn—who are more than happy to help. In other words, you don't have to go to LA to find experienced actors who want to work!
Sharyn Case is a respected stage director who has helmed over 30 plays in numerous venues including Newport Theater Arts, Long Beach Playhouse and as Assistant Director at South Coast Repertory. She is also an actress and has a background as a writer, initially doing training and corporate videos. Her consulting company, Case Carnett Associates, served many well known clients for over 15 years including SoCal Edison, Dennys Restaurants, Sprint and the Federal Reserve back among others.
Brian Page is a stage director and actor as well as a voice-over artist and theatrical sound designer who started many years ago in radio.
Sharyn pointed out that many newer writers do not give in-depth character profiles as older playwrights such as Shaw, Moliere and even Arthur Miller did. Instead they just give a basic physical description. With only a superficial, topical description it leaves the actors and director to figure out the inner life of each character to create a more compelling story. Of course that sword can cut both ways. Case mentioned that even in her extensive background writng corporate and training videos it would be helpful if scriptwriters drew detailed characters based on the specialized audience the films were aimed at. That could create a more impactful film by engaging the audience emotionally.
Brian Page acted as MC and as with many SoCal Media Pros meetings, the evening was very interactive with audience members contributing their experience as well as questions. Case and Page were responsive and happy to let the conversation veer into areas most interesting to the audience which was an eclectic mix of actors, directors, producers, videographers and students.
The speakers addressed the most common way Actors can help develop a script—a Table Read. A table read with the playwright participatiing gives the actors a chance to ask questions and get input from the writer. It can also help correct stiff or unnatural dialogue as well as flesh out characters and scenes.
Case mentioned that even at a table read for a finished script going into production she prefers not to direct her actors initially but rather have them delve into their characters. She often creates structured improv scenarios for her actors as part of her initial rehearsal process. She finds it's a good way for actors to explore their characters in depth and it makes for stronger performances without necessarily changing the script. One of her favorites is a 'Hot Seat' exercise -- an structured improv session where the actors must answer random questions as their character. It helps the actor develop layers to the character.
Both the OC Playwrights (the Orange County Playwrights Alliance) and New Voices (the New Voices Playwrights Theater - an OC Workshop with a fresh approach) encourage collaboration between writers and actors by holding sessions where actors can improv around the ideas and characters in a working script. Sometimes whole new scenes will develop and a completely different script will emerge. Also Modjeska Playhouse in Lake Forest does "unscripted theater", the Maverick Theater, and Stages Theater in Fullerton are known to host improv theater.
Our thanks to Brian Page and Sharyn Case for their great insights into acting, directing and character developmet and most importantly the collaboration between writer, actor and director which can Make Your Script Come Alive...
Look for more SoCal Media Pros meetings to explore ideas on how to "Make Your Script Come Alive..."