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  • Jacqueline Clarke

A Workshop with Nick

The recent workshop session with our special guest Nick Paley at the Lavenham Village Hall on 13th January was truly superb. The feedback we have received from those who came along as very positive indeed. The overall experience was received well and everyone took part with great enthusiasm. The beginning of the session involved the dreaded call for volunteers! Julie Moss and Richard Fawcett did the honours, and the group were then asked to watch a short performance by them of two people meeting, and then to describe what we saw.

There were many and varied observations and interpretations based upon what we all saw, or that we thought we had seen. Nick then revealed what he had actually asked Julie and Richard to do.

The varied observations from the rest of us demonstrated that the audience's interpretation of the act was overlaid with the experiences and expectations of those various audience members.

The lesson: audiences are expert at reading people so an actor's performance is interpreted by someone watching the performance by reference to their own experiences, expectations assumptions.

The actor's art is to shed his /her own mannerisms and expressions to bring a blank canvass onto which to lay the character that he is portraying, so to reduce the scope for the audience to add their own interpretation of events to the character. We moved on to games in which we had to focus on our own actions like searching for a penny, or calling objects names other than their proper names.

Nick Paley generously volunteered that when he was once asked what the difference was between an amateur actor and a professional actor, he answered that he has met good and bad in each category, and he considers that amateurs are just people who want to act through a love of acting, just like those who chose it for a profession, but who have realistically concluded that the life of an actor is too precarious. He marvels at amateur actors' ability to rehearse several times a week for a few hours, the professional having the advantage of rehearsing for a show in a dedicated continuous period. He thinks to pick up rehearsals between a normal working life to be very difficult.

"amateurs are just people who want to act through a love of acting...

There was discussion about how to get the most out of auditions and rehearsals. Standard fare, turn up on time to rehearsals as well as auditions. If you are able to learn lines either before rehearsals start or shortly into rehearsals, then rehearsals tend to be much more productive. Once lines are learnt it is easier to build your character and become more familiar with it and comfortable with it, and give a more convincing performance. Rehearsals are for experimenting with technique and character. Use rehearsals to explore and push the boundaries. Do not aim for a safe performance in rehearsals - take chances and risks which increase the scope for finding a better level of characterisation.

If you know anyone who may like to get involved please, ask them to get in touch:

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