Description and Goals
The ensemble is going to put on A Series of Comedies by Din Xilin, which draws the audience's attention to romantic relationships and marriage in the early 20th century in China. I have not done much acting in Chinese, and I am interested in trying this script, which is more subtle than a lot of other plays. My major goals are 1) experience acting in Chinese, 2) incorporate what I've learned during the summer acting program into my acting in school productions, and 3) help younger ensemble members to understand the script and to bring out their potential.
Discussion on the Script + Further Studying:
We have done our auditions last week and split the parts during today's meeting. Then we read the script and gave a brief analysis of each character. I recognized my strength in picking up the details in the script, and also "reading between lines." In this way, I was able to fully engage in the discussion and made some specific points about the characters' appearances, presence, relationships, and so on. Moreover, I enjoyed how the ensemble worked together on building the characters - we picked on different parts of the script, and found out the different sides of each character, which was really important because this would give the characters more specificity and more life.
Before the next meeting, we were asked to write a short paragraph about our character(s), and I am looking forward to studying the script in more depth. I always feel that I have a lot to do with my script but have not done enough for my previous productions, so I want to improve on this in this production. This will be a strength if I could really work on my script, study the subtext, and have a clear image of my experiences, my personalities, and my relationships with others as my characters, because then I would have a solid base to act from. I would also need to know the historical and social context of the play.
I am also looking forward to working with my two partners. I am a little nervous about working with new people, but I also accept it as the nature of being an actor. I am eager to work on the chemistry with them, and especially, practice active listening both on-stage and off-stage.
Overall, I enjoyed the discussion on the script. It inspired me a lot and motivated me to study my script in more depth. I am also looking forward to the upcoming rehearsals.
Rehearsing Our Short Play - Midpoint:
I have naturally taken the role of leading and directing our scene due to my experience in Drama. Every rehearsal I try to keep my scene partners on track of the tasks by setting a goal of how much of the script we are going to cover. I also constantly give suggestions and some demonstrations to them, because they are rather new to acting in a production. On the other hand, we do discuss a lot with each other about blocking, how to say a certain line and so on. The collaboration makes the play make more sense and more interesting. I am happy with the opportunity to rehearse by ourselves and then check in with Ms. Cora, our director, and I am very glad that my knowledge and experience can be largely helpful to the rehearsals.
The script is relatively challenging because firstly, the Chinese spoken in this play is about 90 years ago, and secondly, the structure and the plotline are a bit confusing, which makes us constantly get lost. Thus, I studied the script really carefully - I paid specific attention to the emotions and intentions of the characters behind their lines, and to lines that have a comedic potential. Working on this script has made me more aware of the importance of understanding the script and have improved my ability to cope with different styles of dramatic literature.
Help Directing Other Groups:
I contribute to the whole ensemble by leading warm-up games and directing other groups. Ms. Cora asks me to lead some warm-up games that I do in SIX:45 Actors Ensemble, so, again, I feel really happy to share what I have learned with the ensemble members. I realized that I need to adjust the way I lead because this ensemble is younger and harder to concentrate in general, so this has helped me to learn to lead different groups of actors.
I am also asked to check in with other groups and give them some advice. Last Thursday, I worked with another group on the blocking of their ending. I tried different ways with them and asked for their opinions. I realized that the eighth-graders do have another approach to the script, and I think it is always great fun to see their interpretation. This has helped me to learn that different actors have different approaches and they should all be respected. I do give them some advice to make their characters more believable and to make the scene more smooth, and I think I have a lot to improve when being a director.
We got off-script for the first pages of our play today, which really helped us to focus on acting and listening. I found that I could get into my character more and have more effective interactions with my partner. This reminds me of the importance of learning my lines as soon as possible. Also, I observed, again, that the use of dialects can largely help set the atmosphere of the play and create the comedic effects.
Since we rehearsed in front of quite a few ensemble members, we were able to receive feedback (mostly laughter) from them, and this helped me to identify more of the potential comedic lines in the script and pay more attention to them. I developed the skill of noticing punchlines and making them work in "Rumors" last semester, and I will continue developing this skill in this play. Lastly, I would like to add in more physical comedy to make more jokes for the audience. I am looking forward to the progress of our rehearsals.
Comedy Needs an Audience:
I was genuinely stunned by the audience reactions during the two performances - they were two groups of really supportive audiences, and their unstopping laughter also proved that our acting went well.
I have never been so relaxed on stage (in a good way) in my previous acting experiences. The audience's laughter and cheers made all three of us loosen up. Speaking my first language and my hometown dialect, I was able to emerge into the realistic acting and to add in bits of dialogues that are very natural in daily marriage life. I pushed myself a step further to show farce through my physicality as well. I am very grateful to my two peers, and I think we three were organically reacting to each other on stage. I am also very grateful to our director, as she inspired me a lot on how to bring in the comedic effects and supported us throughout the process.
As this experience is coming to an end, I would like to conclude that it has been unbelievably wonderful to act in this farce in Shanghainese and Mandarin. I have grown in acting in comedies and would like to bring the farcical elements to my improv acting and my future productions.