English Drama in Pune

India, scripts, plays, drama, English, theatre, writing, Pune, 
voice over, school musical, spoken english, public speaking

Blog

A Most Serious Affair

Posted by deepakmorris on November 4, 2016 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (0)

ACTOR: Well hello Mr. Producer, you wanted to see me?

PRODUCER: Yes hello. You are the actor who plays the lead role in “Kitty Parties” right?

ACTOR: That’s right. I play the long-suffering husbands who has to go to great lengths to –

PRODUCER: Yes, yes, that’s fine. But I’ve got a few complaints from viewers that your acting is insipid

ACTOR: What? That can’t be!

PRODUCER: I assure you, it is. I’m very close to the viewers. I have to take them seriously

ACTOR: But I always give it my best!

PRODUCER: Right, cry.

ACTOR: What?

PRODUCER: Cry

ACTOR: Why?

PRODUCER: You say you always give it your best. I want to see your best. So cry

ACTOR: Oh, so this is a screen test?

PRODUCER: Screen test, scream test, green test, we’ll be doing them all. Now cry

ACTOR: (Starts crying) Boo hoo hoo, My wife always spends so much money on her kitty parties… boo hoo… I have to work so hard to –

PRODUCER: Enough. Now laugh

ACTOR: Half?

PRODUCER: Laugh

ACTOR: Half laugh?

PRODUCER: Laugh!

ACTOR: (Starts laughing) Ha ha ha, my wife is so silly. I told her I’d been robbed and she believed me! Ha ha ha… now I won’t have to foot the bill for her stupid kitty parties

PRODUCER: Enough! Get frustrated

ACTOR: Arrrgghhhh… that wife of mine is driving me round the bend with her endless parties. Arrgh… one of these days I’m going to –

PRODUCER: Beg

ACTOR: Beg pardon?

PRODUCER: No pardon, just beg

ACTOR: Please… please dear, don’t host your kitty party here… please my love, it throws everything out of gear – hey, that rhymed!

PRODUCER: Yes, yes, you’re a poet, don’t I know it. Mime!

ACTOR: Yours?

PRODUCER: Mine? My what?

ACTOR: I don’t know, you said mine

PRODUCER: No I said mime

ACTOR: Oh, okay. Shall I do “trapped in a glass cube”?

PRODUCER: That’s fine, just mime

(Actor mimes “trapped in a glass cube”)

PRODUCER: Hmmm

ACTOR: Didn’t like it? I’ll do more! Shall I do walking against a stiff breeze? Climbing a ladder?

PRODUCER: No, no, no. I’m afraid it just won’t do. Your acting is worthless. I’m pulling “Kitty Parties” off the air

ACTOR: But… but… it’s such a great serial!

PRODUCER: Yes but haven’t you heard? I’m the serial killer!

 

How to write a novel or play - II

Posted by deepakmorris on September 7, 2016 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Let's go from "Pygmalion" to "My Fair Lady" to "Miss Congeniality" now:

I've already explained how Shaw took the legend of Pygmalion and turned it into a successful play and then movie, "My Fair Lady".

The morphing doesn't end there.

In the year 2000, Marc Lawrence, Katie Ford and Caryn Lucas wrote the screenplay of "Miss Congeniality", which was then made into the film of the same name, with Sandra Bullock in the title role.

It featured a transformation - FBI hard-candy agent Bullock being forced to be all goody-goody and mouth stock phrases like "World Peace", after being subjected to a bikini wax and other indignities in order to prevent a crime.

Since it would be creepy to have Bullock's trainer, Michael Caine (far, far older than she), fall in love with her, Caine was turned into a (probably) gay man and the one to fall in love with her was her "handler" in the FBI.

But it's still "raw --> then polished --> then romantic angle" and that's what Pygmalion can be boiled down to! And that's how Pygmalion can inspire a thousand more plays / movies!

How to write a novel or play

Posted by deepakmorris on September 5, 2016 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

To write a wonderful story or a gripping play, look to the legends. George Bernard Shaw took the legend of Pygmalion and turned it into "My Fair Lady", a hit musical and movie.

What is the legend of Pygmalion? Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with a statue that he himself had carved. That's the Greek legend.

Now look at how cleverly Shaw turned that legend into a teacher of speech "sculpting" a "block of stone" - Pygmalion is Professor Henry Higgins, who teaches speech and the "block of stone" is Eliza Doolittle. Higgins teaches (sculpts) Eliza on a dare but falls in love with her, his own sculpture.

Once you have that complication, you have the plot and the freedom to make your own end to the play.

Really Short Summaries of Shakespeare's Plays - Julius Caesar

Posted by deepakmorris on December 2, 2015 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Continuing in my series of REALLY short synopses of Shakespeare's plays. The first was of The Merchant of Venice. Here's Julius Caesar.


The play revolves around the assassination of Julius Caesar by Senators Brutus, Cassius and others and the aftermath of the assassination.


Brutus loves Caesar but is persuaded by Cassius that he, Caesar, has become too ambitious and wants to be crowned Emperor of Rome. Convinced that this would be bad for Rome, Brutus joins the conspirators.


At the feast of Lupercal in February, as Caesar walks in triumph in parade after defeating the sons of Pompey, a soothsayer (fortune teller) warns Caesar to beware the Ides – the 15th – of March but Caesar ignores him.


Indeed, on the 15th of March, the conspirators stab Julius Caesar to death in the Capitol. Brutus immediately addresses the citizens and convinces them that the death of Caesar was necessary in order for Rome to survive. His oratory turns the citizens into fans of the conspirators.


Against the advice of the other conspirators, Brutus allows Marc Antony, Caesar’s best friend, to address the citizens. In a masterful speech that begins by praising the conspirators and then slowly plays upon the citizens’ sentiments and outright selfishness, Marc Antony turns the citizens against the conspirators. The conspirators flee a crowd baying for their blood.


Marc Antony joins with Caesar’s great-nephew Octavius and Lepidus and form an army to fight the army put together by Brutus and Cassius. Outnumbered and out-manoeuvred, first Cassius and then Brutus kill themselves.


The play ends with Marc Antony eulogising Brutus for being unselfish in his motive to kill Caesar and thus being “the noblest Roman of all”.

 


Suspension of Disbelief

Posted by deepakmorris on October 13, 2015 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Whenever I teach mime, I keep emphasising that, once you identify an object for an audience, it EXISTS for that audience and you must NEVER break that illusion.

Audiences want to believe. That is why they suspend disbelief. That is why a couple of crooked upright sticks on stage are willingly accepted as full grown trees by the audience. The audience is not interested in scenery that is distracting. It wants the scene to be suggested and then it wants to know what the ACTORS are going to do.

Or rather, the CHARACTERS. In live theatre, there are no actors. There are only characters. Swooning over a tall, dark and handsome actor rarely happens with stage actors. 

I never take feedback from a film-maker

Posted by deepakmorris on June 17, 2015 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (3)

I don't.

Film-makers work in a different world. They see things through a viewfinder. Their vision is narrow.

Theatre is vastly different. It doesn't have the luxury of a retake. It can't rely on editing to make a scene interesting. Either the actor makes the scene interesting or it just dies.

If a film-maker ever says you suck, take it as a compliment, for he has no idea what you do.

Accent (dialect) and the actor

Posted by deepakmorris on June 13, 2015 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I use the word "accent" here to mean the Indian equivalent of "dialect", as in, "Swamy has a South Indian accent" (when you mean Swamy speaks in a South Indian dialect).

When is it right and when wrong to use dialect?

There is a very simple test to apply; "Does the dialect help tell the story more effectively?"

If everyone in a Welsh play speaks in a Welsh dialect and you're the odd Indian playing a Welshman, you darn well learn the Welsh dialect. If you're playing a lone Indian in a Welsh play, be Indian!

Similarly in an Indian play featuring various communities, each with their own dialect, what value does the dialect add? If it's just giggles, you're in the wrong production. You're just a wannabee who hasn't made it to TV. Johny Lever managed it but if it were that easy, every one of you who can imitate a dialect would be a star.

Use dialect effectively, not for dubious effect!

REALLY short synopses of Shakespearean plays - The Merchant of Venice

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

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.

 


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.

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.