All About Deepak Morris

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A blog about drama /  theatre and my experiences in the same.

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REALLY short synopses of Shakespearean plays - The Merchant of Venice

Posted by deepakmorris on June 19, 2014 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (1)

Very often a student or performer is asked to encapsulate a Shakespearean play in a few paragraphs. Having searched high and low and found only really LONG synopses (not really the fault of the writers, Shakespeare is notoriously difficult to summarise), I have decided to make my own short summaries of Shakespeare's plays, beginning with The Merchant of Venice.

Here goes:

Bassanio is a young man in Venice who loves Portia, a rich heiress. Bassanio is poor and thinks he must present himself to Portia in suitable clothes and pomp. He decides to borrow 3,000 ducats. He approaches his good friend Antonio, who is a wealthy merchant. However, Antonio has no ready cash, since he has put his money into his trading ships. Antonio approaches Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, to borrow the money for Bassanio. Shylock is jealous of the Christian Antonio because he lends money without interest. Seeing a chance to trap Antonio, Shylock makes him sign an agreement that if the money and interest is not paid on the due date, Shylock can cut a pound of flesh from Antonio’s body. Antonio is confident that his ships will return in time with money from his trade, so he agrees and signs the agreement.

 

Bassanio travels to Portia’s house. Portia’s late father has made a will that anyone who wants to marry Portia must solve a riddle to open the box that contains her portrait. Many have tried before and failed but Portia gives Bassanio a hint and he chooses the right box. Bassanio and Portia marry.

 

Bassanio comes to know that Antonio’s ships have not returned and may have sunk at sea. The due date for the loan has passed and Shylock is demanding the pound of flesh from Antonio’s body. Portia sends Bassanio to the Duke’s court to offer Shylock much more than the amount due to him if he drops the case.

 

After Bassanio leaves, Portia and her maid Nerissa disguise themselves as a male lawyer and his male clerk and go to the Duke’s court themselves. The Duke allows Portia to argue on behalf of Antonio.

 

Portia successfully argues that the agreement is for a pound of flesh only. No blood may be shed in the taking of the flesh. Shylock is trapped and loses the case, since he cannot take a pound of flesh without shedding blood. He is punished by having his property taken from him and given to his daughter, who has eloped with a Christian. Shylock himself is forced to convert to Christianity.

 

Antonio’s ships finally come in and everyone is happy except the ruined Shylock.

 


It's Mime Own Fault!

Posted by deepakmorris on June 14, 2014 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Teaching is fun but coming up with mime scenes for my students is even more fun. One scene that has received rave reviews from examiners:

 

Lost In The Forest:

A young girl wanders into a forest. She sees monkeys chattering and frolicking in the trees and watches for a while. Then she happens to look away and spots a pretty flower. She crosses to the flower, plucks it, smells it and puts it in her hair.

Then she spots something interesting opposite the flower bush. She crosses to look at it closely. It turns out to be a butterfly (this was ably shown by my student) and she watches as it flies up and flutters off the stage.

Right next to this bush is another bush with a flower that holds another insect. The girl peers into this flower as well. However, the insect turns out to be a bee and the girl reacts in near panic, trying to shoo away the bee.

Once the bee is gone, the girl looks around and realises she is lost. She runs in one direction. She hears a roar and stops. She rushes in the opposite direction. She hears another roar and freezes.

Finally, she hears a friend call from upstage. She shows her relief at being found and rushes to meet her friend.

END

Moving on stage

Posted by deepakmorris on November 18, 2013 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Movement brings a scene alive in theatre! 

In movies, camera angles and shots can make sedentary scenes, such as people gathered around a hospital bed talking to a patient, quite alive with trolley shots, over the shoulder shots, zoom ins, zoom outs, etc.

Live Theatre doesn't have that luxury so teachers and starting directors often wonder how movement can be added in a scene. It's a difficult thing but with a little effort and stagecraft, movement can be added even into the most sedentary scene.

Here are some steps to help add movement to a scene:

  1. Learn the parts of the stage: There can be no substitute to learning the parts of the stage in order to tell actors where to be when they say a line. The stage has nine parts of the acting area itself, plus other parts such as the proscenium arch, the apron, etc. Click here to learn the parts of the stage.
  2. Decide what is where on stage: Read the script, then carve out the stage space to decide what is where. If the scene is set in a graveyard, decide on the location of each grave and tombstone. The more real you make it in your mind, the more real it becomes for the actors and, ultimately, the audience.
  3. Use actions marked in the script: Very often, the playwright puts stage directions in the script itself, if not overtly at least in indicative form, e.g. Looks closely at the headstone. Once you have established where the grave is, looking closely at the headstone easily allows the actor to move to the headstone to examine it.
  4. Give everyone something to do: Let's say it's a scene featuring a shopkeeper and a customer. It need not be static. The shopkeeper can wipe his counter (hopefully, you, as director, have carved out the stage space and told actors where the counter, shelves, etc. are). Or he can take objects from the showcases, rearrange them, polish them, etc. The customer can examine the store and objects in it. This helps immensely when one character is taking centre stage and the other has to bide his time before he speaks. Wiping the counter, rearranging merchandise and other things gives the other actor something to do while adding valuable movement in the scene. Examining the store and it's merchandise gives the customer something to do while the shopkeeper speaks.
  5. Look for conflict: Conflict is an integral part of a scene. Someone wants something and someone else wants to prevent him from achieving it. So, using the shopkeeper and customer metaphor, it can be very easy to add movement by having the shopkeeper bark at the customer, forcing him to jump back several steps. Conversely, the customer may bark at the shopkeeper, adding not only movement but further comic elements with glass showcases crashing all around.
With just a bit of imagination, you can add action to just about any scene on stage.

Creativity is not difficult

Posted by deepakmorris on August 28, 2013 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (0)

There is a myth that creativity is some mysterious thing that very few people can do.

The truth is that anyone can be creative. Once they allow themselves to be creative, that is.

Just do something differently and see the difference! Find a different way to tie your shoelaces! Permit yourself to be fidderent! :)

Why English?

Posted by deepakmorris on May 28, 2013 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)

I am often asked why I focus almost exclusively on drama in English and not other languages.

"Is that not rather elitist?" some ask.

My answer to that is that there is plenty being done in drama in regional languages. Maharashtra is alive with Marathi theatre, Bengali theatre thrives in Bengal and nearby states, Hindi theatre is alive, well and growing all over India, other regional theatre is doing pretty well too.

English theatre often gets short shrift. There are no state or even regional initiatives to encourage theatre in English. I am fluent in Marathi (my second script was written in Marathi) and can probably write a pretty engaging play in Marathi that'll do well at the Box Office but then I'd just be buying into the already thriving industry.

English is not an alien language in India. It is very much an Indian language. It is also a language that can connect very many Indians to non-Indians. Ask any rickshaw-wallah in Koregaon Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don't try to be an actor because you couldn't be a scientist

Posted by deepakmorris on May 11, 2013 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Many people contact me, asking to help them become actors - on stage, in films, or in serials.

That's not a problem. I'm always willing to help someone become an actor.

However, their attitude always seems to suggest that acting is not so much an art or a science but simply being in the right place at the right time. They are not looking for training in acting, they are looking for some miraculous opportunity that will catapult them to fame.

Doesn't happen.

Scientists study hard and long and some still don't make it big.

That's acting. Study hard and long and there's still no guarantee you'll make it big.

 

 

 

 

 

Tackling Shakespeare

Posted by deepakmorris on February 10, 2013 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Working with my student on "The Merchant Of Venice".

 

"Everyone just hated the Jews, right?" she said when we tackled the parts where Shylock came in.

 

"Everyone needs someone to hate", I replied, "Shakespeare made that someone a Jew. Whom do we hate now?"

 

She paused. The pause grew longer.

 

"Muslims?" she asked tentatively.

 

I kept quiet.

 

"Radical Hindus?" she asked again.

 

I kept quiet.

 

"Fundamental Christians?" she asked before lapsing into complete silence.

 

Finally, "Shakespeare was saying we can find reason to hate anyone!"

 

Buy my scripts from Amazon!

Posted by deepakmorris on January 14, 2013 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Two of my scripts are now available for Kindle through Amazon at just a dollar a download!

If you don't own a Kindle it's no problem, just download the free Kindle for PC application.

So, here goes,

Download Business Is War

Or download Who Let The Dogs Out?

Just a dollar a download!

Music, rhythm and acting

Posted by deepakmorris on November 18, 2012 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)

I think it is very, very important for an actor to explore music. Music, far from being something just a few "gifted" people enjoy, is actually very much a part of every human being's speech and action. When someone has "an accent" (everyone thinks someone from a different country has an accent whereas he/she doesn't), rhythm, cadence, is very much part of that accent.

Play an upbeat song and a child automatically moves to the beat. Try it. If you think you're bad at music, just play an upbeat song for a child on your music system and see how it delights in moving to the music. No one taught it. It's doubtful if it had the chance to see someone dance but it dances!

Now see how changing the beat can actually change the music! The following is the original "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" by the Shirelles:


You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

See what happens to it when the beat is changed to Reggae:

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

Note how Gray stays within the melody but the beat frees him to experiment more with the notes. How can this help you deliver lines differently? Can you change the beat so the lines become fresh because the notes you hit in your speech (oh yes, we hit notes in our speech) are different?


Making sense of a vague script

Posted by deepakmorris on August 4, 2012 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Here's an example of using your imagination to make sense of a vague script. I saw a question on Yahoo! Answers that asked how a particular script with no stage directions could be used to create a meaningful scene.

The question and my answer (selected as Best Answer) can be seen by clicking the link below:

Making sense of a vague script


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